Get To Know Your Local Indie Retailer Vol. 8 – Permanent Records

There’s the prevailing myth which inspired this epic web-series that record stores everywhere are in deep shit. For some reason, people seem to believe that there isn’t a single traditional record store out there who is prospering, or even growing. Well you and I know that’s not true and we have people like Liz Tooley and Lance Barresi to help us prove it. Their Permanent Records has been a staple on the Windy City scene for the last six years and recently they decided to grow their brand to the west coast, giving Los Angelenos the option of yet another amazing record store. But they’ll tell you all about that.

1. Tell us briefly about your store.
We opened Permanent Records in Chicago in October of 2006 in the Ukrainian Village neighborhood of Chicago.  After working for/managing record stores collectively for nearly 20 years, we decided to start our own, with an all-killer no-filler policy and an emphasis on the things we liked most, namely rare vintage vinyl and obscure, limited independent releases.  Shortly thereafter, we started our own label and opened a webstore.  We’ve released records by bands from all over the globe, including artists such as Moon Duo, Cave, Cheveu, Purling Hiss, Puffy Areolas, Brain Idea, King Blood, and dozens more.  After 5 years of success and countless in-store performances by incredible bands, we opened our second location in the Eagle Rock neighborhood of Los Angeles, Californ-I-A.  Killing (AKA selling records) is our business and business is good. Haha!

2. What got you into the independent record store business?
We eat, drink, breathe, and sleep music every day and have ever since we can remember.  We’ve worked in various industries, doing a variety of work, and the only thing we’ve ever done that felt supremely rewarding was working in a record store.  Even though the hours are long, the paycheck feeble, and health insurance is essentially unfathomable, we’d still prefer to work in this industry than do just about anything else.  Anyone who’s ever worked in a record store knows what we’re talking about, but only a handful of us are able handle the dedication and hard work it takes to open their own shop.  We have that drive and we work VERY hard to keep ourselves knowledgeable in this field, so we do this…EVERY…SINGLE…DAY!

3. Who are some of your favorite contemporary stores?
We do EVERYTHING we can to make our own store our favorite store.  No joke!  But other inspirational stores include Apop in Saint Louis, MO, the Love Garden in Lawrence, KS, and Aquarius in San Francisco, CA.  These are wonderful stores with excellent selections.

4. How have things been going from a business perspective?
It’s going well at both locations.  Surprising, considering the state of the music industry and current economic conditions.  We’re never gonna get rich doing this, but we knew that going in. We love it anyway!

5. What do you think spells the survival for an independent record store today?
Taste, knowledge, and friendliness are key for us.  All of the people behind the counter must have all of these traits.  Everyone at Permanent does.  You have to know what’s what, what’s good, and what sucks.  You can’t run a shotgun shack these days and you can’t get away with lying to people for very long.  Record store supporters are some of the most savvy and interesting people in the world.  You can’t fool them into buying crap these days, which is great for us ‘cuz nothing bums us out more than crappy music.  We handpick most of the records we sell and we know who will like them and who won’t.  We present these records accordingly.  This mentality translates to all aspects of our business from in-store performances to new releases – from Permanent t-shirts to used cassettes.

6. What are some of the coolest things labels have done with you? Instores? Promotions? Sales?
We’ve hosted hundreds of incredible in-store performances.  Nobunny pranced around our shop and climbed on the bins in his tighty whities.  Kurt Vile performed a solo acoustic set at Noon on New Year’s Day.  Ty Segall has blown not one, but two PA systems in our store.  Times New Viking and Clockcleaner filled our infantile Chicago store with more people than we ever thought possible.  We’ve been graced by the presence of legends such as Meat Puppets, Kid Congo, Paul Collins, Axemen, Scream, and more.  Future legends such as Francis Harold and the Holograms, Puffy Areolas, Smith Westerns, Woods, Vivian Girls, Bitchin Bajas, Zola Jesus, Pop. 1280, Royal Baths, Night Beats, Milk Music, Apache Dropout, The Men, Liminanas, Circle Pit, Kitchen’s Floor, Human Eye, Mikal Cronin, Obits, Umberto, Sex Church, Pink Reason, Purling Hiss…

7. Why do we need record stores?
Where else can you hear the hottest new jams, go on a treasure hunt, shoot the shit with knowledgeable weirdos, and party all in the same place?
Also, shopping for records online is fucking boring.

8. What kind of taco is your favorite?
The pink ones.

9. Who are your top 3 favorite bands right now?
Top 3?  Ha!  How about top 30?  Who can pick a top 3 favorite bands right now and/or pick a favorite record of all time?!  It’s like picking a favorite star from the sky.  Space is deep, man.

10. What is your favorite thing about your store? And you can’t say the customers.
Our favorite thing about our store is our stock.  At any given time, we have access to more excellent records that we could listen to in a lifetime.  We’re vinyl rich!  And there’s always new stuff flowing through the doors.  Our store is a river and we’re on the best float trip EVER!

11.Tell us about the used and collectible action you have going on over there?
Everything we get goes in the store before it goes online and our walls are constantly filled with a variety of rare and collectible LPs and the wall overflows into the bins.  There’s a wall of rare singles as well and both are ever-changing.  We’re a store, not a museum.  C’mon by and have a look for yourself.  Savvy shoppers also know that many of the common new items we carry are certain to become future rarities, sometimes immediately.

12. What are your goals for the future of your store? Long term and short.

We’ve been doing this for ourselves for 5 years.  If you asked us 5 years ago if we’d have a second location in LA, we would’ve laughed in disbelief.  So answering the long term question is tough.  We’ll definitely continue to do what’s gotten us this far and adapt with the times.  Look for more label releases, more weekly email updates, more podcasts, more in-stores, a more user friendly webstore, as well as a constant flow of quality new and used items at both shops.  Also, first record store in outer space?