Bill Harris, co-owner of Nits Nats Music in Henderson, was on Monday’s edition of WIZS’ Town Talk program to discuss the music stores recent 50th anniversary.
Originally opened in downtown Oxford in 1969 by Phillip and Cheryl Hawkins, the business has called several locations in Oxford, Henderson and Louisburg home during its 50 years in operation. For the past several years, Nits Nats has been located at 1680 Parham St. in Henderson, a part of the shopping center known as “Corbittville.”
Harris said he became a faithful customer of the store in 1977 as a young teenager. At that time, the business was located inside the Henderson Mall.
Fifteen years ago, when the Hawkins decided to sell the business, Harris said it was Cheryl who pulled him aside to encourage him to pursue the opportunity. “She said, ‘you know music and you know how to talk to people, why don’t you buy it.’ I said, ‘I’m not going to buy this,’ but I kept thinking and listening and she kept talking and I here I am 15 years later.”
Nits Nats carries a wide variety of music genres including rock, country, pop, classical and gospel in formats ranging from new and used vinyl to CDs and cassette tapes.
“Anything I don’t carry in the store, I can find it and track it down for you,” said Harris.
The store also offers gift certificates with the same traditional black and white checkerboard logo that customers have come to recognize. “When the Hawkins opened the store in 1969, there was racial tension in Oxford. Her [Cheryl’s] idea was to make the store for everyone, hence the black and white checkerboard,” explained Harris. “I think it was a great idea then and is a great idea now; music is for everyone.”
In a world that is becoming more and more digital, Harris said it can be a struggle to promote a physical music format. Those that prefer the more traditional format of music, as well as a resurgence in the popularity of vinyl records, keep Nits Nats in business.
“There are still people who refuse to go digital, most are 40 and older, and the young kids have discovered vinyl,” said Harris. “We’ve sold more vinyl in the last 4-5 months than we have in the past 15 years.”
Of a collection of 700-800 records that Harris acquired in the past three weeks, he estimates 500 have already been sold. “There’s a romance about vinyl. There’s something about digging through crates of records, there’s something about the sound and about the covers. I think people feel disconnected from everything being digital; vinyl gives you that authentic listening experience.”
Looking ahead to the future, Harris said Nits Nats should be just fine as long as people still desire a physical music format and continue to support local small businesses.
“I realize you can buy music from Amazon, but that does nothing for our local economy,” Harris said. “If you come in here to buy something, well, I’m going to take that money and run to Roses to buy something or downtown to the office supply store to buy supplies. Local small businesses are what gives a community its feeling and its character. I like to think this place gives Henderson some character.”
WIZS sincerely hopes Harris and Nits Nats Music continue to add to the character of the community for the next 50 years.
Harris, in fact, has been an employee of WIZS for the last 30 years. According to WIZS’ own John Charles Rose, “Bill is a very knowledgeable and well-rounded person to have working at a radio station. He has worked at WIZS in several full and part-time positions, and can think on his feet, is never at a loss for words and absorbs content quickly. It would seem that many of these same qualities serve him well at Nits Nats. WIZS is very glad he remains a part of our staff.”
Harris invites the community to join Nits Nats Music on National Record Store Day, Saturday, April 13, 2019. The store will feature unique music releases, hot dogs, Harris’ wife’s “famous chili” and cold drinks.
To hear the Town Talk interview with Bill Harris in its entirety, please click here.
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