Hub City Vinyl is hard to miss. A prominent 20,000-square foot building painted mint green and pastel purple in art deco style, it’s a beacon to those passing through Hagerstown, Maryland.
I was drawn to those same colors in a Facebook post, which I promptly sent to two of my concert pals with a message that essentially said, “we’re going, right?”
We made good on that intent and drove about an hour and a half from Baltimore via I-70 W to meet at the 28 E. Baltimore St. building, less than a 10-minute walk from downtown Hagerstown.
Upon entry, we first spotted the miscellaneous bins, which were filled with delightful gems such as a polka record featuring a giant pizza pie (with a recipe on the back), a fitness record by Hollywood darling Debbie Reynolds, and instructional records on how to operate a CB radio, train your parakeet, and quit smoking. We then perused the Disney laserdiscs before fanning out into the rest of the store to explore everything from metal to country to rock to jazz.
Sheree and Lloyd Thoburn co-own the massive record store — the name Hub City being a nod to Hagerstown, which once had several railroad lines into the city that resembled the spokes of a wagon wheel.
“Because the lines of this building were art deco, we looked at photos of buildings in Miami in their art deco district,” said Sheree Thoburn, on what inspired the bright facade.
The Thoburns have been diligently building their collection since March of 2020. The store opened just a week before the state’s governor ordered non-essential businesses closed to the public — including theirs. But they continued coming to work sorting, organizing, and buying. They had thousands of 45s from jukeboxes thanks to Lloyd Thoburn’s Coinopwarehouse, selling coin-operated antiques wholesale, but they still needed to add to their LPs.
What started with just two bins in that collection is now a store of more than 4,000 new and more than 10,000 used titles (and hundreds of thousands of 45s and LPs yet to be sorted in the back room and basement, which runs the length of the main floor above.)
Sheree Thoburn doesn’t know if they have the largest collection in the state but it’s definitely the largest within a 30-mile radius, she said.
Apart from the impressive inventory, the space itself also offers a rare shopping experience for record collectors. More often than not, record stores tend to be cramped and compact, but it was important to the Thoburns to utilize their space to create wide aisles and add other features to make the store fully handicap accessible. There is ample space for the store’s own merch, a local artist table, turntables, and other audio equipment, and vinyl accessories like the Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band platter pad I swiped up to keep dust off my records.
Despite such a large space, it felt personal. Lloyd Thoburn could be found walking around the store introducing himself to new shoppers and asking what they needed help finding. A few dog toys were there to entertain shop dog Aubrey — named after a song by the band Bread. A TV playing old music videos and live performances brought back a wave of nostalgia for Friday nights in the 90s staring up at similar TVs playing new releases and previews on a loop in video rental stores.
Hub City Vinyl also does not lose the charm of rifling through small record shop bins to find rare collectibles. The Thoburns are consistently getting new inventory, including sealed early edition albums, and they come at reasonable prices. One of my friends was delighted to snag an original 1973 Muscle of Love Alice Cooper record with a rare cardboard sleeve, and I was pleased with the used books collection, where I found a thick Stones bio by bassist Bill Wyman.
The best feature of this space, however, is undoubtedly the listening lounge. With a high-end stereo system custom-designed for the store, you can listen to the jukebox or turntable without headphones and the sound won’t carry throughout the rest of the space. The mid-century modern couches really make you feel like you’re in your own living room.
And in that spirit, Hub City Vinyl might soon become a place not just to shop but also to hang out. The Thoburns plan to clear out the back room to make space for more records and a small performance space, hopefully in the next year.
Bottom line: Worth a visit, and be on the lookout for what they have in the pipeline.
While You’re in the Area:
After a solid day, my friends and I stopped for a bite downtown. While you’re in the area, check out Pizza and Pretzel Creations. We shared the chocolate chip and bacon stuffed pretzel, a pepperoni pretzel pizza, pretzel-wrapped Oreos, and Mexican tequila and coffee adult milkshakes. They hit the spot.
Lead Photo: Lindsay VanAsdalan