Indie Record Stores Closing – And Opening

November 1st, 2011 at 1:42 pm by Michael

Here at Matador HQ we couldn’t be more upset at the announcements of the closures of Ear X-Tacy and Slowtrain, and the uncertain ground that Criminal Records now sits on; however, what a lot of people don’t seem to realize (or at least recognize) is that there is a growing community of independent record stores out there, many of whom are not only doing great business but in fact growing.

Just as it’s much easier to slam a shitty record than it is to praise an excellent one, there seems to be a trend to point out the independent record stores which are closing rather than highlighting all of the amazing new stores that are popping up on what seems like a monthly basis. Many of these have quickly become a part of our daily, weekly or monthly routine.

Of course, the landscape is changing – this isn’t news to anyone. However, we are constantly seeing proof that there are still people out there who would rather spend the majority of their free afternoons in a cramped record store than most anywhere else. As we all grow as professionals, businesses and people it is our job to find out what those people need and want.

A trend seems to be arising from the flux: stores that are far smaller, more curated and focused than the rock and roll pleasure domes of years past. Unfortunately, those days are over. However, this means little for the record store itself, especially the record store that is growing and adapting in this new physical culture.

I think the thesis here is that stores are becoming less commercial entities and more cultural ones, which in our opinion is great. That’s what a record store should be and places like Origami, Other Music, Good Records and scads of others are becoming beacons of the rock community in their respective locales.

Now more than ever getting your hands on new music is simple (and free if you want it to be), but what new and blossoming record stores have realized is that their brand is becoming more than a point of purchase. Rather they have become a name to be trusted and a place to convene. The record store is once again becoming a destination.

A few facts:

Permanent Records (Chicago) just opened a location in Los Angeles which is thriving and filling a void that has long plagued LA; a store that is smaller and more personable than the ever-amazing Amoeba yet a bit more mid-sized than vinyl mavens Vacation and Origami.

Speaking of Origami, in their three years they have become a hub of their community sharing both remarkably memorable events and giving back as a charitable entity, working with non-profits such as 826LA, Los Angeles Arts Alliance and various local schools and their fundraisers.

End Of An Ear (Austin) is in the midst of constant expansion while continually having fiscal years better than the previous. 2010 was their best year yet and they’re already 23% over that for 2011. Take a look at the store in 2005 and take a look at them now.

By December, Guestroom Records will open their third location in downtown Oklahoma City.

Bull City recently finished their move into a bigger store in Durham.

Slowtrain (Salt Lake City) is about to close their doors but what the general public seemingly fails to recognize is how the closing is a personal family decision on the part of the owners whose interests have understandably shifted from running a record store to starting a family. What remains unnoticed is how Slowtrain has been steadily growing since they’ve opened: their total sales for 2011 we’re up 11% from last year.

Meanwhile new independent record shops are popping up all over the nation, not the least of which are Steady Sounds (Richmond, VA), Cyklopx (Forest Park, IL), All Day Records (Carrboro, NC), Co Op 87 (Brooklyn), and Saki (Chicago).

These examples are just a small sampling of so many positives in the independent retail community and I wish we could point out each and every one. We simply felt it was our job speak to the fact that while things may seem like they’re going downhill for small record stores, in most instances it is just the opposite. Whereas most people on the periphery of what we hold so dear to our hearts see the decline of the independent record store, we down here in the trenches realize that we sit on the precipice of something great. We see the new dawn of physical retail just over the horizon and we’re fucking psyched beyond words to be a part of it.

Please feel free to use the comments section of this post to tell us what your local indie shop has going on. Thanks.

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58 Responses to “Indie Record Stores Closing – And Opening”

  1. Mike Says:

    More info on the closure of Slowtrain… read up

  2. Dustin Timbrook Says:

    Don’t forget Vertical House Records in Huntsville, Alabama! Those guys have kept growing every since opening a few years ago.

  3. Dean Whitmore Says:

    Nicely done Mike!

  4. Andrew Karnavas Says:

    If you’re ever in Houston, visit Cactus Music. They have a lot of excellent in-store performances and have done a great job being a community staple:

  5. Ken Katkin Says:

    Shake It Records in Cincinnati continues to be a beacon of the Southwest Ohio rock community, as well as operating a very solid regional record label and hosting many in-stores and events for local and touring bands alike. Everybody’s Records in Cincinnati is also very solid. Mole’s Records in Cincy and Phil’s Records (across the river in Northern Kentucky) recently both reopened after having previously closed. And “Another Part of The Forest” record store (which sells used vinyl only) had the temerity to open its Cincinnati doors for the first time in 2009, long after record-retailing had been read its last rites by all the VSPs.

  6. Joel Says:

    Agree with Ken about the greatness of Shake It. I try to make it there any time I’m going to or through Cincinnati. One of the reasons (of many) that ear X-tacy failed was its inability to adopt to a more Shake It-style store — ie. plenty of records, CDs and books without any of the selections feeling like junk, and a small staff that doesn’t hover over you or pressure you into buying. I’ll miss ear X-tacy a ton, since it was the first real store I shopped at, and I did also work there, but it had multiple management issues that go far beyond the current age of downloading.

  7. Reed Says:

    Also, Radio-Active Records in Fort Lauderdale has just relocated to some sweet new digs!

  8. Sean Says:

    For inclusion on the list of new, popping-up independent record stores:

    Somerville Grooves in Somerville, MA!

  9. Alex Says:

    Exile on Main St. in Champaign, IL. Very cool place; makes up for the fact that Reckless & Cyklopx are 150 miles away. Record Swap is also cool & down the street from it, but I prefer Exile. (PS: bonus points for mentioning Cyklopx!)

  10. Bryan Says:

    Logan hardware in Chicago I a great newer store. They have a free arcade in tge back room and a really great selection of used punk/hardcore lp’s and 7″s that don’t turn up very often.

  11. jeremy Says:

    1-2-3-4 go records in oakland, ca just moved into a bigger space a few months ago.

  12. Michael Says:

    Hey guys,
    We couldn’t agree with each and every one of you. All of the stores mentioned are amazing! Keep em coming..

  13. Bethany Says:

    Yeti Records opened recently in Minneapolis. They have a mixtape exchange, local tapes, & are starting to carry zines!

    Eclipse Records closed for a while but reopened in downtown St Paul (with a couple other business ventures designed to revitalize the area).

    Hymie’s Records reopened in a cozier & brighter shop.

    It’s great having so many options in the area. In fact it’s kind of dangerous!

  14. Michael Says:

    *We couldn’t agree MORE with each and every one of you.

  15. Caitlin Lavin Says:

    Thank you so much for this uplifting blog post. It definitely has help to reassure the knowledge that I already possessed on the thriving record store community.

  16. daniel bunny Says:

    I have had the total fortune of being able to feed and clothe myself for he past 15 years solely by selling used vinyl.Each location I move to is always different and a little more accessible than the previous.From a tiny space above a bagel shop to a fox piss soaked barn with no heat to a 15,000 sq foot parking lot full of objects and debris.I have lucked out at this late stage in th game to find a partner and have my brother run the sister store in Massachusetts.We can’t imagine what else we are qualified for and hope the fever stays alive.Come visit anytime.. xxdan hudson ny ps:Mom-you can stop sending me clippings from the local newspaper telling everyone that “vinyl is back”.

  17. Derek Plaslaiko Says:

    GREAT post!! Just wanted to mention UHF in Detroit (well, Royal Oak). Excellent (and extensive!!) backstock, mostly vinyl.

  18. Kenny Says:

    I love the smaller stores! There are a few here in Richmond,VA (steady sounds, deep groove, vinyl conflict) and you can pretty much get through the entire stock in less than an hour. They don’t bother to load the bins with crap which is a very good thing. Curated stores are the way to go.

  19. Tom Says:

    Luna Music in Indianapolis has been a fantastic record store for 15+ years and continues to thrive. Two locations, vinyl, CDs, cassettes, and what they don’t have on the shelf they can get quickly. I love those guys (and gals).

  20. Robin Says:

    I still dig shopping at good old Earwax on Bedford in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

    And (relative) newcomer Permanent Records in Greenpoint is also nice to have.

  21. Michael Says:

    Hey Tom I hate to be a downer but Luna actually closed their second location. But you are very correct in saying that their remaining location is thriving. I think it was more of a personal move than a business decision. But yes. Such an amazing store staffed by even better people! One of my personal top 3 or 4 stores in the country.

  22. David Sexton Says:

    Giving cred where it’s due;
    Rainbow Records in Newark Delaware is my favorite place to go on the weekends. They have all kinds of great releases on vinyl and CD, tons of interesting, rare books, free posters, helpful staff that recommends great stuff- it’s a really great store. Everyone should go! Oh, and this article is probably the best column i’ve read all year.

  23. Paul Spanbauer Says:

    Bull Moose in Portsmouth, New Hampshire seemed to be going strong when I was there last week. Good to see…

  24. Tom Says:

    Michael – wow, didn’t know that about Luna, but then I never went to the downtown location, I’m always at the midtown shop, which as you note by all appearances is doing very well. I do what I can to keep them going anyway.

  25. Ray Saada Says:

    For those of you in NYC, the LAST used record store on the Upper West Side is Westsider Records. I’ve worked there for about 5 years. We’re the best classical/opera vinyl specialists in the city (though there’s also awesome sections of jazz, pop/rock, soundtracks/showtunes, world), and have largely been kept alive by our loyal customers who are professionals and audiophiles in the Lincoln Center scene just a few blocks away. Many indies shut down when Barnes & Noble and Borders moved into Lincoln Sq and Columbus Circle respectively; and now that THEY’VE shut their doors (personally, I think because they were unprepared to offer the culturally-concerned customer service New Yorkers got at the indies), Westsider is still alive and serving the UWS’s vinyl needs. It’s as charming as the beloved hole-in-the-wall record store gets, definitely one of NYC’s best-hidden gems. Come see us! Nearby is also our wonderful bookstore, Westsider Books!

  26. Keith Says:

    Fingerprints in Long Beach, CA!

  27. peebles Says:

    Hey hey hey! How about a shout out to your friends up north? Zulu Records (and Community Center) in Vancouver BC has been providing the discerning music shopper with stacks of wax for 30+ years.

  28. Alissa Says:

    the amazing Harvest Records in Ashville, NC just doubled in size!

  29. mIKES Says:

    Do not overlook Nashville, Tennessee. Despite the assumption that this place is only ersatz country and singer-songwriters, there are two outstanding indie outlets for all of the in the know masses here: Grimeys on 8th avenue and over in East Nashville we have The Groove : I’ve bought many a Matador release at both locations. This place is becoming rife with hipsters, micro breweries and distilleries. Send pizza.

  30. Nate K Says:

    Mind Cure, Pittsburgh, PA. Just adding to the pile of great new thriving record stores.

  31. Frances Says:

    In Memphis, Shangri-La Records (going strong for over 20 years) and Goner Records are must-visits.

    In St. Louis, Vintage Vinyl (which also sells CDs and movies), Euclid Records (which recently opened an outpost in New Orleans), Apop Records, Phonomode (all vinyl), and Record Exchange are all amazing and are thriving. Two of these stores have opened in the past few years.

    I have to second Harvest Records in Asheville, NC, as being one of the best record stores in the country! And all of the LA stores, too, especially Permanent Records.

  32. Laura Says:

    Red Devil Records in San Rafael, California is about 10 years old now. Started in Petaluma and run by a guy who really knows music and loves vinyl.

  33. Will Says:

    Lunchbox Records in Charlotte is thriving and has an incredible selection:

    Wax’n'Facts in Atlanta also still is going strong:

    Earshot in Greenville, SC:

    Just to name a few local-ish stores.

  34. Rich Wagner Says:

    We run a modest independent record store, Rediscover Records, in Elgin,Illinois. We specialize in new and used vinyl. We carry many new releases as well as a respectable amount gently used records, leaving no genre left unturned. We opened in June of 2010, so far, so good. We are part of a larger store, Two Doors Down, which is a store of unique artifacts, antiques, beer signs, Van Briggle Pottey, a Nuclear Russian Submarine clock, and things of that ilk. This works to our advantage as we draw many walks of life into the store. Great story, thanks for giving publicity to record stores!

  35. Amanda Says:

    seconding Fingerprints in Long Beach, CA! Rand has done an amazing job. His shop provided me with an opportunity to be the well educated consumer of music I am today. He managed to bring the best musicians and band he possibly could into a shop that he and his family put their hearts and souls into. He’s also just a really f*cking nice guy!

  36. Kevin Says:

    Retrofit Records in Tallahassee, FL!

  37. Guestroom Says:

    So many hugs and kisses to you guys and all the other shops out there. This is about the love for what we do, as we all know, and it’s definitely thanks to great independent labels like Matador out there loving what they do as well that we are all still fortunate enough to keep living our dreams every day. Thank you.

  38. Ian Says:

    The Bachelor Pad (formally Unified Groove) has a great selection of most genres and also vintage stereo equipment and clothing. 40000 Holes is great for classic rock and folk. Both are in Spokane, WA.

  39. Nate Rhodes Says:

    I own and operate Chester Records inside the Winchester Book Gallery in Winchester Va and I’m having my 1yr birthday of being open this Friday.

    I fill a void in my small town for a record shop that deals in new vinyl and special orders. I am also going to release local bands from the area on vinyl. Record Shops Not Dead!


  40. Robert Says:

    I travel all over the eastern half of the country and have gone to as many indie record stores as possible. Ear X-tacy was one of my very top favorites and the news of it’s closing has left me sad and heartbroken. However, this very well-written blog and the great comments that have been posted have now inspired me to be even more diligent to seek out more of these wonderful stores that we just cannot let die. Keep the recommendations coming!

  41. Michael Says:

    Hey Robert,
    Check out our Friends Of Matador page. All the indies that carry our titles, organized by state.

  42. JT Says:

    Nice work Mike! Yo, no one mentioned it so I gotta shout out BEACON SOUND in Portland. Carefully curated spot run by some really nice guys and gal. Found a couple things I’d been looking for for YEARS.

  43. Rich Martin Says:

    We just celebrated our one year anniversary here at The Telegraph in New London, CT. We’re a quick pull off 95 if your travelling the corridor between Boston and New York and need a pitstop and a grounding dose of vinyl hunting!

  44. Herm Says:

    Any love for Vertigo Music in Grand Rapids, MI.?
    8000 new LPs, 8000 used LPs, 10,000 new CDs, 6000 used Cds.
    Our prices are very fair…as good as Amazon, etc.
    A little love here, granted we’re not in a sexy city…we’re growing however.
    I need a hug.
    Herm/Vertigo Music

  45. Lee Says:

    Portland, Or representing with Jackpot, Music Millennium and the unbeatable Mississippi records.

  46. Rick Says:

    Hey Michael, That “Friends of Matador” retailer page needs a hefty updating. Well, I know at least in CT it does. Only 2 shops are mentioned – one of which no longer has a physical location (and hasn’t for at least a few years now). 2 more shops have since popped up and I believe they both carry Matador releases (the aforementioned Telegraph in New London and Redscroll Records in Wallingford, CT).

  47. pdf Says:

    Sound Station in Westfield, NJ. Open 20-plus years. I’m not affiliated with them in any way – just a friend of the family that opened and still owns it, and a longtime customer. New and used records, in-store performances by local acts…a good place run by good people.

  48. Martin Says:

    As Bethany mentioned, Eclipse Records just (re)opened about 6 weeks ago in downtown St. Paul, MN as a vinyl only spot! (And has some nice Matador titles…) We are really lucky in the Twins Cities with so many great indie stores…

  49. Laura Says:

    Great article! I have a thriving record room in my vintage shop, Mystery Spot Antiques, located in an old hotel in Phoenicia, NY. (Near Woodstock, a couple of hours north of NYC). We have a tightly edited selection of a couple of thousand used records in stock at any given time, and people seem to find us. (We have six other rooms of vintage clothing, antiques, rusticalia, oddities, etc.)

    Our Fall hours are limited (weekends only, closed for the winter), but even when we’re not open there are always a few crates of dollar records on the porch on the honor system.

    Here’s a recent snapshot of the record room:

  50. Raymond Says:

    I’m willing to bet I’m one of the oldest respondees at age soon-to-be 58. Having grown up in the sixties, some of my best memories are lying on my bed, listening to my newest vinyl acquisition, while perusing and memorizing every square inch of the album cover. This simple pleasure went by the wayside with the advent of CDs (I actually bought stronger reading glasses just to see the fine fine print). Album art became a dinosaur. Although Mike & I disagree about the sound quality of vinyl vs CD, we both agree that the resurgence of the album cover is very much appreciated.

  51. Mike Says:

    Hey Rick,
    We are working on updating the Friends Of Matador page to the best of our knowledge/ability. Thanks for the heads up.
    Raymond (aka Dad) some of MY earliest memories are lying on MY bed devouring the covers of YOUR old vinyl acquisitions!
    Everyone else. These posts are great and more proof that there are plenty of vital stores out there that your communities need and love! Keep em coming!


  52. Dimple enthusiast Says:

    Dimple records here in Sacramento has been going strong for 30 years. It’s a great place to work and shop for vinyl, vhs tapes and music :)

  53. Dan T Says:

    I am trying to hang in there, but I am close to shuttering, too. A college town doesn’t mean sales and it’s unfortunate. Too many complaints of “Why are records so expensive” and I just shake my head. It’s sad. It kills me. I want to make it work so bad, but I can’t even sell a record when I offer it AT COST some times. What’s the point, ya know? I can’t give this shit away

  54. Endless Nick Says:

    Well if you’re in Pennsylvania, but not Philadelphia or Pittsburgh, my shop Endless Records in Bloomsburg is just about the only place that carries new vinyl in significant quantities. Also, we actually exist, unlike about half of the stores listed for PA on that Friends of Matador page. I’m guessing the date of publication for that page was somewhere around 2003. Also this is a shout out to all the sales reps I buy from, most of which have commented above. Thanks for still making and distributing actual things!

  55. Dan S. Says:

    Hear Again in Gainesville, FL just keeps getting stronger and stronger. Kudos to Andrew for rocking it!

  56. David Doyle Says:

    Thanks Matador for putting the “decline” of indie stores into perspective. We at Tres Gatos share your enthusiasm about the growing passion for vinyl, and for small, well-curated shops. Tres Gatos is a tapas bar/ book and record store that came into existence in February of this year. We’re finding that the combination of good books and records, and top-notch food, wine and beer, is really meeting a need in our neighborhood. Newbury Comics still dominates the Boston music retail scene, but we’re proof that there’s still room for small indies. We applaud all our indie colleagues, and hope you’ll pay us a visit when you come to Boston.

  57. TS Says:

    Love Garden Sounds – Lawrence, KS

  58. Alex Says:

    Brand new vinyl store in Charlotesville VA : MELODY SUPREME !