John Damroth founded Planet Records in 1983. Though originally intending to open in Harvard Square, he ended up selecting a space in Kenmore Square. The property wasn't originally designed for commercial use (it was an apartment), so it was necessary to tear apart and rebuild the interior (DIY style). With the help of his contractor brother Planet Records was born. Next door was The Rat, a fabled but now defunct venue, Bertha Cool, a top notch used clothing store and across the street was Celebrations, a disco-era holdover club. Kenmore Square had an awful lot (maybe an excess…) of character(s) at the time. This was the era of the beloved Mr. Butch (who used to store his beers, among other things, in our refrigerator).
Within months Planet Records had established itself as a worthwhile stop on the record store circuit.
The Kenmore Square store was a success from the start. Possibly contributing to this was the fact that people used to actually buy music. It was a simpler time when vinyl records were the only concern. Cassettes and eventually CDs were added to the inventory. Back then you would ask to see our CD collection which we kept in a box behind the counter. Over the years our inventory expanded and Planet became a favorite destination for the music lovers in the greater Boston area. In 1997 it finally became possible to open a second location in Harvard Square. The idea was that the Harvard annex, being smaller, would specialize in CDs.
Sadly, the Planet empire was not to be. Eight months after the Harvard Square store opened, in 1998, a fire in Kenmore Square destroyed the building that our flagship location occupied. Heartbreaking as it was, the mission would not be abandoned. The Harvard store underwent adjustments to accommodate an LP department. It wasn’t clear whether this was worthwhile: often, several days would pass without selling a single record. Today LPs sell pretty well once again, so there.
Thirteen years later, in 2011, we were pressured to leave that space due to an astronomical rent hike by yet another greedy landlord. Fortunately, John found a new spot that was only a short distance away. Again with help from his brother David, after seven months of gutting, designing, and constructing we were able to move in March of 2012. You can now find us next to Darwin’s coffee shop on Mt. Auburn St. (look for the blue awning).
Now in its 4th decade Planet has securely established its status as a local landmark. Though the entertainment megastores have fallen — Harvard Square was once home to both a Tower Records and an HMV, two institutions your children will never have heard of — Cambridge and Boston have continued to support their independent record stores.