Customers peruse the selection at the Vinyl Canteen, a new record store and cafe that has opened on Central Street in downtown Bangor. Credit: Emily Burnham

Downtown Bangor has plenty of coffee shops, tattoo studios and craft beer, and now, it’s got another new business to add to its growing hip factor: the Vinyl Canteen, a record store and cafe that opened last weekend on Central Street.

Owner Christopher Tierney has spent the past two years renovating the building at 22 Central St., and though the sign for the Vinyl Canteen went up last June, the finishing touches weren’t ready until just this past month. Tierney, a New York native who splits his time between Long Island and Bangor, wanted to officially open by March 1 in order to celebrate his 60th birthday, which is this week.

“It’s a special birthday and a special thing for me, so this is really the best birthday present I could have,” said Tierney, who made his career teaching electronics in public and vocational schools on Long Island before retiring last year.

The Vinyl Canteen is equal parts record store, audio equipment shop and cafe, though it’s the vinyl that will likely get people through the door. As Rolling Stone reported last fall, vinyl records were in 2019 poised to exceed CDs in sales for the first time since 1986 — and Tierney, a self-admitted audiophile, knew a record store in downtown Bangor made sense for him for a fun retirement business venture.

Though Tierney’s personal favorites are classic jazz and 1970s progressive and classic rock, the selection at the Vinyl Canteen encompasses a wide array of genres, including an extensive collection of classic country, hip hop singles and r&b. When he’s not in Maine, Tierney is either at his other home in New York, or he’s traveling around the Northeast, buying record collections from individuals looking to unload hundreds or thousands of records.

Tierney also sells an array of new and vintage stereo equipment, including turntables, receivers and speakers, and has a workbench set up in the back of the shop to do repairs and refurbishments on items that customers bring in.

Credit: Emily Burnham

Beyond records and stereo equipment, Tierney also offers an espresso bar, and plans to unveil a small menu of sandwiches, crepes and gourmet hot dogs in the coming months.

“You can come in, have a snack and a coffee, and listen to great music on an amazing stereo system,” said Tierney. “That’s the kind of thing we’re going for.”

Tierney first started coming to Maine in 1997, after a road trip up Route 1 from New York to Washington County made him fall in love with the state. Tierney bought a cabin in the town of Harrington over a decade ago, which he still owns. When he began contemplating retirement, he decided to invest in commercial property — specifically in Bangor.

“What I love about Bangor is it’s really this compact, small city, but it has everything you need. It’s got culture, it’s got a cool downtown, it’s got colleges, it’s got nice people,” said Tierney. “And it’s affordable. At least, it’s still affordable right now.”

Tierney purchased the building for $220,000 in May 2017 from Northeast Occupational Exchange, which in 2017 and 2018 was busy selling off its downtown properties as it prepared to move to a new location on Mount Hope Avenue. The organization around the same time also sold its building at 29 Franklin St. to developers Abe and Heather Furth and Roy Hubbard.

Though he knew he wanted to open a retail establishment on the first floor, Tierney worked with local contractors House Revivers to renovate the top two floors from office space into apartments, both of which are now rented. In the 1970s, 22 Central St. was home to a small grocery store called The Green Grocer, and in the 1990s Northeast Occupational Exchange used it as a training kitchen for its clients, but for more than a decade, the ground-level space has been empty.

The Vinyl Canteen presently is open from 2 to 8 p.m., seven days a week, but hours will change as the cafe part of the business opens. For more information, like the Vinyl Canteen on Facebook.

Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.