W-Th (12PM-6PM), F-Sa (12M-8PM), Su 12PM-4PM). Closed M, Tu.
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Randy Ellis is best known in the Trenton area as “Randy Now,” the infamous talent booker, promoter, DJ, and bouncer of City Gardens. In the 1980’s and ’90’s, he booked talent such as REM, Green Day, Nirvana, Nine Inch Nails, Iggy Pop, and The Ramones into this popular Trenton rock and roll establishment. (Jon Stewart used to bartend there.) Along the way, Randy was building his own personal collection of rock ephemera–vinyl, CDs, t-shirts, bobble-heads, and more. As City Gardens’ popularity grew, so did Randy’s collection, and his hoard soon over-filled his tiny apartment.
City Gardens eventually closed, and Randy met Mary, the woman of his dreams. They found a new home for their growing family (including Mary’s daughter, Analiese), but Mary was clear–it was her or the stuff. There wasn’t room for her and Randy’s voluminous collections, which by now had expanded to obscure candies, hard-to-find sodas, vintage games, odd cereals and snacks, old books, tv memorabilia, and more. Randy’s collection was growing fast, and something had to be done.
The only solution was to get rid of the stuff, and Randy has been working on that since 2012, when he opened Randy Now’s Man Cave in downtown Bordentown. There, Randy (and Mary and Analiese) sell LP’s, DVDs, and CD’s, stock two fridges full of soda, hawk t-shirts, host VIP guests for signings and concerts, and regale patrons with stories of City Gardens.
It is truly bizarre, and utterly worth a visit.
The sodas alone are enough reason for an excursion. Imagine bacon soda, banana soda, pumpkin pie soda, marshmallow soda, or peanut butter and jelly soda (yes, I tried it and it was disgusting; yes, I finished the whole thing). Randy keeps his two fridges stocked with an enormous variety (he claims 99 different types), and customers come from throughout the area to get their favorites. Be careful, or you might get addicted to one of the obscure sodas. There was allegedly a woman who came in regularly for her Shirley Temple sodas–when they were temporarily out-of-stock she was like a junkie who needed her fix, asking every day when they expected more.
Of course, if you’re a vinyl collector, Randy’s impeccable taste will be sure to astonish you. People truly come from hours away to browse through his collection at the store, which is only a portion of the hoard he has at home. He re-stocks regularly from both his collection and from records that are brought into the shop for sale, so you’re always likely to find something new. This is one of the best record stores in Central New Jersey.
Be sure to check out the back room, which has tons t-shirts, old comic books, and more. Oh, and if you are looking for an obscure candy or cereal, a bobble-head from your childhood, or a 3-foot-long twizzler, they are likely to stock that too.
You probably won’t find anything you expect in this eclectic shop, but you’ll be sure to find something intriguing, surprising, and delightful. And either way, you’ll end up with some great City Gardens stories!