A few weeks back we posted a little piece about how – contrary to the general perception – there are plenty of independent record stores out there who are doing just fine. That post was met with such excited fervor that we’ve decided to go one step further and profile some of those stores who are out there in your town, slinging rock and taking names. For our first installment we caught up with Neil Schield, owner of one of our favorite new record shops, Origami Vinyl in Los Angeles; a small store who pack a ton of punch and are really beginning to cultivate their own community in the Echo Park area.
1. Tell us briefly about your store.
Origami Vinyl is a new and used vinyl shop located in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. We opened on April 3rd, 2009 and feature a ton of amazing in-stores, a robust selection of local music, and are very active in our local community. Our shop is only 400 square feet but packs in a very diverse curated collection of independent music from a wide range of genres.
2. What got you into the independent record store business?
It started as a dream in high school that became more of a fantasy once I started my career in the music industry out of college. After being in the industry for 10 years, I was laid off twice within a matter of 2 years. I was pretty over the whole corporate landscape. Down and out and not sure where to take my career, I had a yard sale to purge some things I didn’t need, including a bunch of LPs that my parents had given me that I didn’t really listen to. That yard sale changed my life. Within hours I had sold nearly 40 records and was amazed by how many people were interested in the records I didn’t want. An old man who lived across the street came over in amazement that I had records. He had a little building in front of his house that used to be a store front. I made some joke to him that he should let me rent that front building out and turn it into a record store. He laughed and said no.
But something in me started to think that maybe it wasn’t such a far fetched idea. A couple weeks later I really started to give the dream much more thought and approached the old man again. He politely declined, but I was determined to figure this thing out. I went down the street to my friend Jeff’s bar, El Prado in Echo Park. He asked me what I had been up to and I told him about my subsequent layoffs. He asked what my next plans were, and I said I was having this crazy idea about opening a record store. His eyes lit up and he told me that him and Mitchell Frank, who also co-own The Echo, had just purchased the building next door to The Echo and were looking for a tenant. The record store would be perfect there. The next morning we met at the space and shook hands on it. Within 9 months, on April 3rd, 2009, the shop opened it’s doors.
3. Who are some of your favorite contemporary stores?
Mississippi Records in Portland is by far my favorite. I love the personality of that shop. It’s so small and quaint, yet has such a tremendous amount of amazing music. I really respect Aquarius Records in San Francisco. They are one of the best shops to turn you on to unknown/obscure music. I’ve always enjoyed their level of knowledge and recommendations.
4. How have things been going from a business perspective?
It’s pretty crazy. I never was sure what to expect. I didn’t lay out a business plan or anything, but we have been blown away by the amount of support, press, and foot traffic that come through our shop. It’s been the most fulfilling decision I have ever made in my life. I’m constantly learning all the nuances of owning a retail shop and the unpredicatbility of sales trends, but the challenge makes it that much more fun.
5. What do you think spells the survival for an independent record store today?
Community. It’s our mission to be as active with our local community as possible. As a record store I believe you have to have some sort of responsibility to support your local music scene. We pride ourselves on that. Any band that wants to take the time to release something on vinyl, our doors are open for them to sell it here, promote it here, play an in-store here. Without local independent bands we wouldn’t exist.
In addition to this its extremely important to get involved with local non-profit organizations, support local education institutions, work with other local retailers and the chambers of commerce, and DJ at local venues and bars.
I also believe the future of independent record stores must be based on smaller, more curated, neighborhood shops, than big, huge warehouses of music. There’s been a major movement over the course of the last few years to support small local retailers, and we feel that. People really appreciate customer service. Having an approachable, knowledgeable staff, that get excited that they share the same interests as the customer is extremely important.
6. What are some of the coolest thing labels have done with you? Instores? Promotions? Sales?
The most memorable and maybe the most infamous, was our in-store with Jonsi. Not only was it the most amazing performance we’ve ever hosted, but the fact that it will never happen again was pretty special. I feel bad that he was so uncomfortable being so close to his fans, but at the same time, I hope he realizes in retrospect how magical that night was for everyone that witnessed it. If you haven’t seen it, check it out.
Another rad thing is 2 months after the store opened, we had one of my favorite bands of all time, Sonic Youth, completely take over the shop to celebrate their album, The Eternal. SY came up with a new store name and sign, hand selected their favorite records to sell and had 2 bands they curated to play the shop. It was insane!
Other than, we have hosted numerous epic in-stores with bands like Florence and the Machine, Superchunk, Ben Harper, Holy Fuck, Lou Barlow, Entrance Band, Dengue Fever, Youth Lagoon, Yuck, Male Bonding, The Strange Boys, Eleanor Friedberger, J Tillman, The Growlers, and so many more.
7. Why do we need record stores?
Because we’re fun people to loiter with.
8. What kind of taco is your favorite?
Al Pastor from Taco Zone in Echo Park.
9. Who are your top 3 favorite bands right now?
I’d say the top 3 albums of the year for me are from Bill Callahan, PJ Harvey, and Tune-Yards.
10. What is your favorite thing about your store? And you can’t say the customers. That’s like saying Einstein or Ghandi when asked “If you could meet one person, living or dead…”
Knowing that my dream came true.
11.Tell us about the used and collectible action you have going on over there?
We are pretty selective about what we bring in but we have some gems right now from Can, dEUS, Tom Waits, The Germs, Chuck Berry, Felt, Amon Duul, Kraut, Galaxie 500, Godflesh, Sun Ra, Mogwai, Lydia Lunch and more!
12. What are your goals for the future of your store? Long term and short.
Short term: Open an online store that focuses on LA based bands and artists. Long term: Origami East…hello Brooklyn!?