Walking into The Exchange on Government Street is like walking into a treasure trove of tangible media of the past.
No matter what you’re looking for—vinyl records, CDs, DVDs, video games—you’re sure to find some hidden gems in this store. It’s hard not to, considering they are stacked everywhere as high as the ceilings.
Owner Victor Holiday says he’s been collecting merchandise for the store since he first opened the doors in 2005. He has acquired quite the spread by picking up other people’s old collections and hunting at different “buy, sell and trade” shops. The result is a music and media lover’s dream in a space no bigger than your average convenience store.
“Being a small store, people assume you won’t have a variety, so I try to touch on a little of everything,” Holiday says. “I have all the big genres of music and movies, and I even carry those little niche subgenres, too.”
Holiday opened the shop after being a hairstylist for more than 20 years. Though he started selling mainly video games, his collection quickly grew to include vinyl records, posters, movies, VHS tapes, audio equipment, T-shirts and a whole lot more. He moved the shop from Florida Boulevard to Mid City about six years ago, seeing it as a prime location in Baton Rouge’s funkiest neighborhood.
Born in the 1960s, Holiday grew up in record stores around the Capital City. He remembers Baton Rouge then as a “rock ‘n’ roll city,” which is probably why it’s the best-selling genre in the store. Holiday has lived all over the country, from New York to California, but sees Baton Rouge as home.
The booming interest in vinyl in recent years has led to many new record shops, but The Exchange seems to stand out locally. It could be because of the wide-spanning collection, or maybe it’s because Holiday knows so much about each and every item in his store.
“In the past, you had to know someone who had the record you wanted or go into a record store and talk to a knowledgeable person so you had an idea of what kind of music you were buying,” Holiday recalls. “If you didn’t, you’d have to buy a record or a CD and take a chance.”
Here, you don’t have to take that gamble. If you’re curious about a record, odds are Holiday will have some answers. His girlfriend calls it his “encyclopedic knowledge of music.” If you want to listen before you buy, Holiday will spin it while you browse.
“The sound quality of tangible music is different. It’s all about having the right equipment. I feel that we live in a society that’s all about how much I can have instead of how much I can enjoy, when it comes to media.”
[The Exchange owner Victor Holiday]
In the days of digital music and streaming services, Holiday says the internet has become a “kiss and a curse.” It allows up-and-coming artists to put themselves out there, but having so many songs in the palm of your hand might make you less appreciative. Physical media, he says, is timeless—it will be there even if the wifi or electricity goes out.
“If you’ve got a boombox and some batteries, then you can always listen to your tunes,” Holiday says. “I feel that we live in a society that’s all about how much I can have instead of how much I can enjoy, when it comes to media.”
Running a store as specialized as this in the digital age isn’t easy. Holiday says he’s operating in a very niche market, but he enjoys what he does and loves serving music lovers and video game junkies alike.
“To have a small business in the digital age, you have to have some kind of passion for it,” Holiday says. “No matter what, you’ve got to have a passion for it.” theexchangebr.weebly.com
This article was originally published in the January 2022 issue of 225 magazine.