The collectors edition: Record store is a Long Island hidden gem

Mr Cheapos Mineola storefront, displaying vintage movie and album artwork. // Photo by Lily Anzalone/Long Island Advocate

By Lily Anzalone

The bell rings as the door swings wide open. The musty smell of vintage records and funky, psychedelic rock blasting from ancient speakers wrap their arms around patrons, guiding them into a room filled top to bottom with music history.

Mr. Cheapo CD and Record Exchange, a Mineola record shop that has gained popularity in recent years, is a vinyl collector’s heaven. The shop not only has become a staple for a new generation of collectors, but also brings attention to the shift from streaming back to physical media.

Beginning as a dream and a collection gathering dust in owner Stu Goldberg’s garage in the 1980s, Mr Cheapo is a staple for Long Island vinyl lovers. The first store opened in Flushing, Queens, and after being named the second best record store on Long Island by Newsday, moved to Mineola as its main location. A third location was opened in Commack after the Flushing shop closed.

Originating as a record exclusive store, Mr Cheapo has taken to buying and reselling CDs, DVDs, Blu-rays, video games, cassettes and sound equipment. The Mr. Cheapo Instagram account is updated daily with new arrivals for all types of physical media.

Physical media was thought to be dead in the age of streaming and social media, but Mr. Cheapo Manager Mick Cantone said he believes vinyls and CDs remain of high value.

“The music industry didn’t really know how to get a handle when Napster came along, so that kind of hurt them, and as a musician myself, I understand this issue,” Cantone said. “With streaming, they pull titles faster than you can blink, whereas with physical media, you have it until the day you die.”

Canva graphic by Lily Anzalone/Long Island Advocate

Streaming platforms for music have dominated the music industry for several years, but physical media sales have increased in the last three years alone. According to RIAA, vinyls are 72% of physical music sales, and in 2023, physical sales were up 5% more than 2022.

Physical media sales contribute a small weight to charting positions for new releases but are vital to an artist’s success. Artists who cannot afford to keep their music on streaming platforms will lose content if physical copies are not purchased, whether through CDs or vinyls.

Mr Cheapo customer Aaron Stanzione weighed in on the importance of physical music. “It’s important to have physical media in the music industry, since artists and bands make a lot of profit from physical media sales. It’s also having something physical so it will never be taken away from you if it gets taken down,” Stanzione said.

A local customer checks out the horror Blu-rays available in stock at Mr Cheapo’s. // Photo by Lily Anzalone/Long Island Advocate
A family searches through the rare vinyls and other media. // Photo by Lily Anzalone/Long Island Advocate

Lawrence Melilli, owner of Needle and Groove Records in Lynbrook, spoke about the intimacy a vinyl can provide. “There is nothing like listening to a record,” he said, “looking at the jacket, reviewing the liner notes, comments on the inner sleeves, or inserts in the record, and you get to know a lot about the musician, the band, the era, the genre that they are producing, so to me, there is nothing like it.”

A small display is hanging from the ceiling showcasing all stickers and patches offered in store. // Photo by Lily Anzalone/Long Island Advocate

Mr Cheapo offerings range from vintage 45s from the 1950s and ’60s, to newer releases of modern pop icons like Taylor Swift. Customers bring their collections in and sell their products, which are tested to ensure quality and resold at decent prices. Mr Cheapo’s website informs customers on what is in stock at the Mineola and Commack locations, and sorts out all media into their respective genres.

“Some days we can go without, but this past Thursday [Feb. 22], we got inundated with a lot of CDs, DVDs and records,” Cantone said. “We just got flooded, and we’re still going through them now, seeing what’s out, what needs to be priced and what we can put on back stock.”

Canva graphic by Lily Anzalone/Long Island Advocate