Brothers, Jazz Cats, and Smokers: Music and Cannabis at Florida’s Foundation Records

(Courtesy of Foundation)

Cool is a loose ideology, set by those who stand at its forefront. But its core can be seen inside Foundation—a small, unassuming record store that specializes in vintage clothing, vinyl, and insightful conversation with two unpretentious brothers.

Located in the College Park neighborhood in Orlando, Florida, Alex and Peter Cohen have curated a spot with “cool” as its main descriptor. A lone clothing rack stands outside the storefront to entice curious passersby. Their window is slightly blocked by cassette tapes, stereos, and old toys (like a Steve Urkel doll). And if their door is open, best believe a slight fragrance of warm tobacco is wafting outside, along with the sounds of whatever psych rock or funk record Alex or Peter are gawking over for the week.

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“We view our inventory as a record shop with the fat trimmed off of it,” says Alex, the older of the sibling duo. “There’s not a lot of bullshit to go through.”

“We don’t box ourselves in with just one genre,” Peter tells Leafly. “We specialize in original pressings, but we’ve got everything. Blues, electronic, Kraut rock, hard rock, hip-hop—all of it.”

Curating Sound and Aesthetic in a Unique Space

(Courtesy of Foundation)

Foundation’s interior is a mixture of a music fanatic’s version of /r/CozyPlaces, tinged with a touch of 90s teenage boy bedroom aesthetic. Retro toys, colorful art books, and record poster-inserts decorate the store’s guts, as various decades of vinyl and old t-shirts and jackets hang from shelving and clothing racks.

The store offers a small collection of cassette tapes, and a much bigger variety of records which span in pricing based on condition and rarity. It’s obvious that after a single flip-through of a stocked record bin that Foundation doesn’t specialize in any one genre of music, but chooses to showcase classics and underrated cuts within the Cohen brothers’ respective tastes. Vinyl variety includes the sounds of Parliament Funkadelic, Kate Bush, Nigerian rock bands like The Witch, OutKast, Pavement, The Grateful Dead, Curtis Mayfield, and much more. Peter and Alex Cohen don’t just stock their shelves. They carefully curate it.

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The two brothers, born in New York—Peter in Long Island, Alex in Queens—and raised in Naples in South Florida, started dabblinin the music scene from a booking angle back in 2012. In college, Alex was pursuing a business degree, while Peter sought after communications, but both ultimately dropped out to focus on a creative endeavor they had been cooking up in their downtime: Apply Pressure.

Apply Pressure began as an agency that booked Florida hip-hop shows, but eventually snowballed into an agency that managed Floridan artists and talent they truly believed in. Alex and Peter worked their company full-time, climaxing with a lead-up toward an album release they felt was ultimately underwhelming due to downward trends within the music industry.

“The industry was just going in a different direction,” Peter recalled. “I’m not sure when Lil Pump came out, but once that happened, music kinda shifted. I feel like Lil Pump really helped fuck up the industry.”

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The dynamic shift in the way the internet and consumers were hearing music was intensified during the SoundCloud rap boom, in which hip-hop’s sound was glorified melodic mumble music, and hip-hop was being pumped out at a rapid-fire pace that left no room for the artists Apply Pressure had managed to withhold any staying power. With digital streaming services offering a barrage of new music on a daily basis, it’s no wonder why so many newer, internet-emerging artists get lost in the shuffle.

Solace and Inspiration Through Vintage Vinyl

Between booking shows with Apply Pressure, Alex and Peter found solace in their downtime holding vintage and vinyl pop-ups. The two occasionally brought out a merch table to shows to sell old records, toys, and clothing, and began opening pop-ups in the front yard of their home in downtown Orlando.

“If you're an artist in Florida and you want to do a pop-up here or host a small intimate listening party, we're here.”
Peter Cohen, Foundation Co-Owner

The brothers had snowballed their pop-ups by way of Instagram, advertising their stock through hashtags and selling their clothing and vinyl through DMs. It was April of 2016 when Peter and Alex finally opened a brick-and-mortar shop for selling vinyl and vintage items. It was July 2016 when Apply Pressure dissolved, and Foundation became the two’s main focus of operations.

“From doing all the shows, it made us realize the value in creating a platform—which could be anything, really,” Alex tells Leafly. “Right now, it’s our shop. We’re just a home-base type of spot. I think over the last couple of years, we’ve really cultivated that image.”

Outside of stocking original vinyl pressings, Foundation also slings vintage clothing. Old band t-shirts that have survived washings since the 70s and 80s have maintained their structure on Foundation’s store racks, boasting names like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. 90s t-shirts from Marvel, old theme-park clothing from Halloween Horror Nights’ local past, and bootleg shirts of Spice Girls and 2Pac are a few pieces that borderline novelty, serving as niche and fashionable rarities in 2019.

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Foundation is the current incarnation of the Cohen brothers’ output in Florida, but it seems their roles have been ever-changing since their time with Apply Pressure. From management, to booking, to customer service experiences with vinyl and vintage, the brothers now have nearly three years of store operations under their belt. The store has also been a safeplace for local College Park high schoolers to socialize.

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Crazy walk in right before close…all going out tomorrow!

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“The kids just started to come in and we’ve built relationships with them,” Alex explains at the store’s front counter. “They know they can come in here and not buy anything, just kinda shoot the shit.” “And smell like shit,” Peter interjected. “Yeah, just be a high school punk ass,” Alex continued. “But also know that it’s still a retail environment, and if a customer comes in, they know not to rip the Juul, or whatever.”

“We look at The Foundation as a platform for our customers,” Peter told Leafly. “If you’re an artist in Florida and you want to do a pop-up here or host a small intimate listening party, we’re here.”

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As for cannabis, the two dabble outside of their store to help alleviate stress and maintain a level head when seeking out new stock for their store, markets, and other sellers. “We like the classic stuff,” Peter says. “I love a good Sour Diesel or a nice OG,” tells Alex. “GSC and all that shit are great, too. I don’t like Mangos or Blue Dream or Barry White… They’re just mass-produced strains. We keep it classic.”

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As for the future, Foundation is looking forward to keeping it small and community-based. “I feel like in five years, this shop will still be here,” said Alex. “We like having a small shop because we can carefully curate it and we know what’s going on,” said Peter. “We like it like that, our customers like it like that. We’ve been to other records shops, and we’re small, but pound per pound, we can compete. I can confidently say that.”