Arts & Culture

The New Normal's

Waverly’s eclectic book and record store gets a new look.

Waverly regulars might have noticed a colorful new addition to the neighborhood. Turn a corner and you’re faced with a long blue wall, where a mural features deep purple paint dripping down as wax from a candle atop a lavender Planet Earth, which doubles as a Magic 8 Ball. This is the new Normal’s.

Ahead of its 28th birthday on E. 31st St., this beloved home of books, records, zines, and one very friendly dog named Max got an early present—a facelift. In 2017, the building’s landlord contacted Emilie Drasher of Waverly Main Street about available funds for local businesses. One year, a few months, some design changes, and a lot of hard work later, the storefront now has a new look and the structural integrity to last.

“They stripped it all the way down to the core,” says Rupert Wondolowski, who co-owns Normal’s with John Berndt and Walt Novash. “I don’t think anyone knew what was awaiting them beneath the stucco.” 

Local artist Greg Gannon of Signs of Intelligent Life merged past and present by enlarging the store emblem created in 1990 by Peter Pan (yes, you read that right), one of the store’s original nine owners, so that it could fit between the two front windows. The store’s name would also get added prominence thanks to a new font created by friend-of-the-shop Tim Hill. Once the plan was settled, Gannon teamed up with Spectrum Mural Studio to paint the whole building in less than two days, giving this beacon the update it needed to shine for the future explorers of its many wonders.

But, as they say, it’s what’s on the inside that counts. Normal’s began as an attempt at a “normal” 9-to-5 gig for some artsy kids in the early ’90s, and at one time stocked clothing and bikes (they sold one to John Waters) alongside the current inventory of books and music. It has attracted burgeoning musicians, aging artists, and autodidacts looking to expand their understanding of the metaphysical, all brought together by the shop’s vast collections.

Beyond the fresh signage, you’ll find the same winding haven of bound pages and vinyl that locals have come to know and love. Kitsch still covers the walls, and something good always spins on the turntable. For those uninitiated, expect to wander for a while between the record bins, stacked shelves, and various nooks and crannies full of new and used finds ranging from the mainstream to the avant-garde.

“The investment of the community in our space feels like a bright new phase is ahead,” says Wondolowski. “Speaking as someone who’s not normally an optimist, I feel like there’s a movement back to appreciating simplicity and beauty, time machines without wires.”