America’s Oldest Record Shop
If We Don’t Have It Nobody Does

Inside George’s Song Shop

George’s Song Shop opened it’s doors in 1932 at 110 Franklin Street on the first floor of the Glosser Brother’s Department Building; the shop was started by brothers Eugene and Bernie George.    In 1936 there was a flood and the shop moved to Locust Street; it then moved again to 105 Franklin Street in 1938.  In 1941 Eugene purchased his brother Bernie’s share of the business, and became the only owner of the shop; Bernie went on to NY to continue his career as a professional musician.   In 1962 Eugene George passed away and the shop was taken over by his son John George who still owns and works in the shop today.   In 1970 John moved the shop to 421 Main street where it stayed until 1977, when the shop again moved to it’s current location at 128 Market Street.

Write up by Jim Gindlesperger:

The year was 1932. The Stock Market crash of 1929 was still being felt in the form of the Great Depression. Unemployment was up, jobs were scarce, and the country was in a tailspin. It was no different in Johnstown, where unemployment hovered around 25%.

By any measure, it was a lousy time to start a business. On the other hand, the hallmark of every entrepreneur is the lack of fear of taking a chance. Why not? What is there to lose?

That was exactly the way Eugene and Bernie George felt. There weren’t any jobs around anyway, so why not create our own, was their thought. Sure, there was some anxiety. They were human, after all. Starting a business is a risk in the best of times. Doing it in the midst of the worst depression in American history … well, they preferred not to think about that.

Both brothers, but especially Bernie, loved music. Big Band music was popular, but with the Depression, who could afford to go see them? Going to see Artie Shaw, Duke Ellington, Paul Whiteman, or Glenn Miller? Not a chance. Just a few years earlier, though, Western Electric had come up with a way to produce a smoother, more natural way to play electrically recorded discs. Records, when played on this new system, no longer sounded so scratchy and tinny. Why not sell recordings, especially those of the Big Bands? After all, the Depression wouldn’t last forever, and it would give people a chance to listen to the music they loved but couldn’t afford to go see and hear in person. They opened their business on the first floor of the Glosser Brothers Department Store. Today that business is known as George’s Song Shop, selling music and records.

And to the surprise of the naysayers, the business succeeded. No, it didn’t flourish. Not at first, anyway. And then there was the matter of the 1936 flood. Undaunted, the brothers just moved the business to Locust Street, not exactly out of the flood zone. They would move it again in 1938, this time to Franklin Street.

While at the Franklin Street location, Bernie got the urge to pursue a career in music. Not selling records, but actually performing. He sold his share of the business to Eugene and moved to New York, leaving Eugene as the sole proprietor. Eugene operated the shop until 1962, when tragedy struck. On his way into work one morning, Eugene suffered a stroke. He would not survive. It fell upon his 19-year old son, John, to keep the business going.

John relocated the business once again in 1970, moving it to Main Street.

In January of 1977 it moved to it’s current location, 128 Market Street. The Johnstown Flood hit 6 months later and the contents of the store was destroyed. The store was rebuilt and is still at the same location.

Little known fact just a month prior to the ’77 Flood, there was a fire on the second floor and the water damage from putting out the fire destroyed most of the merchandise on the main floor. So the 1977 Flood coming shortly after was almost the knock out punch!

John still operates the business, billed as America’s Oldest Record Store. With more than 1,000,000 vinyl records (45s), more than 70,000 LPs, and 20,000 CDs, it may also be one of the largest independent stores. George’s also has 8-track tapes and cassettes. His inventory covers nearly every musical genre, and the store caters to customers from across the country. For many, they have been searching for a specific almost-impossible-to-find record or album. More often than not, they find it at George’s Song Shop, leading to George’s slogan: If We Don’t Have It, Nobody Does.

 Also see article in Parade Magazine by clicking HERE