Charlemagne Record Exchange

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Charlemagne Records in January 2009

Charlemagne Record Exchange was a used record store located on the 2nd floor of the Five Points Grocery building at 1924½ 11th Avenue South in Birmingham's Five Points South neighborhood.

Charlemagne was founded by siblings Marian McKay Rosato and Mike McCay along with Gary Bourgeois in the summer of 1977, renting space at the Garages on 10th Terrace South and selling records out of peach crates. Marian McKay envisioned the business not only as a used record shop, but as a place to freely exchange recordings. The atmosphere was inspired by Rasputin Records in Berkeley, California and an informally-run dress shop in the shadow of Notre-Dame in Paris. The name came from Steely Dan's "Kid Charlemagne", which was playing while the three discussed the new venture.

Within three months, the shop moved to its long-time Five Points location. The three partners originally allowed themselves $30 a week salary, but the business was successful and soon allowed each of them to take home $100 a week. Marian McKay's cockatoos, Preté and Sonny, were fixtures at the store. Jimmy Griffin, who joined on as a corporate officer, was widely admired for his encyclopedic knowledge of recorded music.

Bourgeois left Charlemagne in 2001 to teach English at Miles College. After two years he returned to the record business with Renaissance Records a block away. Griffin left Charlemagne to join him several years later. By 2011 record trades only accounted for a tenth of Charlemagne's business, as sales of new and collectible rock, jazz and blues LPs, CDs, cassettes and DVDs took front stage. In the 2010s interest in vinyl resurged and Charlemagne's business was boosted by internet sales and annual "Record Store Day" events.

Nevertheless, Rosato cited low sales alongside rising rents as reasons she decided to close the shop in January of 2020. The last day of operation was on January 15, 2020.


  • Duvall, Lynn (August 1994) "Birmigham, Alabama 35205" Black & White, rpt. in Verna Gates, ed. "A History of Southside in 7 1/2 Minutes or Less"
  • Haden, Courtney (July 15, 2009) "Charlemagne and Renaissance Records celebrate mid-summer & other anniversaries." Birmingham Weekly
  • Moore, Tamika (March 13, 2011) "Eight-track inspiration." The Birmingham News
  • Thornton, William (August 25, 2017) "40 years of vinyl dreams at Birmingham's Charlemagne Record Exchange." The Birmingham News
  • "Charlemagne Record Exchange closing at end of month." (December 3, 2019)
  • Thornton, William (December 3, 2019) "Charlemagne Record Exchange closing after 42 years." The Birmingham News