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Harvest Records: an intersection of art, culture and community

Caelan Burris
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Nestled at the apex of Haywood Road’s winding streets lies Harvest Records, a pillar in Asheville’s music collecting community. 
“Going to or playing shows in Asheville, we always set aside two hours just to scour that place for every record it has. It’s just always got so much good stuff,” said John Harn, a vinyl collector from Augusta, Georgia, who regularly drives five hours to visit Harvest Records.
In a predominantly digital age of music, owning a vinyl record captures a tangible nostalgia that has refueled the industry. Adding a physical element to the music allows the listener to form a deeper connection with the record. The magic of record collecting enchanted the hearts of many, as vinyl sales went up 30 percent in 2020, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. 
“Vinyl for me is sacred. You have to sit and listen. It makes me pay attention more. You got iTunes, everything is in your hand in a second. But with records, you form a deeper ingrained bond with the music,” Harn said. 
Asheville hosts a rich vinyl collecting community, one that has shown immense support to Harvest Records throughout COVID-19, said Mark Capon, Harvest’s co-owner. 
“We’ve felt extremely loved and supported this entire last year. Folks have been incredibly patient with us, especially last spring and summer when it was quite difficult to see which direction we were headed. And we get compliments all the time for our decision to remain closed to the public other than appointment shopping,” he said. “While many tourists might scoff at such a decision, due to their own self-interest, our community members have understood the whole time and we’ll be forever grateful for that.”
Harvest Records opened in 2004 with a goal of enriching the Asheville music collecting community as well as the local music scene, Capon said. 
“Ever since we opened our goal was to be more than just a retail record store. We immediately started booking concerts, both in-store and at local venues, as well as kept our walls open for local artists to display work. We also always wanted to be a safe place for people to come in, hang out, talk about music, take a load off and just be themselves,” Capon said. 
Harvest’s relationship with local music has only grown stronger over the years, said Lowell Hobbs, frontman of the Asheville punk band Tongues of Fire. 
“Harvest has put my band’s cassettes on consignment multiple times and even gone out of their way to promote local band’s releases like Axxa Abraxas,” Hobbs said. 
Haywood Road houses three of the formative local venues in Asheville, so the tie to local music came naturally to Harvest Records.
“Well we’ve always carried local artists’ records and CDs since day one. In the days of booking concerts, obviously there was almost always a local artist in a supporting or headlining role. We really loved seeing those relationships foster, getting local acts on big bills and seeing how the word spread. Our staff over the years has often included local musicians, so obviously we’ve tried to keep our ears to the ground with music in WNC,” Capon said. 
Harvest’s niche in the community is well-established and well-deserved, as evidenced by the growing support they continue to receive throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. 
“Well the front door is still locked and has been for over a year now. We’re doing lots of curbside pickup, some local deliveries and now we have appointment shopping. So obviously we had to shift into a mindset of creating a virtual shopping experience for folks still at home or not going into public places,” Capon said. “That meant a lot more attention on our social media. We used to treat socials as an accent to our main experience, the actual physical space and now that script has been flipped.”
Places like Harvest Records are important for communities around the world, Harn said. 
“We’re all just looking for music of all different kinds. From metal to jazz, everyone is friendly and excited to find records and for you to find records. It’s a cool bond! I have so many friends from record stores. You also meet all the local musicians or people who have bands which strengthens the scene for music,” Harn said. 
The record store evokes a feeling of unity. It’s a place where music fans of all interests can gather and share discussion about their passions. The common ground is there immediately, all it takes is a bit of conversation to form a new connection. 
“My friend and I went to see Manas, a local free jazz band, and we went in and ran into Thom, the drummer, working there. Now I run into him almost everytime I go to Harvest. He’s become a good friend of mine,” Harn said. 
Harvest evolves with the world around it, an approach that saw the record store through some strenuous and stressful times. 
“We’re finally working on an online store! That’s a big project we have coming up. And I think another thing we want to keep growing is our role in helping our community members in need, whether that be through fundraisers, raffles, donations or simply raising awareness about things that are important to us,” Capon said. 
Harvest isn’t just about selling records, it’s about using the platform to strengthen community ties and promote social movements, Capon said. 
“We can sell all the records in the world a million times over but if we’re ignoring our responsibility as small business owners to keep our community safe and thriving, then it’s all for naught,” he said. 

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