Charlotte Smith was ecstatic when she heard Atomic Pop Shop owner Kerry Beary wanted to sell her business.
Beary, the longtime owner of the popular Mid City record store, was relocating and hoped she could find a buyer so the store wouldn’t be forced to shut down.
Owning a record store had been a lifelong dream for Smith, a 47-year-old and avid vinyl collector. Beary’s departure allowed Smith to finally make that dream a reality. In March, she became the proud owner of the Government Street store.
The store has a new name—Pop Shop Records—but former patrons of Atomic Pop Shop won’t notice any drastic changes in the space. Smith believes the atmosphere has become even more inviting than it already was since she took over, though, with an upgraded listening station and an added emphasis on creating a hang-out spot for local music lovers.
225 sat down with Smith to discuss what’s new, what will stay the same and what she values most about her record store.
When you heard the news Beary was selling the location, what went through your head?
That I wanted to buy it! I’ve wanted to own a record store since I was about 13 years old. I had been a massive customer here since I moved back to Baton Rouge. A friend of mine told me, and I kind of jumped on it. [Beary] and I had a lengthy conversation, and she was happy about it staying open, and also about it going to another female business owner.
What records in your inventory are you particularly proud of?
We’ve got some great collections and box sets right now. I’m a really big fan of the new Jack White Third Man box set that just came out. That’s a fun, funky, really great collection. We’ve got some really old Beatles albums here that I’d love to sell because they’re worth a lot of money. But at the same time, I’m going to hate to see them go because they’re just incredible albums.
Will you carry on the Atomic Pop Shop tradition of hosting live performances in-store? Have you planned any new events?
We’ve already begun [hosting live performances]. Apart from that, we’ve got a spoken-word event that’ll be occurring here once per month. It’ll be a space for poets and artists to come and speak about current affairs, politics or whatever else they want to talk about. So yeah, we’re absolutely continuing the tradition of music, but we’re also branching out and making it very community-centric.
What, if anything, can former Atomic Pop Shop patrons expect to see change?
I think we’re very similar in terms of still being a great record store, but I already see changes. We’ve brought other aspects in. You can buy more gifts; you can buy books. We’ve got more diverse performers. We’ve had harpists in. I think people forget that albums get put out by multiple genres of musicians, and it’s very important to me to host those kind of shows as well. We’ve got a lot of history from being a part of Atomic Pop Shop, but we’re not Atomic Pop Shop. We’re Pop Shop Records.
Why do you think Pop Shop Records is important for Baton Rouge culture?
The main thing that has shocked me more than anything is the amount of people who have come in specifically to thank us for keeping it open. I knew it was important to me, my friends and my generation. But to find out that there are these 20-somethings who are collecting as well … On Saturdays, there is nothing sweeter to me than seeing parents coming in with their kids and couples coming in together. That’s why it’s important. It’s important because music has always been a huge element of this community, and it always will be. popshopbr.com
Interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
This article was originally published in the December 2018 issue of 225 Magazine.