By Kaci Yoder
What began as a homespun effort to bring vinyl to the Red Stick community has become a fresh music hotspot with the opening of the new, expanded location of Lagniappe Records.
“It’s like a music education. If you like something, we can suggest something. We start getting to know everyone’s tastes, so we can suggest something you may have not heard of that we think you’ll like”
Small in size but not in personality, the original Lagniappe Records filled the spare rooms of a Mid City home with bins of LPs, an array of instruments and one very social cockatiel named Agnes. The shop has quickly grown into a local indie institution since opening its doors last summer, and owners Tess Brunet and Patrick Hodgkins have always aimed to keep it as out-there as it is intimate.
Now, Brunet and Hodgkins have packed up shop and moved into their very own brick-and-mortar storefront, nestled into downtown Baton Rouge on St. Joseph Street. With Christmas lights twinkling overhead, mismatched decor thrifted from Brunet’s years cruising estate sales and shoeboxes packed with CDs from local bands, the charm certainly wasn’t lost in the move. Even Agnes has her own cage at the new store, and spends business hours perched on shoulders – perhaps Baton Rouge’s only bird with a day job.
“The vibe is important to us,” Brunet says of Lagniappe’s cozy, offbeat feel, much of which comes from her years in New Orleans. “We don’t want to be commercial or corporate.”
The bigger space, Brunet says, will allow Lagniappe to expand both their inventory and their services. Bigger shelves and additional bins leave plenty of room for their record collection to grow, and one corner offers a do-it-yourself coffee bar featuring locally roasted beans, where Brunet helps customers learn to use French press. A staging area for live performances promises to bring regular shows to the shop, while the opposite wall provides projection space for planned movie nights.
Brunet says she and Hodgkins have built their business on community involvement and getting to know their customers.
“It’s like a music education. If you like something, we can suggest something. We start getting to know everyone’s tastes, so we can suggest something you may have not heard of that we think you’ll like,” Brunet says. The couple also says they’ll add to their selection of guitar strings to meet their regulars’ needs. Brunet and Hodgkins trust their loyal crowd to follow to the new location, and hope to bring in many more.
Outside of their hospitality, Hodgkins believes the main reason they’ve drawn in so many reliable customers is the quality of their goods. Lagniappe pulls more than two-thirds of their stock from donations and purchases of used records, which the pair then meticulously sorts, prices and spin-cleans one by one.
“We want to have the cleanest records in town,” Hodgkins says.
The two take music seriously because it’s their life – both Hodgkins and Brunet are accomplished musicians and teach drums, guitar and bass afterhours at their shop. Brunet herself has released albums under the name Au Ras Au Ras and drummed for rising indie rock band Generationals. With their experience and eclectic taste, Brunet and Hodgkins curate a diverse selection that’s only getting more colorful as it grows.
“Our world music section is pretty legit,” Brunet says. “It’s got a little bit of everything – bossa nova, roots reggae, Afro-Cuban.”
Music scavengers, snobs and specialists can check out Lagniappe’s growing collection at 705 St. Joseph Street from 12 to 7 p.m.