Face in the Crowd

By Scott Campbell

Mechanicsburg Man’s Love of Music Spawns Niche Business

Included among the Civil War-era structures that line the first block of Mechanicsburg’s N. Market St. stands an enterprise dubbed RecordSmith. Within the shop, shelves and tables full of 45s, LPs, CDs and a Jimi Hendrix poster (among others) mix incongruously with the interior’s partial restoration, some of which reveals the original 19th century brick walls and studs. Responsible for this unlikely tableau is Paul Smith.

“I was always into music,” says the 53-year-old Mechanicsburg man. “Years back, I worked in radio as a part-time and full-time DJ. I’m strictly a fan…never played a musical instrument.”

Smith started his business in 1998, producing a website to sell music online called RecordSmith. In 2010, he opened a storefront on S. Market St. before moving into the current location in September of 2011. Visitors to Smith’s shop are treated to a large selection of vintage records. Looking through them is like taking a trip back in time. The colorful labels and album-cover graphics recall the 1960s and 1970s when such products were state-of-the-art.

“What most people don’t know is that vinyl, the term used to describe long-playing album records…LPs…is still produced and has been growing the last five years at an annual rate of about 30 percent, much faster than CDs and uploads” says Smith. “Actually, vinyl never stopped being made. And it’s ironic that much of the underground music culture kept it going while the more recent technology was being marketed by the conventional recording industry. About half of what you hear on the radio today was released on vinyl.”

Phonographs on which to play LPs can still be purchased at retailers like Target and Kmart, although they are not the best quality. “We have some used ones for sale here,” says Smith. “And, we can order good phonographs for customers, but they’re pricey.”

Vinyl is the largest portion of RecordSmith’s business. “It’s symbolic,” muses Smith. “You can hold it in your hand. It brings back the visual aspects of music with the cover graphics, pictures and liner notes. And the sound quality has a special warmth to it.”

Smith continues, “We carry more CDs than Walmart. They will have more of the latest releases, but they won’t carry the older ones like we do. We also have vinyls and CDs that are still sealed, bought but never opened by the owners. They are prized by many collectors.”

Completing the staff at RecordSmith are Dan Blacker and Amber Woltz. “Dan buys the older sounds at auctions, estate sales and from other sources,” says Smith. “As I have another business, he helps to arrange the records, takes care of the paper work and performs general clerical duties. Amber is our idea person with graphics and promotion. And, at 27, she has a pulse on the younger set.”

The bulk of Smith’s working hours are spent at Moffitt-Smith Furniture Restoration, also in Mechanicsburg. “The original owner, Robert Moffitt, passed away in 1981,” he says. “Mrs. Moffitt sold the business to my dad, Herb. He retired in 1993, and my brother, Bill, and I took over.” The company deals mostly with antique wood furniture, as well as the occasional modern piece.

“We’ve done some significant work,” says Smith. “In 1995, we restored 14 pieces of furniture for The Players, an actors guild in New York City. “Photos of three or four of them were featured in an Architectural Digest story on the guild.”

For more information, visit recordsmithpa.com or moffitt-smith.net. Also look for RecordSmith and Moffitt-Smith on Facebook.