File photo by Justin Cook
On to record store No. 3: Schoolkids' Stephen Judge
Come March 1, CD Alley—the cozy, narrow Chapel Hill record shop that Ryan Richardson has owned and operated since 2006—will not be CD Alley. Schoolkids Records
, which left Chapel Hill in 2008, will make its return to the college town at CD Alley’s West Franklin Street location. This will be the third Schoolkids.
Several factors compelled Richardson’s decision. For one, the store’s ten-year term is coming to an end shortly, and he figured “ten years felt like the right amount of time.” The agreement with Judge arrived just in time. With Richardson starting accounting school in May, the store would have closed for good in the next few months, anyway.
Salvaging CD Alley’s legacy—and bringing Schoolkids back to Chapel Hill—were important to Schoolkids owner Stephen Judge.
“There’s a lot of history there,” he says. “I grew up in Rocky Mount. When I came up for Carolina football games with my friends, we would always stop by Schoolkids. It was just part of the ritual.”
Eight years ago, as general manager at Redeye Distribution in Haw River, Judge fought strenuously to keep Schoolkids from leaving Chapel Hill, whether by himself or with the help of his employers at Yep Roc and Redeye. In the end, he felt it was too risky to take on by himself. When Richardson discussed wanting to sell CD Alley, he was determined to make it work this time.
“It’s always something that stuck in my side,” he says. "This is me setting things right."
The transition will be smooth and devoid of hoopla, says Judge, whose other Schoolkids locations are in Raleigh and Durham.
There won’t even be any new signage. Initially, the only significant change that shoppers can expect will be less frequent sightings of Richardson at the front desk. But the store’s other staff will remain on board.
Richardson came to the store as an employee in 2000 and bought it six years later. He never planned to do it forever.
“I’ve known all along that I couldn’t do this for the rest of my career,” he says. “I was going to have to change tracks at some point. I felt like, if I was gonna go back to school, I’d better do I before I let too much more time get away from me.”
While he says he still enjoys his work, Richardson admits it takes more and more to keep up.
“If there was one thing I don’t enjoy about it as much anymore, it’s just trying to stay ahead of the curve. But all in all, it’s still a lot of fun,” he says. “If you could have told me I’d own a shop on Franklin Street for ten years, I’d say that sounds like a dream come true.”