"I think what is happening, if you look at the history of record sales, there was really just a small dip in sales from the late-'90s to, like, 2004," George Casey says. New to Santa Fe as of about six months ago, Casey soft-opened his new record store, Lost Padre Records—and we're talking honest-to-God music on vinyl, folks—on Catron Street just last week. A grand opening celebration is scheduled for this Friday evening. "It was really just 10 years where they weren't as big," he continues. "And I don't think it's ever going to be as big as it was in 1965, but I think the main thing is that if you care about it and you're a fan of something, you want to hold something in your hands—MP3s are never going to do it for you."

Casey migrated to town from New Jersey, but he's lived all over, from New York City to Texas, Europe and California. Originally, he and his wife had planned a move to the Southeast US but, as is a common-enough story, after visiting and spending a few weeks in Santa Fe, he says, they didn't want to leave.

For years, Casey had collected records for personal use and to sell online. He gravitated to the hobby, he says, because it was cheap. "I got into records in college," he explains. "It was the late '90s and everyone was trading in their vinyl albums for CDs, and you could get albums for a buck. I got hooked." During college in Claremont, California, he would frequent one of the last remaining Rhino Records retail locations, a habit that changed him. "Starting with that store, I was kind of like, 'This is cool and I wanna hang out here all the time,'" he says. "And pretty much anywhere I moved, I found record stores."

His trajectory is familiar to most music aficionados: beginnings in punk and classic rock, followed by sojourns into world music and the weirder side of things. He'd begun DJing in New York City with '60s R&B and garage rock, and the collecting never stopped. Even today, Casey says he's got thousands of LPs and 45s in storage, but he's slowly incorporating what he can into the Lost Padre retail experience.

The store itself is pleasant and full of light. Wooden crates fill tables in the center of the room and shelving crammed with multiple genres line the walls. Lost Padre carries both new items—a cursory glance provided everything from The Beach Boys and Vashti Bunyan to Jay-Z, A Place to Bury Strangers and beyond—and used, running the gamut from classic rock, folk, opera, Norteño, rap, punk and much more. Lost Padre even carries obscure, unheard-of or forgotten New Mexico recordings, and Casey is always on the lookout for more.

Yes, he's interested in maybe buying your used records—just don't pop in with the bazzilionth pressing of Sgt. Pepper's and expect a huge payday. It's also the only record store in town with a dedicated listening station, which Casey is particularly excited by. "The whole point to me is to walk into a store and buy something you don't know," he says. "[Otherwise], you're either going to buy something and just hope it's good, or you're going to buy something you already know. And at that point, you may as well buy online."

If this is what he's offering in his first week, however, there are no doubt greater surprises in store. And his love for the medium is obvious—and infectious. "You begin to form this weird physical bond with that tear that's in the left corner of the sleeve," Casey says. "I remember pulling a record out of a thrift store in LA in the '90s, and there was just a fully-rolled joint in the middle—and of course we smoked it. It was Neil Young's Crazy Horse, and that album I still have at home, when I open it up, there's kind of weird stain from where that who-knows-how-old joint had sat for years. I have an attachment to it."

Casey's future plans include selling vintage turntables, a possible expansion to select CDs and, if we're all lucky, afternoon in-store performances from traveling bands with nighttime shows. The grand opening even boasts country crooner Greg Butera and Norteño folk trio Lone Piñon. For now, though, Lost Padre Records is quite the welcome addition to Santa Fe, for longtime collectors to newcomers. We can hardly think of a better shepherd for the job, too, as Casey is obviously a music freak, but he's a super-nice guy, too—a rare demeanor from a job that seems to foster snobs.  It's simple: Start buying records.

Lost Padre Records Grand Opening with Greg Butera and Lone Piñon: 
6 pm Friday May 25. Free.
Lost Padre Records,
304 Catron St.,
310-6389

Regular Hours: 11 am-6 pm Tuesday-Friday; Noon-5 pm Saturday