Published in the Ithaca Journal December 16, 2004

T-burg Records

by Bill Chaisson

A recent collision of circumstances led Steven Holzbaur, a transportation consultant to food distributor Regional Access, to open T-burg Records at 27 West Main Street in Trumansburg. He had run out of room for new additions to his personal collection of 1700 CDs, and his mother-in-law, Alice Consolvo, was tired of running the Eclectic Market, which occupied the Main Street space. As it happened, Holzbaur had long nursed a wish to open a record store.  So now Consolvo can relax a little more behind a familiar counter and Holzbaur doesnít have to build any new shelves at home.

The Philadelphia-born Holzbaur grew up in Bucks County, PA and attended Kutztown State College, where he worked in a series of record stores. His college degree earned him a position as a management trainee at Yellow Freight in northern New Jersey. In 1991 Holzbaur, a fully-fledged manager, moved to Texas to be closer to his wife Stephanieís parents and ran a trucking company for five years before starting his own.

Holzbaur moved to the Ithaca area in December 1999 after living in Houston for a decade. He and Stephanie had been coming up here often over the years to visit his sister, Linda, and her husband, Ken Ritter. They were attracted to the music scene and the landscape, but also to a socio-political climate that was, shall we say, a bit different from that of suburban Houston.

In upstate New York Holzbaur brought to bear his expertise in the logistics of truck transportation for non-profits like the Finger Lakes Organic Growers Cooperative, the Center for Agricultural Development and Entrepreneurship (CADE), and Finger Lakes Culinary Bounty. He also serves a consultant to Regional Access in Trumansburg. The common thread running through all these jobs is a focus on building networks among independent small businesses to not only preserve their existence, but to make them thrive. 

According to Holzbaur, opening T-burg Records is simply an extension of this theme. He spoke with Steve Burke of Small World Music in Ithaca and they decided that their businesses would be complimentary rather than competitive. The true competitors of independent record shops, Holzbaur says, are the box stores. Recently, as part of the Trumansburg Festival of Lights, T-burg Records held an open house and the place was packed with customers for hours.  "I couldnít believe how many people thanked me for opening the store. Not just a few, but a whole bunch of people from Trumansburg and further north."

Not only will T-burg Records do special orders and

get them to you quickly, but they provide an internet-linked computer for you to do your own research in the store, and listening stations are available. Holzbaur envisions local residents "swinging by Gimme! Coffee to get a beverage, grabbing a slice from New York Pizzeria and ending up here" in an easy chair, listening to music meditatively before making a purchase.

T-burg Records sells both new and used CDs. In addition to contemporary releases from Modest Mouse, Badly Drawn Boy, David Gray and Giant Sand, you will also find an informed selection of older music, much of it on independent labels and/or imported. In addition to the usual 70s icons like Led Zeppelin and Eric Clapton, you will find respectable portion of the catalogs of Brian Eno, Roxy Music, John Cale and Ry Cooder.

For any twentysomething who has gotten the impression from radio and dance clubs that the 1980s were all about bad haircuts, synthesizers and drum machines, maybe you should give Mink deVille, Jonathan Richman, diVinyls, the Mekons, the Blow Monkeys and Uncle Tupelo a spin. In addition to the CDs, about 15 to 20% of the stock is used vinyl. The old records are priced to move; Holzbaur wants to see a steady flow of vinyl in and out of the store. He is interested in buying old vinyl from folks looking to sell, but his tastes are discerning. 

Although he grew up outside of Philadelphia in the 1970s, he didn't develop a love for rhythm and blues, soul and funk of that era until more recently. He waxes enthusiastic on this subject and speaks convincingly of the talent and influence of performers like Don Covay (composer of "Chain of Fools", among other standards) and Larry Graham (the bassist in Sly & the Family Stone). As a transportation consultant to many organizations, Holzbaur regularly travels all over the state and has made it a point to stop into independent record shops where ever he goes. It was in places like these that he discovered that a lot of 70s soul and funk was either still in print or had been re-issued. You will also find a decent hip hop section, although Holzbaur's own tastes run to Michael Franti and Lauryn Hill.

One employee at T-burg Records who has been really crucial, says Holzbaur, is Jennie Stearns. In addition to her knowledge of Americana, traditional music and contemporary alt-pop and -rock, Stearns has a lot of local connections, both in and out of the music community.  Holzbaur laughs, "I've watched people walk by outside, see Jennie behind the counter out of the corner of their eye, stop, stare, then double back to come in." Partly with the help of his star employee, Holzbaur hopes to arrange in-store acoustic performances and to coordinate what is on his shelves with the musical calendar of the soon-to-be-resurrected Rongovian Embassy.

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Last revised:  May 11, 2005