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This month, we visit with David Schlank, owner of Falls Church-based CD Cellar, which started in a basement in 1992 and has grown to become one of the Mid-Atlantic’s largest record stores. Schlank speaks about CD Cellar’s longevity, D.C.’s music scene and his vinyl collection.
District Fray: How would you characterize the music landscape in the D.C. region?
Schlank: The D.C. music landscape is one of the most diverse in the country and it’s always growing. I swear I learn about a new band or DJ or performer every day. It’s wonderfully overwhelming. On any given day, one can catch a hardcore band, an ambient techno DJ, a Latino rapper, a Jewish country singer, a jazz quintet, experimental noise — I could go on and on. There is literally something for everyone.
What is unique about your shop?
Much like D.C.’s music scene, we offer something for everyone, and we have a staff that can speak knowledgeably and authoritatively about nearly every genre we stock. We’ve got a whole room dedicated to jazz and classical music, [and] records and CDs at all price points for all manner of listeners and collectors — including a wide selection of audiophile-quality CDs and vinyl records. Some of those are just mind-blowing.
What is the story of the business and your interest in it?
My business partner Dave Giese opened the shop in 1992 with a few other folks who had worked at, owned and managed record stores. I came on in the summer of 1994 while in college. Working in a record store was pretty much all I ever wanted to do, despite telling my parents at the time, “Don’t worry, this isn’t a career. It’s just for now.” Since I was in elementary school, I’ve spent all my time and money at the record store.
What’s the secret to being successful in a world where so much music is available digitally?
People need the hands-on experience and the sense of community we have provided. Also, there’s no reason you can’t own or collect physical media and stream. We also cater to those who have never used an online music service and probably never will.
Tell me about your personal CD and vinyl collection.
One would think that I have a large, world-class collection, but I don’t. It’s fairly simple, even though it spans all genres. Having worked at and owned a record store for so long, I feel like the store’s stock is my collection. I’m not really much of a collector except for a few groups from my late high school and college years who put out special and limited edition releases. I honestly put my customers first and would rather make them happy. I’d rather listen and learn than hoard.
What is some of your favorite music to play?
At home, it’s mostly jazz, electronic and classical. Anything that’s kind of easy and breezy. Debussy, Ravel, Fauré. Pharoah Sanders, Coltrane, Mose Allison. In the car or at the shop, I like something with higher energy that swings or grooves or has big riffs. It really depends on my mood. I’ve played Orville Peck so much that I’m pretty sure my coworkers never want to hear him ever again.
Outside hobbies or interests. Reading, plants, niche perfumes and colognes, new flavors, sensory deprivation tanks, any dance nights my friends DJ, beer. Your neighborhood. Downtown Silver Spring. Go-to cuisine. Mediterranean // sushi // delicatessen. Goal for 2023. Gain patience and lose weight.