Not So Long Ago: Wisconsin and N St.

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This week for Not So Long Ago, GM heads up Wisconsin a little bit. Today it houses Reiss Limited, a British clothing importer. 18 years ago, however, this space housed one of the branches of the nearly gone and once great Kemp Mill Records.

Kemp Mill Records was founded in 1973 in Maryland (GM assumes it was Kemp Mill, MD, but he’s not positive). The store once had multiple branches spread out all over the DC-metropolitan area. Nowadays, they’ve just got one, in Hillcrest Heights, MD. But the memories are still all over the area.

GM’s not sure when Kemp Mill moved in, or when it moved out. But it was certainly gone by the time he moved to Georgetown in 2003, and it was probably gone well before then. The last good record store to shut down in Georgetown was the CD Warehouse in 2007, which was where Iceberry is now. Smash Records moved out a few years before that. The last true record shop was FYE in the mall, and that closed a few years ago. Granted, record shops are closing across the country, so the loss is hardly unique.

Reiss itself is not long for Georgetown. They plan to leave once their lease runs out. GM’s not heard whether a new tenant has been identified.

Here are the photos:


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12 responses to “Not So Long Ago: Wisconsin and N St.

  1. William Newton

    I used to shop at Kemp Mill back in the day. As a matter of fact I was there once when Evan Dando of The Lemonheads gave an acoustic performance and he signed my copy of “It’s A Shame About Ray”. They always had a really interesting selection of what was then alt-rock, as well as dance and other genres.

  2. The closing of Kemp Mill was a great loss in the history of Georgetown’s commercial establishments.

  3. asuka

    I wonder which closing ranks as Georgetown’s greatest loss? For me, it would be the Biograph. To this day, I still won’t shop at CVS.

  4. 1254 Wisconsin Avenue has a lot of history, Kemp Mill Records being but a blink of the eye. This is where Stohlman’s Ice Cream Parlor stood for close to one hundred years. Today, the Ice Cream Parlor is part of a display at the American History Museum of Washington. Stohlman’s was a big part of Georgetown from 1865 to 1957. In the 1960s, another Ice Cream parlor took over the space. It was run by Tim Jackson, who did so much for the merchants of Georgetown. He spearheaded the annual parade down Wisconsin Avenue ever September in honor of Francis Scott Key (this was before Georgetown needed “branding” and the merchants of Georgetown really cared about the community). For close to 10 years, The Georgetowner newspaper occupied the third floor of this building. This is when Dave Roffman ran the newspaper along with his brother Randy. When Stohlman’s Ice Cream Parlor was at this location, many famous people stopped by for a treat. General George S. Patton would visit often for his favorite pistachio flavor.
    By the way, the best record stores of Georgetown were Learnmont’s in the 1950s and early 1960s, and Olsson’s Record and Tape on Wisconsin. There was also a cool used record shop on M Street in the 1960s and 1970s and 1980s.

  5. Denis James

    Orpheus was the used shop on M Street. They moved to Arlington, but now have closed the store and are selling on-line:

    Kemp Mill Records took its name from the Kemp Mill Shopping center on Arcola Avenue in Wheaton, Md, not far from Northwood High School. The housing development across the street from the shopping center was called, what else, Kemp Mill.

  6. GeorgeM

    In addition to Kemp Mill, Olsson’s and Orpheus there was another record store on M Street in the 1970’s and 1980’s, I think between Wisconsin and Potomac. I remember it kept its album prices at $5.99 for a long time which kept prices in check for other music retailers too. Anyone remember the name of it?

  7. Washington Cube

    The guy who worked at Orpheus, Richard, was a Georgetown eccentric. Never wore shoes. A lot of good people worked at Georgetown/Kemp Mill including Michael Miller and Bill Lloyd…both men with encyclopedic knowledge of music. I saw Nureyev in KM in a tall sable hat and a velvet cape he was swinging around, and Henry Kissinger would go in there, jumping out of his motorcade. Sure I miss the Biograph, but also Emergency which was this club with a raked floor up into the rafters, and you’d see the most amazing groups. The Kinks did all of Arthur there.

  8. i used to work for kemp mill records from about 1982 until 1987. i didn’t work in the georgetown store but in several in the chain. it was fun for a while but then it became real work and that was a drag. it was a good first post-college job but i missed my family when they all moved to california so i did too. i didn’t resist the siren’s song.

  9. Mike

    Penguin Feather was the other chain on M Street, right next to Orpheus. The Biograph was a huge loss, but so was the Bayou.

  10. James Bobb

    My name is James Bobb and I was one of the founding owners of Kemp Mill records
    The down town store was opened in 1973 and at one time was one of our best locations which was one of 37 that were located around DC
    I sold my interest in the company in 1979
    the down load boom in music was the death nail for the company

  11. Vernita Safford

    My first job was with Kemp Mill Records. Best job a sixteen year old could have! I had great managers (Sam & Joann) and a fun group of people to work with. I remember working with Bill Lloyd a time or two. I’m sorry to hear it has fallen victim to technology, but that’s how it goes. I’m also sad to hear about the changes in Georgetown. I used to work at a place called The Paper Store on Wisconson Ave. Is it still in business? By the way, there use to be a combonation record & book store on Wisconson Ave. not too far from the corner of M Street. Does anyone remember the name of the place and can you tell me if it is still in business? It’s been a very long time since I was home?

  12. Hi Vernita! I remember you… glad to see you are doing well — Bill Lloyd

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