Jay Notartomaso owns and operates Musical Energi, Wilkes-Barre, which specializes in new and used vinyl, CDs, cassettes, rock memorabilia, incense, posters, and new and vintage stereo gear. Notartomaso is a native of Clarks Summit and graduated from Abington Heights High School and Penn State University, where he earned a degree in biology and psychology. He has a daughter, Ariana, 19, and lives in West Wyoming.
Meet Jay Notartomaso…
What first inspired you to get into the record business?
I grew up with records. My father loved music, so there was always music being played in the house. Of course he listened to opera and classical, and I liked rock, but I have a picture of me when I was about 4 years old with my first record player. Most little kids have a blanket and a teddy bear, and I have this record player, and my hand is on it affectionately. I’ve been obsessed with records and record players my entire life. In the ’80s, I was living at Penn State, and there was a guy that used to come around to the malls and go from mall to mall with his little portable record store, and I guess he was talking to my mom and my dad — they were shopping in the mall, and my dad used to buy records from him — and he told them how he wanted to get out of it. He had a retail store in Boston and wanted to sell the kiosk. My mom took his number, gave me a call, and that was it. Coincidentally, that’s when the Wyoming Valley Mall opened permanent kiosks that you could lease. So I signed a lease with the mall. I didn’t have to drive around in a van with records. And I was there for four years.
Since then, for 27 years, you’ve been in downtown Wilkes-Barre. What do you enjoy about your work the most?
Listening to the music. I could live three lifetimes and not hear all of the music there is to hear. And it just keeps coming out. Trying to keep up with all of the new stuff and all of the things I never heard before — obviously that’s my passion and what brought me into the business. And I learn a lot from my customers from what they like. If they ask me if I have something, and I never heard of it, I’m like, “Whoa. What’s that?” I also like turning customers onto things, and I like working with the product, especially cleaning and pricing albums. It might sound mundane, and I’ve probably done millions over the years, but I just love handling the records, cleaning them, pricing them, grading them and getting them ready for customers. And now, for maybe the past five years or six years, I’ve also been fixing record players. And I find it rewarding to find a record player that doesn’t work and degrease it, lube it up and get all of the parts working again. That obsession that I have with records and record players is still the thing that I am most passionate about.
Who are some of your favorite musical artists?
Currently — and I recently went to Philadelphia to see them — I’ve been listening to a band called Diane Coffee. And I’d recommend that everyone listen to their album, “Everybody’s a Good Dog,” The music is Motown-psych. Imagine David Bowie meets the Supremes meets Pink Floyd meets “Sgt. Pepper’s.” And they somehow pull it off. It’s the most brilliant album that I have ever heard. I also like My Morning Jacket. And of course the classics … the Beatles, Stones, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I go to the gym a lot. Almost every day. And I like taking naps. (Laughs)
New York City.
Favorite vacation spot?
I don’t usually go to the same place twice. I like to try new places. I was just in Costa Rica this summer. That was a blast. And I do camping a lot. I just like to get out in the middle of nowhere away from everything and just decompress.
Favorite thing about NEPA?
My entire family still lives in the area, between Stroudsburg and State College. I have two sisters and a brother, and my parents are older but still with us, and I have lots of nieces and nephews. This is home, and everybody is still here. And when we get together around the holidays, it’s such a great feeling. I also love being in a climate where there are four seasons. It’s just a beautiful state. I love Pennsylvania.
All-time favorite movie?
“Lord of the Rings” and all of the “Harry Potter” movies.
Favorite TV show?
Right now, it’s listening to old country music. I can’t believe I now like country, but I like the real old-timers. And red wine. That’s another guilty pleasure.
Favorite quote or catchphrase?
“Our life is our art.” — John Lennon
Biggest pet peeve?
People that deny scientific facts.
Favorite book or author?
Anything by Sam Harris.
Is there anything about you that might really surprise people?
I really have no idea what the top-40 songs in the country are. You would think that a record store owner would be up on the “current music,” but I don’t really know the top-40, which is kind of funny. I listen to a lot of new music, but not the top-40. It’s all just mass-produced.
Have you had a defining personal moment or something that has really shaped you into the person you are today?
Definitely my daughter being born. She’s 19 now, and I still learn from her every day. As a parent, you think that you’ll teach your children, but I think parents can learn just as much. By helping them become who they want to be, and following their lead, and helping them do what they want to do with their life — that really helped me grow as a person. My daughter is my hero.
UP CLOSE & PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos by Emma Black and submitted photo