For me, there’s nothing like a trip to Fort Walton Vintage Records to cure what ails me. Now, don’t misinterpret that statement. I love going to my numerous doctors and taking a ton of pills. But nothing beats an hour or so of browsing through hundreds of vinyl goodies, new and previously played. I consider it a personal challenge to walk out of the place emptyhanded.
Aside from the small selection of well-worn LPs at the Goodwill store down the street—usually heavy on Mantovani and Mitch Miller—Fort Walton Vintage Records pretty much has the vinyl market cornered in Fort Walton Beach. This month, the store celebrates its fifth anniversary. And, once again, they’ll be participating in Record Store Day in April.
The store’s founder Tim Willi is out when I drop by on a Sunday afternoon. Co-owner Paula Campagna says, “Nobody knows more about records than Tim,” and I’m not about to argue.
It’s a tribute to Mr. Willi that the in-store music today is by one of his favorites—pre-pop stardom era Fleetwood Mac member Peter Green—even though he’s nowhere to be seen.
The walls are decorated with a variety of vintage concert posters, and the store offers memorabilia, music books, CDs and cassettes, even a couple of concert tour programs. The priciest item I spot during my visit is a Bon Jovi vinyl box set for $469.
They also sell new turntables, and the Fort Walton Vintage Records staff will be more than happy to help you set yours up. Keep in mind this is higher-end—but reasonably affordable—hardware, not that Crosley crap.
And speaking of the staff, I’m pretty impressed with young Haley Israelson, who has been working here since June 2019. She’s dressed in a David Bowie-Labyrinth t-shirt and knows enough about classic rock to stay on the payroll a good while longer.
“My dad’s always liked music, so it fell down the line,” she says. “We have different tastes. He’s into metal, punk and hip-hop…” Well, the kid’s still young, and I’m sure she’ll come around at some point.
Ms. Israelson tells me about her recent excursion to the Record Fair at Pensacola’s Vinyl Music Hall. “I spent a lot of money—got some Black Keys, Arctic Monkeys, Mamas and the Papas, some Elton John.”
Ms. Campagna says the average customer age is “around 25” and that the store draws a lot of its customers from the two local military bases, Eglin Air Force Base and Hurlburt Field.
Fort Walton Vintage Records just expanded their blues section, and they’re always looking to buy good vintage vinyl, particularly metal. “We can’t keep that section stocked,” says Ms. Campagna.
Rock on, dudes.