The Man Cave hosts the occasional concert in its new 1,200 square foot location in Hightstown, NJ.  Above: Mick Chorba from The Successful Failures. Photo Credit: Contributed. 

For the Record - Randy Now's Man Cave

By: Anthony Stoeckert

Writer Anthony Stoeckert talks Vinyl, Cassettes, Sodas, Customers, Retro Candy, Live Music & Running The Man Cave with Randy Now

Randy Now’s Man Cave is a Mecca for music lovers who make the pilgrimage to the store and explore the used and new records, CDs, and even cassettes that are for sale (many at bargain prices), and also talk music with the store’s owner, Randy Ellis.

For years, the Man Cave called Bordentown City its home and spending time there is as close as I’ve ever felt to being in a sitcom. Ellis is always happy to make suggestions and share stories from his days promoting concerts at Trenton’s famed City Gardens club. People comment on what you’re buying and disagreements happen, but are always civil.

On one of my visits, during which I usually hunt the wall of CDs for treasure, a teenage girl bought a few Beatle albums on vinyl. “Better than Taylor Swift, right?” someone said, and before I knew it, I was defending Swift, pointing out that I’m not a huge fan, but that it’s clear she has tremendous talent. The debate was passionate, and some sarcasm might have been thrown around, but it was always respectful. Maybe the Man Cave should host political debates.

Earlier this year, Ellis moved his store to Hightstown, but except for the address, fans of the store can rest assured that the store that bills itself as “not the biggest, but the coolest” still has the same vibe as the old place.

The Man Cave’s isn’t just a music store, as it also sells more than 140 different sodas in various flavors—but don’t go looking for a Coke or Pepsi.  Photo Credit: Contributed.

“We’re very happy in our new location in Hightstown,” Ellis says. “First of all, we went from 500 square feet to 1,200 square feet. Secondly, our landlord has 150 off-street parking places surrounding our building—all for the store’s customers. Never again will we have customers complaining about having to circle our building a couple of times in search of a place to park. We are also sandwiched between The Hightstown Diner (which has been open since 1929) and The Old Hights Brewery. We’re also just a few feet, literally, off Highway Route 33. The downtown of Hightstown has plenty of diverse stores and restaurants with plenty of free parking directly across from the downtown lake and waterfall to boot!”

Ellis is quick to point out that the Man Cave isn’t just a music store, as it also sells more than 140 different sodas in various flavors—but don’t go looking for a Coke or Pepsi. The store also T-shirts, postcards, retro candy, and Charles Chips potato chips in those classic tins. You never know what you might find—this spring, while looking for a birthday gift for a friend, I found an Ace Frehley KISS doll, which was a huge hit.

November 25, the day after Thanksgiving, was a big day for the Man Cave and other independent record stores, because it was Record Store Day, which is celebrated with the release of limited edition releases, mostly on vinyl. I made most recent to the Man Cave on Record Store Day and picked up special editions from the Monkees and Jonathan Richman—almost as good as a turkey dinner.

Outside the new Man Cave, across from a waterfall and sandwiched between a 1929 Diner and Brewery, the new location also offers 150 free parking spots.

“The idea of Record Store Day has changed since its beginnings,” Ellis says. “It is a big day for record sales and customers, for sure. I wish it would be set for the week before the Black Friday shopping day—that would make for two solid weekends in a row instead of chaos on Black Friday as it is.” And the Man Cave still has a good selection of Record Store Day releases available.  Back in the 1970s and ’80s, vinyl records were the primary way people listened to music (along with the radio). Cassettes made an impact, but CDs would come to dominate.

 

Now with streaming, people can pay $10 a month and listen to just about anything they want (with some notable exceptions, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell are pretty much absent from Spotify). I have to admit it is pretty cool that when the Beatles’ Revolver Super Deluxe boxed set was released about a month ago, I was able to listen to the array of outtakes and alternate versions—and come to the conclusion that the album is perfect as it is, and that I don’t need to own all those versions of “And Your Bird Can Sing.” It was also amazing that after reading a long New York Time article about the 50th anniversary of Stevie Wonder’s Talking Book, that I could listen to that masterpiece with just a few touches of my phone screen.

But vinyl is tremendously popular these days, and for true music lovers, there is nothing like a record store, especially an independent shop whose owner loves music and who offers a great collection of new and used records—with new stuff always coming in.

 

The Man Cave also hosts the occasional concerts, though not as many as it used to. On Dec. 14, the Man Cave will present Ed Hammill/Hammill on Trial for his fifth holiday visit. Then in late January, Dan Bern will play the Man Cave.  “Dan’s been playing the folk scene along with house concerts for many, many years now,” Ellis says. “Dan is a favorite of WXPN (the University of Pennsylvania’s radio station) and recently, Dan Bern was a “question” on Jeopardy!—There must be some hip person on their staff !”

 

Randy Now’s Man Cave is located at 119 W Ward St., Hightstown. Hours: Wed.-Sat. noon to 6 p.m., Sun. noon to 5 p.m. For more information, go to www.mancavenj.com or call 609-424-3766.

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