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Volume gets turned up downtown - News of Orange: Arts & Entertainment

Volume gets turned up downtown

Volume, a record shop and bar combo, opens in downtown Hillsborough

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Posted: Tuesday, November 21, 2017 2:45 pm

Silent static plays on a bright orange television while music your parents might have spun on vinyl settles in the air. A Miles Davis “Kind of Blue” poster accompanies the likes of Wilco, the Sex Pistols, and of course, David Bowie peering through a window-paned door – the back cover of “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars” LP. 

This bar’s teal-framed windows are pushed open and the crisp October dusk wafts in. A slap of draft beer hits the tilted bottom of a glass – it’s just about that time of day.

It’s 4:30 p.m. in downtown Hillsborough. This record store and bar combo, appropriately named “Volume,” is laid back, welcoming easy conversation. A couple and their dog drift in during a walk downtown, a local pastor stops by to check the draft list, while another Hillsboroughan searches through stacks of records. One sits on the vintage orange couch that co-owner Tony Lopez might as well have recovered from a storage unit housing memorabilia from his youth. 

The shop hasn’t been open a full week, but it already feels like a cog in the community. On October 21, Volume tore down the kraft paper covering the windows and propped open the door, just in time for the YepRoc20 concert series across the street in River Park. 

People stop in to see the inside of this place after a year of waiting – after all, the space claimed a surveyor’s office for most of its existence and is rumored to once have been a lawnmower repair shop. It’s the kind of place George Jones might have written a song about. 

Concert posters and records cover most walls, reminiscent of ‘70s adolescence bedroom decorations. 

That young age of music discovery, stacking records on shag carpet, listening to albums spin in full – this is where Lopez got the vision for Volume. 

“The inspiration for this place was my room when I was in high school, my bedroom. It kind of looked like this – minus the drafts,” he laughed. “This is the way my house looked. We had music stuff everywhere, cool little things that I collected at junk stores – I bought tons of music.”

Lopez has been collecting records – now boasting over 10,000 – for over forty years. He served as a bartender for twenty years, and was a DJ for fifteen years.

“The first record I ever bought was U2 ‘War’ and Big Country ‘The Crossing,’” he recalled. “I bought them at the same time: Camelot Music, South Square Mall, Durham, North Carolina. Probably in 1983.”

This lifelong hobby of sifting through vinyl, and Lopez’s time pulling drafts, is what brought him and co-owner Nathan Andrews together.

Friends for over 30 years, in October 2016, Andrews stopped by Tyler’s Taproom in Carrboro for a beer after a football game.

Lopez was behind the bar and tossed him a drink. Time had passed between old friends and through catching up, ideas for creating a business out of what they’ve been doing forever – collecting records – were exchanged.

Lopez couldn’t shake the idea – it wasn’t just bar talk to him, it was something he wanted to put into action.

He messaged Andrews, a Hillsborough resident, asking if Hillsborough was ready for a place like this. 

“He got back to me enthusiastically,” Lopez said. “He was kind of the catalyst of the whole thing and we continually inspired each other to move forward in the process.”

Volume offers a rotating list of 12 taps – 11 beers and a wine. Not in the mood for a hoppy IPA, or chocolatey stout? The bygone era of vinyl is also represented by offerings of a classic PBR, in addition to several canned craft brews.

As the sun sets over Historic Hillsborough, the metal 266 gleams on the front door on South Churton Street. People are beginning to stop in to stay and the space soon will be crowded with old and new record lovers. 

“The vibe of this place seemed right, the building seemed perfect,” Lopez said. “It looked like an old record store when I saw it.”

Lopez prices each record before putting them on the turntable so if a customer likes what they hear, they can buy it right off the machine.

“We love all music, contemporary artists as well,” he said. “There are two types of music: good and bad. We just try to carry the good stuff.”