Spinning Around St. Louis: Record Exchange

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Upon walking into the double doors of Hampton Avenues’ Record Exchange, visitors will notice something new every time. The ten thousand square foot library turned record store is home to an assortment of at least a million records, cassettes, CDs and musical memorabilia. And owner Jean Haffner is at the center of it all.

Photo by Emme Goelz

Haffner has been a part of the record business for 47 years and counting. Previously owning 9 Record Exchange locations, Haffner is now the proud owner of the single location on Hampton Ave. 

“It’s a treat to do it. It’s a passion to do it … I don’t work, I am here all the time,” Haffner said.

Haffner has not always been in with the record business, nor was this what he planned to do in his life. 

Under instruction from his father, Haffner joined the navy, went to college, got his degree, then found the biggest company he could find to work a 9-5 for eight years. Like many, Haffner got tired of the same routine. He wanted more, which inspired his move to venture out on his own in the business world, he said.

After never owning anything used in his whole life, Haffner opened his first used record store in 1976. Haffner received the best compliment he’d ever gotten from his father 15 years into the record business. 

“He said he thought I might make it,” Haffner said. 

After 47 years, Haffner has, for sure, made it. 

Haffner discussed he is in the works of selling the current building to buy a bigger one. He said the store is outgrowing the current space and would love to expand into a larger space. 

He has a warehouse chock full of records in addition to his store. He said he does not want to own multiple locations because he can’t be in nine places at once. 

“I have got enough product to fill this space two to three times easy,” Haffner laughed.

While the store expands to its limit, Haffner said his personal collection of records is nonexistent. 

“I used to be a collector, but it got me in trouble … I had more records in my house than anything,” Haffner said. 

According to Haffner, he removed his collection to create a balance between his passion and his home life. 

“I became something even more dangerous. I am an accumulator now. I am not a collector but an accumulator. One step up,” Haffner explained. 

While records are not a part of his home, his family is a part of the store. Haffner’s wife of 36 years and his daughter, Jena Haffner, work in the store. 

“It just feels normal … you get to learn new stuff every single day, that’s one of my favorite parts of the job. Some jobs you’re just doing the same stuff every day so you’re not getting opportunities to learn, but here, it’s different every single day,” Jena said. 

Having been a part of the Hampton Record Exchange’s opening 29 years ago, Jena has grown up surrounded by the music business her entire life.

According to Jena, growing up in this space has been nothing but normal, and she never saw it as different or strange—though she always had more connection to her peers’ parents’ music tastes growing up than her peers. 

Her first records were Strawberry Alarm Clock’s 1967 release “Incense and Peppermints” and Nektar’s “Remember the Future” from 1973. 

Getting to work with his daughter is “great,” Haffner said. He shared that Jena has just as much knowledge as he does about the business and the music. 

“We bump heads every now and then, but we do good,” Haffner said. 

Haffner has spent almost every day of his life now for the past 29 years sitting behind the counter of Record Exchange on Hampton Ave. From open to close, 7 days a week, Haffner is at the store, but he doesn’t plan to retire anytime soon.

“I retired 42 years ago in order to do this … I will die here on this stool,” Haffner said.

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Emme Goelz
Staff Writer | + posts