Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Worth a visit: notable small businesses in Northampton

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Collegian File Photo

By Tyler Wyatt, Collegian Correspondent

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Just a few miles from the University of Massachusetts, the city of Northampton is home to a thriving scene of unique, independently-owned businesses. The city has so much to offer, and although it may seem overwhelming at first, here are a few places worth checking out to get you started:

Turn It Up! – 5 Pleasant Street

Decorated floor-to-ceiling with posters, stickers and album covers, the underground Turn It Up! feels more like a rock venue than a record store. The vintage aura of the store is alluring, but its beauty is in its record collection. Because of its trade-in policy, the store houses mostly used original records. Not only does this cultivate a relationship with the Northampton community, but this also means the price will be significantly lower than a reissued copy, often under $10 for an entire LP.

Every artist panel on its shelf of over 4,000 records is adorned with cover art or images of the musicians, fostering a more personal attachment to the music than any commercial record store. The store still stocks new records, but the experience of sifting through original albums in this timeless environment is something you can’t buy on Amazon.

In addition to vinyl, Turn It Up! sells new and used CDs, cassette tapes, DVDs and VHS tapes for thrift-store prices. Turn It Up! offers the authentic record store experience all over New England, with other locations in Montague, Keene and Brattleboro.

The Northampton Olive Oil Company – 150 Main Street

Found on the second floor of Thorne’s Marketplace, The Northampton Olive Oil Company offers a diverse and interesting selection of sauces and oils. Opened in October 2016, the sauce kiosk offers original hot sauces, BBQ sauces, balsamic vinegars and olive oils. Each original NOOC line offers a variety of eccentric flavors to challenge your palette. Personally, I would recommend Budda’s “Caramel Craze” BBQ sauce.

Famously, the NOOC carries “Da Bomb” hot sauce with a Scoville rating of 135,000, making it 50 times hotter than Tabasco sauce. The shop encourages anyone who is brave enough to give it a try to come down and taste a sample. The Budda’s BBQ sauce, NoHo Hot Sauce and NOOC Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar lines are all available for purchase at your local Big Y.

Downtown Sounds – 21 Pleasant Street

Opened in 1976, Downtown Sounds has grown to be the premier music store serving the Northampton area. Right in the center of town, the store boasts an incredible collection of musical instruments and equipment. With a selection including‒‒but not limited to‒‒keyboards, amplifiers, basses and over 200 guitars, it can be overwhelming at first. However, the friendly and helpful staff are eager to help you narrow down your search.

For beginners, the store offers a rent-to-own service that makes the daunting price tags affordable. Downtown Sounds offers lessons seven days a week from professional local musicians for a wide variety of instruments and skill levels. In addition, despite the overall affordability of the stock, those looking to splurge will find opportunities to indulge in products with price tags moving up in the thousands.

As a musical hub for the Pioneer Valley, the store houses a bulletin board in the entryway where musicians or venues can post band auditions, concerts or lesson flyers. Whether you’re looking to expand your collection, refine your abilities or just find friends to jam with, Downtown Sounds is able to cater to all musical needs.

Roz’s Place – 6 Bridge Street

Down towards the Northampton Post Office, one can find Roz’s Place, a mid-priced vintage store with a dazzling collection of retro clothes and accessories. Roz’s Place stocks mainly women’s clothing, but does have a solid selection of men’s clothes in the back. Both contain a colorful, interesting selection of pants, shirts and jackets. Each section is color-coordinated, creating an interesting spectrum that makes the process of finding the right item easy.

For those looking to move their style in an eccentric direction, be sure to browse both sections. With a collection as interesting and rich as Roz’s, statement items are a complete surprise. Roz’s Place is also home to an extensive selection of accessories. Ranging from bright lapel pins to unique sunglasses, there are many opportunities to spruce up any outfit.

The store is decorated with artifacts from the 1950s, including typewriters, rotary phones and vintage posters, exuding a nostalgic and retro atmosphere. While not as cheap as Goodwill but not as expensive as a typical consignment shop, Roz’s Place offers an affordable assortment of items that will encourage you to expand your style.

There is a lot to experience in the city of Northampton, and I encourage you to do some exploring of your own. These businesses are a great start to exploring local life in Northampton, so hop on that B43 bus and see what you can find!

Tyler Wyatt can be reached at [email protected]

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