What or where is your Utopia? For me, Utopia is the name of a store in downtown Easton that I frequented quite a bit as a teenager in the 1980’s. And not just any store mind you, Utopia was THE place to go if you were a connoisseur of music and someone whose parents had absolutely no intention of driving you across town to the Listening Booth store in the mall. Yes, in an age where record album sales and concert tickets were all the rage, Utopia was the closest place to go to get your music fix if you lived on South Side.
For a melodic rock / hair metal enthusiast like me, it truly was utopia. I still remember the hot summer days of youth walking downtown with a group of kids from the neighborhood with money burning a hole in my pocket. We all knew that what awaited us between those musty smelling walls was pure musical heaven. And unlike some of the more “modern” record stores of the day that allowed you to listen to new music before buying, Utopia was a shopping only experience.
You knew you had arrived at Utopia when you were greeted by the wicker furniture that resided in the store front windows. And once you crossed the threshold and into the store, the smell of cheap burning incense would consume you. Utopia showcased many of the newest albums of the day and even had a ticket counter where you could purchase tickets to the latest concerts coming to the area.
Utopia was the place where I purchased all of my concert tickets for shows at Stabler Arena and The Allentown Fairgrounds, including my first ever concert in 1984: The Scorpions and some new band named Bon Jovi. It was also where I purchased my first Dokken, Ozzy, Night Ranger, REO Speedwagon and Stevie Nicks albums.
Perhaps the only thing I didn’t fully understand about the store were these peculiar objects they peddled in addition to albums and chairs made of sticks. They were oddly shaped, glass bottles that resided behind the counter. I found it strange that these vases were in the same location as the “dirty” men’s magazines and something you would embarrassingly have to ask a clerk to get for you.
I never inquired about them, but occasionally thought about getting my Mom one with flowers in it for Mother’s Day. They looked cool; almost like a genie bottle or glass pipe. My brother even had a blue one in his bedroom that he told me never to touch.
Last night I purchased an album on iTunes and it got me to thinking about the old shop again. It’s been years since I’ve visited Utopia. Perhaps its time to pay a visit and see how much has changed in a quarter of a century. Although I’m sure they still sell wicker furniture and cheap incense, I’m fairly certain that new music and concert tickets are no longer being peddled. I guess I’ll find out. And who knows? I might even get up the nerve to finally ask them about the glass pipes behind the counter.
But I highly doubt it.