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Schoolkids Records has a new (and old) Judge in charge

It's been more than seven months since word came down that Hillsborough Street's Bell Tower block was going to be leveled to make way for a hotel. But so far, that has not come to pass. The good part of that is that Schoolkids Records and Sadlack's are both still standing; and they probably will be for at least another year as the process drags on.

Meantime, Schoolkids has a new owner -- Stephen Judge, who first went to work for the store in 1990 while he was a student at NC State. Among many other things since then, Judge managed a major-label band, worked for Daniel Lanois' management company and started a record label, Second Motion Records. He'll continue to operate Second Motion as well as the music publication Blurt magazine alongside Schoolkids.

Judge is taking over for previous owner Mike Phillips, who started Schoolkids nearly four decades ago in Chapel Hill. After 39 years of riding the industry's rise and fall, Phillips decided it was finally time for him to cut it loose.

"I just got sick of it," says Phillips. "So I'm off to greener pastures. Stephen is in charge now and we'll see what happens."

The transfer of ownership is just in time for Saturday's Record Store Day festivities, which will include live performances by Chris Stamey, Dexter Romweber and others as well as exclusive records from acts including Phish, Flaming Lips and Black Keys. Record Store Day is a major occasion for what's left of the record retail business, which is still in a struggle for survival in a changing landscape. Back in the 1990s, one of Schoolkids' biggest sellers was Dave Matthews Band. But Judge says the store doesn't even bother stocking Matthews' biggest album anymore.

"We sold a live album of his the other day and it was the first Dave Matthews we'd sold in years," Judge says. "So that business is gone, all online now. You replace it by making sure you have the catalogs of Bowerbirds or Fun, bands that are bubbling and growing. We can't keep everything in stock anymore, unfortunately."

As to when and where Schoolkids might have to move, Judge plans to start looking around for potential new spaces over the summer.

"I'd love to stay here permanently," Judge says. "I love this space, although it has some space and parking limitations. But that's Hillsborough Street."

For more on Judge and Schoolkids, see this story from Friday's paper.

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