By: Zach Brendza | Associate Editor
It’s a little early for Christmas, but Jerry Weber played Santa this weekend.
Weber gave away 26,000 records over the weekend at Jerry’s Records, his vinyl wonderland on Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill.
Every so often, Jerry and his employees box up records that accumulate in the store’s hallway, “low priority stuff” that patrons leave there or albums that the store has too many copies of. According to Willie Weber, namesake of Whistlin’ Willie’s 78 shop (housed inside Jerry’s) and Jerry’s son, every week Jerry puts 10 to 12 boxes at the bottom of the steps. The store pulls out the records they need and put the rest downstairs by the doorway, free to a good home.
“We used to box up the whole hallway and take them over to the warehouse. But there’s no room anymore,” Willie Weber said. “There’s good records in there. We just got so many of them.”
With no room at Jerry’s warehouse in Swissvale, the records had to go somewhere. Willie estimates that there are 100,000 records that can be given away from the warehouse, but Jerry doesn’t remember what they are.
The boxes of records, which hold approximately 100 records each, started to accumulate. After the store hit 200 boxes, Jerry decided to give them away. This weekend, he gave away 260 boxes, the last box went at around 1 p.m. Sunday. The records given away range in condition and artist, a mixed bag for patrons’ turntables.
“There’s real good records in not so good shape and there’s not so popular records, like Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra, in real good shape. It’s a mix of a lot of different kinds of stuff,” Weber, now in his late 60’s, said.
But this weekend wasn’t the first time Jerry gave out vinyl free of charge. He estimates he’s done 10 giveaways over the years. The last giveaway happened four or five years ago on Record Store Day, according to Willie Weber. The Webers gave away more than 100,000 plus records, all of which on pallets that stretched up the store’s ally. The store had a line “around the block” and the records were gone by 2 p.m.
A main source in the record giveaway are the record deals Weber and store employees will go on. Last winter, they trekked out to Cleveland and took home 11 pallets of records, an estimated 30,000 in total. After they get the records back to the Squirrel Hill shop, the records get checked for condition, cleaned if needed, priced and put out on the shelves.
Almost a year later, Weber is still working his way through the Cleveland deal, but can only do so much at a time or else “you’ll go crazy,” he joked.
For those that didn’t get a free box of records, Santa Jerry will be bringing his sleigh back soon. He’s been telling patrons that have been calling the store who missed out on this past weekend’s giveaway to come back on Black Friday, when he plans to give away 10-15,000 more records.
“I have no choice. I’m not a hoarder. I have to get rid of the stuff,” Jerry Weber said.