Groovy: Go Crate-Digging, Sight-Seeing & Window-Shopping in Princeton

Princeton Record Exchange has weathered the seeming downfall of LPs & CDs.

For a generation of music listeners, a trip to the record store meant a day’s worth of record-flipping. For those on the younger end of that generation, maybe some CD browsing too.

The advent of downloadable media has led many outlets to close. Yet some stores, with the benefits of location and history, have not only managed to survive, but to rethink the way they do business.

The Princeton Record Exchange on Tulane Street in Princeton offers not just a varied selection of CDs and DVDs, but one of the biggest offerings of new and used vinyl LPs in New Jersey. And it has a large presentation of used CDs at extremely affordable prices.

If you are not interested in purchasing music yourself, and have fully committed your music collection to your hard-drive or iPod, Princeton Record Exchange also buys. It is very likely that, with a handful of compact discs that are no longer getting the plays they used to, a trip to this storied record shop could help finance the rest of a great day-trip to downtown Princeton.

That's why we've chosen which is why we’ve chosen Princeton Record Exchange for this installment Day Tripper, a weekly look at locations that are out of town, but in reach.


Estimated Travel Time: 1 hour

Why it’s Worth the Trip:  If you’re a music collector looking for hard-to-find items, you will likely find what you’re looking for here. If you’re looking to divest yourself from bulky stacks of unused CDs, PrEx is ready to buy.

How to Get There from Here: Detailed driving directions.

You’ll Probably Get Hungry: PrEx is right by Princeton University, and there is no shortage of unique food options in town. A brief sampling from one square block includes The Little Chef pastries, The Princeton Sports Bar, Small World Coffee, La Mezza Luna Italian Restaurant, The Alchemist and Barrister pub and House of Cupcakes–and that’s only one block!

While You’re in the Area: Why not take a walking tour of Princeton University’s campus, get a manicure and pedicure at Modern Nail, flip through items at Labyrinth Books, check out a film at the Princeton Garden Theater (featuring, this week, Oscar nominees The King’s Speech and Black Swan) or get a souvenir from the official Princeton University Store?

Jonathan Lambert, the general manager of the Princeton Record Exchange, said part of what has kept the store thriving is refocusing its business on the resale market. The store also emphasizes being friendly to sellers as well as buyers.

“You have to react to the times, not cling to outdated or outmoded concepts of what should work, but rather adapt to what is working and try to go with your strengths,” Lambert said.

Among record collectors, the store has become a hot destination. The dismal 2010 sales figures for physical media music were buoyed by the surprising bright spot–vinyl, the medium once left for dead, actually showed improvement in sales. Record companies have now made records part of their regular releases and have been mining the vaults for reissue material. PrEx gets new vinyl LPs on a regular basis, yet also has rows of used records for sale, many of which are highly sought-after collectables.

Princeton’s business district can be challenging when it comes to parking, but the garage located on Spring Street offers decent rates by the hour, and the town is perfectly suited for walking around. You'll want to check out the sights, the stores and the history connected with the university.

Over on 112 Mercer Street is the Albert Einstein residence. Two years after his emigration to the United States from Germany, in 1933, Einstein purchased the house and remained there until his death in 1955. The house is but one of the many noteworthy buildings in the area, not the least of which is Princeton University itself. These all provide great examples of noteworthy destinations.

Lambert recognizes that his is a small part of a larger attraction when it comes to Princeton’s allure

“Being in a tourist town with high foot traffic has helped us tremendously," he said.


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