On the Beat

Schoolkids Records comes to Durham, taking over the Offbeat Records space

Offbeat Records in Brightleaf Square closed its doors for the last time at the close of business Saturday. But it didn’t take long for the store to be reborn, sort of.

On Sunday, Schoolkids Records owner Stephen Judge was in the space tending to inventory. He is turning the old Offbeat space into a new Schoolkids -- the first in Durham since the Ninth Street location closed more than a decade ago.

“I love what’s been happening in Durham with the growth, DPAC, the warehouse district,” Judge said Wednesday afternoon. “Stuff that’s happening here is exciting and it felt like a good time to bring Schoolkids back over here.”

At its height, Schoolkids was a chain with stores throughout the Carolinas. But the collapse of the music-retail industry took a toll, and most of its stores have shut down over the past decade. After the original Chapel Hill Schoolkids closed in 2008, the last Schoolkids store left was the one in Raleigh.

Judge bought Schoolkids in 2012 and moved the Raleigh store from Hillsborough Street to its current Mission Valley location last year, also adding beer sales and bulking up the store’s vinyl selection. With Raleigh “in good shape and on cruise control with good people working there,” Judge decided it was time to expand.

After spending several days working on stock, Judge had his first sale on Wednesday.

“This morning, my first sale was a Little Feat CD, and then an Afrobeat CD,” Judge said. “Durham and Raleigh are different cities and different markets, and the two stores can’t look just alike. Offbeat would do more eccentric deep-catalog stuff on CD, especially world and jazz, while Raleigh’s been more of a vinyl store.

“Whether it’s good or bad, part of me is antsy,” he added. “Once I start something and it settles into a rhythm, I get bored fast. Now I’ve got a new project and I love it, selling music, having people come in. If it’s a crazy idea, so what. Bring it on.”

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