The Wax and The Needle

Do you know that sweet, woody smell of flipping the pages of an old book? How about perusing the rows of VHS tapes at the video store on a Friday night or the gruff soulfulness of a good vinyl record? Nostalgic, right? In a day and age where we have the ability to stream whatever we need; those palpable collectibles seem to mean more than ever. 

April 21st marks 2018’s National Record Store Day. This vinyl lover’s holiday was started in 2007 by a collective of indie record stores and has gained traction and notoriety in the vinyl scene since. In honor of National Record Store Day, we visited The Wax & The Needle, Lakeland’s hometown record shop. 

The Wax & The Needle is nestled on Florida Avenue, attached to Gaslight Tattoo Company. The owner of the record store, tattoo artist Justin Sims, explained where the idea came from. Justin and his buddy Chris decided they needed to find something to fill the front space of the tattoo parlor. 

A trip to Las Vegas to see a Social Distortion anniversary show, a discussion about their record collections, and few White Russians later, the two had a plan. “We decided we were going to open a little hometown record store,” said Sims. 

“At the time that we decided to do this, there were no record stores in Lakeland,” Sims explained, “Even from the time I was in my teens, into my twenties, and into my thirties, there was Woodpecker Records initially, and then there was Evolution Records. There was always a place to go and browse through records in Lakeland and then one day there just wasn’t anymore.”

“I didn’t like that. I didn’t like not having a place to go. So, I assumed that there were other people feeling the way that I felt so I decided that profits weren’t really important. It was just cool to have a place to hang out,” continued Justin.

Justin and Chris met a gentleman with a warehouse full of records. They went through the records and found some diamonds in the rough. The man made them a deal that he would give them a good price if they would buy a few thousand of them. They made the initial investment, decorated the shop and opened for business. 

The owner talked about where his love of vinyl stemmed from, remarking, “The first record that I ever got was Motley Crue’s Shout at the Devil in like 1988 I think, my big sister gave it me because I was obsessed with it and I wouldn’t stop listening to it in her room.” Revealing his contrasting musical taste, Sims smiled and said that his second record was none other than NWA. 

Lakeland seems to be a scrappy bunch of punk rock n’ rollers, or at least their music taste says so anyway. Punk Rock and Classic Rock are far and away the best sellers for The Wax & The Needle. Justin says, “Anything from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s 90’s that’s rock n’ roll, does really well here.”

When thumbing through the shop’s selection, their homage to vintage stands out. The majority of their selection is used and Justin gets them wherever he can–yard sales, thrift shops, antique stores, and large record collections. If you’re new to the vinyl game, you can even buy a used record player in-store or they can drop ship a new player through Crosley. Directly adjoining the tattoo shop, the record store is old-school  charming with records lining the mint-colored walls.  The selection of vinyls sit in racks that they made in Chris’s garage. When you browse the store, you’ll likely meet Amaris tending the register. Her first job, this junior in High School says the best part about it–spending time with her dad, Justin. 

Most of their patrons, according to Justin, are between the ages of 16 and 30, maybe not who you’d expect to be collecting these musical relics. They do, however, have shoppers that are there for the same reason Justin collects records. He reminisced, “It’s nostalgic for me. I spent more time listening to records when I was a kid then I spent playing outside or doing anything else,” adding, “I can hear the scratchiness and the dirtiness of the record and it’s just appealing to me.”

He put into words what he thinks draws the younger crowd, expressing, “There’s not a whole lot of viable, tangible, physical things you can put your hands on [anymore]. I stream my music on Spotify, I watch TV on Netflix, I get my movies on Hulu, you know what I mean? What do you own, what do you have that you can put your hands on? Records are a way that you can kind of recover that.”

Stop in The Wax & The Needle for National Record Store Day on April 21st, you can nab all your favorite classics for half price all day. Who knows, you may even leave with a tattoo over at Gaslight!


The Wax & The Needle

509 Florida Ave S, Lakeland, FL 33801

(863) 940-3436

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