There has (in my opinion) never been a better time to get into vinyl record collecting than right now. I’m gonna take a shot in the dark and assume that anyone who is reading this was not old enough to participate in the heyday of record buying and collecting, so I would say that the ‘20s are our second-best option. Records are everywhere these days, and with that demand has come a kind of vinyl renaissance: new artists have turned to records as a way to promote and sell their music while old records have started to go back into circulation for new ears to enjoy. Coupled with the fact that New Orleans is constantly pushing out interesting new bands and music, we have a city that is overflowing with independent record stores for citizens to get lost in. One of my personal favorites is the White Roach, an independently owned record store in the heart of Uptown NOLA. Danielle Dietze, the owner (and sole employee at the moment), is warm and kind when she greets me for our interview. Danielle’s style is one that is reminiscent of your cool older sister– I felt simultaneously intimidated and inspired by how put together she was. This first impression set the tone for the rest of my visit.
The White Roach is a convenient 7-minute drive– that’s a 30-minute walk for those without a car– from Tulane University. Located at 5704 Magazine St. next to an eyebrow threading boutique and down the street from Whole Foods, the White Roach sits comfortably in a quaint mint green building. The location, in my opinion, is perfect for both those who are coming to the White Roach with a purpose or those who stumble upon it while window shopping on Magazine.
“I was literally just walking to Whole Foods one day and saw the ‘for rent’ sign. And I was like: ‘this would be such a cool record store space. This is so cozy and nice. It’s a good area,’” Danielle says.
“And I just called. Just for fun. And then I was like, ‘Man, maybe I can pull this off…’”
Danielle has certainly done more than simply “pull it off.” 2022 will be the shop’s 6th year, and through it all– namely a pandemic and infamous Hurricane Ida– The White Roach stands like a beacon of hope for small, female-owned businesses trying to continue in a time of readjustment.
“It was bad. I mean, it was scary,” said Danielle. “We had to close for like… 6 months almost because of the pandemic.” Even during those unsure times, Danielle once again proved that her business smarts and out-of-the-box thinking were going to get her through the seemingly never-ending uncertainty.
“I started doing record deliveries while we closed…I just sold records on our website and literally just like a pizza delivery girl around town, [I would] drive around and drop them off at people’s doorsteps,” she explained. “It was actually really fun.”
The store had been doing well in the years pre-pandemic, which led to Danielle knocking out a wall and expanding into the unit next door. Unfortunately, the closure of the store due to COVID-19 resulted in a subsequent struggle to pay the rent for both units, and Danielle was forced to rebuild the wall between the spaces. Even after this downsize, however, Danielle smiles at the memory and assures me that the store’s future is looking bright.
“My focus right now is just getting solid records,” says Danielle.
As the shop goes back to normal– whatever “normal” even means now– there is a newfound air of strength that envelopes The White Roach. That strength was not only bolstered by the uncertainty of the pandemic, but was also present from the very beginning.
My next order of business is to address the elephant in the room (or perhaps the “roach” in the room?): where did the store’s iconic name come from exactly?
“[The store] was named after my grandma actually,” said Danielle. What started as a family nickname slowly transformed into the perfect record store title.
“I’ve had people come in and be like ‘I used to be called this by my family’ and stuff. All different types like men and women. I don’t know where it really came from but… I just heard it in my family so much and I always thought it was funny,” said Danielle.
Raised in various parts of the South before settling in the Metairie-New Orleans area– “My whole family is from New Orleans though,”– Danielle is no stranger to NOLA’s music scene.
“I first started doing music stuff when I was in high school,” said Danielle. She started at the radio station WWOZ (which she still has a show on every once and a while) before being hired at the House of Blues while in college.
“Then after 6 months, they hired me as a full-time marketing employee, and I was a sophomore. I was in charge of the interns that were older than me. I was like ‘this is so strange.’” After a brief stint in Nashville at the Johnny Cash Museum, Danielle found her way back to New Orleans, helping friends around the city put on shows and events– and thank goodness she did. The White Roach has become a staple of Uptown’s storefronts and has earned its rightful place as a community favorite. Without a doubt, the White Roach has provided me with one of the most consistent experiences everytime I go. With a great selection of records, a fun atmosphere, and a mutual respect between Danielle and the customers, the White Roach will provide every record collector or casual vinyl peruser with exactly what they need.
Thankfully, The White Roach is slowly starting to go back to their roots. On the 23rd of April, The White Roach will be celebrating Record Store Day in their own special way: a show and pop-up after their covid-induced hiatus. Local group Pope will be playing as well as singer Shalom and Greg Mendez from Brooklyn and Philly respectively. Along with live music, there will be a clothing pop-up from Bad Taste Club, various giveaways, and vinyl from Carpark Records and Saddle Creek Records. The event is free, but donations are suggested in order to compensate the bands.
If you would like to learn more about The White Roach you can visit them on Instagram @TheWhiteRoachRecords or visit their website TheWhiteRoach.com. You can also visit their store located at 5704 Magazine Street.
Featured Image via Mercedes Ohlen.
Mercedes is The Crescent’s Editor-in-Chief. She is currently a Senior majoring in Anthropology and Communications. She enjoys screenwriting, fashion, and writing about the great city of New Orleans. No topic is too obscure, and no story too niche.