The tale must now be told. It is perhaps the greatest true story in all of retail metal.
And with Plaza Midwood’s Lunchbox Records about to move to its new location at 825 Central Ave., it’s the perfect time to reflect on what might be the store’s greatest score to date.
This is the tale of Frank and his mega Black Sabbath LP collection.
It was fall 2006, about a year after Lunchbox opened in its current spot at 1419 Central Ave. Frank (last name unknown), a regular customer from out of town, walked in one day and sold his meticulously-curated Black Sabbath vinyl collection – a dizzying 325 LPs – to the store.
The collection was massive. It included dozens of versions of the band’s first eight albums recorded with original lead singer Ozzy Osbourne, in addition to copies of the four albums the band released with its next singer, Ronnie James Dio.
We’re talking 34 copies of “Vol. 4,” 32 copies of “Paranoid,” and so on, down the line. Releases from just about every country you’d think to name, too. And those cool whacky European compilation albums we never saw released in the U.S. It easily could have been the single greatest assemblage of Black Sabbath vinyl ever.
Most of the albums were quickly sold to a buyer in New York by Lunchbox owner Scott Wishart.
“Since it was the early days of the store I needed to turn them over quick because I was pretty broke,” he recalled in an email. “It would’ve taken me a while to sell all of them in the store because there were so many variations of each title. But I would have liked to have sold them in the store.”
Before reselling the LPs, Wishart wisely took pictures of all the albums, arranged by title. One of the photos appeared in my Facebook feed recently, courtesy of Riding Easy Records, the Los Angeles-based record label specializing in all things Sabbath-influenced. Riding Easy owner Daniel Hall spotted it on Instagram.
“I kinda freaked out (when I saw it) and realized that there was someone WAY more mentally ill than I am,” Hall, owner of about 100 Sabbath albums himself, wrote in an email from Los Angeles. “I took a really good look at my life and realized I wasn’t living up to my full potential as a Sabbath fan, but even more as a contributing member to society. I’ve since kicked up my habit and am making a serious dent in the checklist and my bank account.”
As for Wishart, he and his employees are busy preparing for Lunchbox’s big move to 825 Central Ave., about a half-mile from its present spot, toward Uptown.
The store was originally set to open in its new space early in the year. Unsurprisingly, things were bogged down by paperwork. Now, it looks like they’ll open sometime in April. Fingers crossed.
“Because the building was formerly a funeral home, it fell under ‘change of use,’ which meant everything I did had to be approved by the city. I had to get permits, hire an engineer and architect, get ADA guideline approvals, and so on,” Wishart noted. “We took out almost all of the interior walls and the ceilings which also meant taking out the electrical and eventually taking out and putting in new duct work as well.
“So there was a period of two months where absolutely nothing was done other than sign painting because of the engineering/architecture plans and permit process.”
The store will gain approximately 1,600 additional square feet at its new location, in addition to a dedicated parking lot in front of the stand-alone building. Big improvements.
The building is the former home of Brooks & Davis Funeral Service. So of course that means the requisite ghosts/hauntings question. “There was no morgue or crematory on site. Mainly just viewing rooms from what I can tell,” Wishart assured.
Was staying in Plaza Midwood important?
“Yes, I’ve been looking at other locations for years,” Wishart said. “Anywhere and everywhere. I wanted to stay in the neighborhood and was glad that worked out but after a while it looked like it was going to be impossible because of high rents and unresponsive landlords.
“Many told me they only wanted restaurants. I even signed a couple leases along the way and then things fell through. However, every building I signed a lease on and/or they turned me down is still empty. Go figure.”
And what about Sabbath Frank?
“He has sold stuff to me regularly over the years, but I think he lives pretty far away. I haven’t seen him in a while. The last time was when he sold me around 200 Iron Maiden records.”
All images courtesy of Scott Wishart