Florida Southern funk lovers and rock-and-rollers alike have another place close to campus to spend their cash and their time: The Wax and The Needle. Located at 509 S. Florida Ave, this small, independent, brand-new record store and band merch purveyor, sounded just like my kind of establishment. I was fortunate enough to get an interview with Justin Sims, the owner of the place, who was happy to give me some information about the business, its goals, and moreover, how he decided to open a record shop in Lakeland.

Justin told me that he and his friends who had used to work in the tattoo parlor in the same building were all long-time musicians; Justin himself had been in over twenty bands over the years. They saw the space in the front of the place that had gone unused for a long time and wondered what they could do with it. Since Justin’s been here for a long time – “I’m an old man,” as he says – he’s seen Lakeland’s music scene go through a cycle of booms and busts. But lately, the city has been really empty without the local bands that used to be around all the time. “I just felt there was a need,” Justin explained to me.

This was one of the niches of Lakeland that The Wax and The Needle wanted to fill: to give the local bands a place to congregate and play music, and give some life to music scene. For their grand opening early in early January, they invited some local bands to come and play sets for a crowd of 250-300 people, as Justin explained it, with plans to provide many more “as often as possible.” Ultimately, Justin told me, the money that they make through sales is going to be reinvested into expanding their merchandise, setting up concerts for local bands and musicians, and possibly opening up more locations, if everything is successful.

The inside of the place looks really polished and welcoming; there are posters of local bands and shows on the wall, an entire rock band’s set-up worth of instruments, and of course, the records. They’ve even got an entire line up of real-life record players. Justin stressed that they wanted to make sure that they could provide a full line of them to their customers (with plans to expand the line in the future), since as far as he could tell, no other record stores seem to provide them for their customers. There are even some antique models inside, if you’re looking for an Oldies vibe. And hey, if nothing else grabs you, there’s free coffee as well! Call me overeager, but I’m really excited for how this place can change Lakeland for the better.