Going back in time

ORANGE - Situated at the junction of Racebrook, Old Tavern and the Boston Post roads sits a small slice of nostalgia. An opportunity to take a trip back in time when rock 'n'roll really was rock 'n' roll.

When you first enter Merle's Record Rack your eyes are drawn to the tie-dyed T-shirts and the incense takes you back to days gone by too quickly.

Yep, you are back when the music was real, songs meant something and the planet was not as crowded as it is today.

Owner Michael Papa goes back to when Merle's was located on Chapel Street in New Haven in the '60s. Papa worked there when he was a teenager. He said he was drawn back to the business after college. In 1984 he bought the franchise name from the owner.

For 22 years he was in Derby on Route 34 and four years ago he moved the business to Orange where it is today.

Back to those T-shirts, they are 100 percent cotton. And just about any imaginable type of incense can be found right next to a huge assortment of incense burners. And of course there is a sweet selection of fragrance oils and candles.

And you can probably find that Nirvana or I Love Rock and Roll bumper sticker you have always wanted. Or you might have been looking for a similar magnet.

Papa also has an outstanding selection of old lunchboxes. There is a Yellow Submarine one alongside a Janis Joplin one and many more.

Merle's Record Rack carries a phenomenal selection of records from oldies to '50's, '60s all the way through today. There are sections for oldies, rhythm, heavy metal, the Beatles and many other longgone artists.

Papa also carries a large selection of posters of artists.

Papa said he has noticed a trend where teenagers are coming in with their parents.

"They are very much aware of classical rock," he said.

And there is plenty for the rock 'n' roll collector to appreciate. He has quite a collection of original picture discs and picture sleeves. He also has the butcher block "Yesterday" album which was pulled before it hit the streets

He also gets his share of entrepreneurs who stop by.

"We have guys who come twice a year from Japan and Greece who make the New York to Boston run and we're on their stops," he said.

"They think nothing of dropping $500. They come in and will spend five to six hours combing the store.

In the back of the store you can enjoy looking at antique stereo equipment. And then your eyes begin to realize you are in another section of the store - used stereo equipment.

Papa reconditions stereo equipment himself from turntables to speakers to compact disc players. And he then offers them for sale.

With all those LPs and 45s it would make sense to sell turntables. (He also carries needles and belts for the turntables.)

Papa said he has tried to stay abreast with technology and at the same time offer the old.

"I try to mix the old with the new," he said.

He said he can preserve the LP music so rock buffs can enjoy their old songs.

"Bring me old records and I will transfer them to a compact disc for you," he said.

He will also transfer old movies, family oral histories, VHS, 8 mm. He cautions the work will take a bit of time.

"This kind of work is done in real time," he said.

"We have stood the test of time," Papa said.

Merle's Record Rack is located at 1 Old Tavern Road. It is open Monday to Friday 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The telephone number is 203-795-9033.