LOCATION: 128 Country Club Drive, Oak Island NC 28465
HOURS: Mon-Tue 9-6, Wed-Thu 9-8, Fri-Sat 9-9, Sun 11-4

Life In Bruswick County Article:
Music And Memories (September 2023)

For those of us of a certain age (and increasingly for some of the kiddos as well), the convenience of Spotify will never trump the visceral joy of dropping a needle on a vinyl record. I liken it to the difference between a digital photo and a film print. There’s just a certain SOMETHING that the analog versions have that the digital ones never will. It is now easier than ever to indulge your analog soul with the opening of Big Love Vinyl in the Crossroads Gathering Place on Oak Island, and we spoke to owner Doug Ausbury about the joys of records and how he came to share that joy in his new shop.

How long has Big Love Vinyl been in business? You did online only sales first, right?

I found a silver lining during the craziness of 2020, when I reignited my passion for music and especially vinyl. I spent a lot of that time becoming the new caretaker of many, many records. Toward the end of the year, I realized I had to answer the question “What am I going to do with all these records?”

The answer was threefold. First, I became a collector again so I started what has become a large personal collection of music that I absolutely love. Second, I donated and gave many of the duplicates away. And lastly, I did what came natural to me based on my profession…I built a website to start selling records online. All of the businesses I’ve started have names that come from songs … and I called this one Big Love Vinyl.

I bought the domain name (biglovevinyl.com) on December 1, 2020, and the website was up and running a month later. Our first online sale was on February 8, 2021. I remember it well because it was one of my favorite records by a wonderful band called Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark. That was just over two years ago and since then the website has seen about 1,000 orders and about 4,100 records have made their way to new vinyl loving caretakers. This makes me smile.

Along with the website, I also have the privilege of curating records for a small online group of Big Love VIPs, and I offer many records to our Facebook followers first before they go in the store or on the website. It’s been fun to figure out how to do the record business my own way. And there aren’t many things that make me happier than helping a customer find that perfect record.

What influenced your decision to launch an in-person shop?

I love this question because I have to go back forty years to answer it.

My 11th grade English composition teacher assigned an essay about what we wanted to do when we grew up. During those high school days, I was completely entrenched in music. I had also found my entrepreneurial spark and built a large vinyl collection utilizing some pretty unconventional tactics. I tell this story in more detail in my video interviews here…

So it makes complete sense that my English paper was about someday owning a record store. I totally forgot I wrote that paper but recently discovered it in a box of keepsakes.

After college, my career path took me into health care management and eventually to starting and growing a few successful small businesses in the online marketing world. At age 57, now I get to check the record store owner box too.

How does being in the Crossroads help?

How the Oak Island store inside Crossroads Gathering Place came about is simply a God thing. I met Mike Jones in my men’s small group and while getting to know him, I learned about Crossroads. We started talking about a Big Love Vinyl store inside Crossroads last year and I’m blessed to be one of the first vendors.

There are some very cool vendors inside Crossroads, plus Victory Coffee + Craft so it’s really a great place for Big Love Vinyl. You can actually drink a beer or coffee while flipping through records…how cool is that?!

I think a lot of folks are surprised to find a record store there and it’s a walk down memory lane for many. We’re also seeing a lot of young folks drawn to the store as the recent vinyl revival has spread outside those that grew up with it to their kids and grandkids. We have records for all ages in the shop.

What drew you to selling vinyl records? 

Serious record collectors know that it can be an expensive hobby. So what initially drew me to selling online (and now at the shop in Oak Island) is a way to support growing my personal vinyl collection — which has reached about 4,000 records. Now, I’ve become a lot choosier about what I keep for myself and that’s good for my customers because I’m passing most of them along to them.

Beyond supporting my own collecting habits, I also was drawn to the challenge of selling something in an extremely competitive market. I got pretty deep into the Facebook vinyl community and I analyzed what a lot of other sellers were doing. Almost all were selling via livestreams, where people had to attend the online sale or auction, primarily on Facebook. So if you did a livestream once or twice a week, you’re really only selling during those few hours each week. I went the other direction by making Big Love’s website the main focus and utilizing social media as a tool to support and drive customers to a website that’s open (and selling) 24/7.

And now we have our physical store in Oak Island, open Mon-Thu 9am-8pm, Fri-Sat 9am-9pm and 11am-4pm on Sunday.

Who is your typical customer, if there is one?

As you’d expect, a lot of customers are around my age, people who grew up with records and have stuck with vinyl for the long haul or have come back to it during the recent vinyl revival. Big Love’s selection is strong with bands from the mid ‘60s through the late ‘80s, which was really vinyl’s heyday.

We’re also starting to see more of the younger generation who didn’t grow up with vinyl starting to come around — especially as many current artists are having their records pressed and released. I read somewhere that of the 43.5 million LPs sold last year, one in 25 albums bought were by pop megastar Taylor Swift!

What is the appeal of vinyl records?

I’m not one of those people who refuse to listen to their favorite song (ELO’s Mr. Blue Sky) on something other than vinyl. I enjoy listening to cassettes, CDs and digital media. That said, I do prefer the warm analog sound of music on vinyl through a two-channel receiver and some great speakers. I think that’s the biggest appeal of vinyl…it’s the way vinyl sounds on great equipment.

Another appeal is the physical part of holding an album in your hands, and of course the artwork, packaging, pictures and liner notes. The physical record product gave artists another big way to express their art and creation. We lost most of that with the cassette and CD and all of it with digital media.

And lastly of course is the nostalgia part of vinyl records. If you grew up in the ‘60s, ‘70s or early ‘80s, records were likely a big part of your life, and there are so many memories tied to the music. The records bring that nostalgia wave back in a big way….big love!

Do you buy records that our readers may have lying around? How does that work? How does one know what a record is worth?

We are always looking for record collections to buy, whether it’s a handful or a room full. We mostly look for rock, pop, country and jazz records from the ‘60s through the ‘90s. Give us a call and we’ll arrange a time to view the records and make a fair offer for them. And if we can’t use a record, every week we donate records to local nonprofits like Friends Of The Library Southport & Oak Island.

We use pricing tools like Discogs and Popsike to determine the exact pressing of records. I encourage people to read about using the deadwax data on each record if they really want to investigate the value of their records. Many people only use Ebay; that can be a mistake because of the many sellers that are gouging and overpricing their records. Also, condition is very important when trying to determine the worth of a record.

Suppose someone looks at all their old records and wants to keep them. Can you help with a record player? 

Absolutely. We have some starter turntables in the shop and will be adding a few vintage turntables in the near future.