The first time I ever set foot in Haffa’s Records was my senior year of high school on my first visit to Athens. It was the first Athens adventure I embarked on alone, peeling myself away from my parents and the student guide that had showed us the all bright and shiny parts of campus. Walking in, I could see shafts of dust rolling in the golden late afternoon light.
I shuffled to the back of the store to be greeted by an endless sea of records. Albums I cherished, that I had so rarely seen in more than just a thumbnail on my iPod Classic were all tucked away neatly, tangible and singularly captivating. I saw so many favorites but also an endless amount of unrecognized titles, a first for me. It felt like looking through your friend’s collection. Seeing where your tastes intersected but then he got really into early funeral metal and you split off once again. It was exciting and I made a point to pick records that weren’t easy, that would challenge me like I knew this new place eventually would.
Andrew Lampela, the guardian of all Haffa’s wares was posted behind the counter, listening to something fast and angry, or maybe more dirgy and brooding. I’ve since learned that on days like this, Andrew will probably be brief, pissed off about some lousy reseller who’s been pestering him or maybe a lackluster shipment he just got in.
I placed my selections on the counter and searched for something to say but nothing seemed cool or interesting enough. I saw a few jars of who-knows-what alcohol sitting on the counter. Oh man, how cool would it be to work here?
“Hey, I’m going to be going to school here in the fall. Would you guys be hiring?” I asked meekly.
Andrew let out an easy chuckle as he bagged my records up, handing them to me, “Yeah, not unless one of us dies.”
Since then, it’s been three years of stops in between classes, half-heartedly digging through new arrivals while talking about why cocaine-era Bowie is such a bummer or summer afternoons spent digging into the darkest corners, bargaining that a great find is just one more crate over.
Haffa’s possesses a timelessness, imposing no boundaries on its explorers, who develop their own technique, a ritual for shuffling through. Check out a row of used movies, then see what’s in the new letter “C” vinyl bin, check for that one record that can never ever ever be found but has to be looked for on principle. Looking for that perfect gem, even if maybe you’re already in it.