Vinyl music treasures lure shoppers
ST. PETERSBURG -
In an industrial district near Interstate 275, the only thing distinguishing Bananas Music from warehouses along 16th Avenue North are the sunny yellow signs in the shape of the outlet's namesake.
Inside the shop, however, you can hear John Lee Hooker booming “No Shoes.” Beneath his voice is the subtle but telltale hiss of a turntable needle.
The vinyl single is one of owners Doug and Michelle Allen's nearly 3 million records.
Bananas is one of several record shops in St. Petersburg hosting Record Store Day events today. Now in its sixth year, Record Store Day is a nationwide push to get people out to independent, brick-and-mortar stores to buy physical — not digital — recordings.
Artists and record labels issue special releases for the day, and many stores feature live music and discounts on their inventory.
It's an attempt to draw support for these establishments, which widely are considered a dying breed.
For Doug Allen, who opened his shop nearly 37 years ago, vinyl's appeal is obvious.
“The sound of analog is much warmer. It's stronger,” he said.
The demand for vinyl keeps him busy. “I look at nearly 1,000 records a day,” he said.
A handful of record stores in St. Petersburg have made it through the rise and fall of big-box CD retailers and survived the advent of digital downloads.
Allen said he began buying records when people were selling them in favor of CDs.
He started selling over the Internet, he said, and two weeks after launching his online store he was receiving orders from as far away as Estonia.
Local record store proprietors say they're not exactly sitting on gold mines, but they have been able to make it by knowing their audience.
Daddy Kool Records is embedded among the mural-coated boutiques that line St. Petersburg's 600 block, and doubles as a ticket outlet for shows at nearby venues.
The store, located downtown since 1999, has vintage titles along with new releases from current artists that, in addition to selling their music as digital downloads, press vinyl records. Like most record stores they also sell CDs.
Manny Kool, who didn't give a last name, said staying small was key to weathering the economic storm that challenges stores such as his.
“We never really bite off more than we can chew,” he said. “We have one store, not 150.”
Nearly 60 blocks west on Central Avenue, Nick Sorace is poised to celebrate his 30th year owning the Disc Exchange. Stacks of records — Neil Young, Doris Day — line the store's interior, and rows of CD racks run the length of the store.
“I think that mp3s are great for portability, for going on a long distance bike ride or run, but I don't think that's meant to be your permanent library,” he said.
Regardless of the medium consumers choose, Sorace said what's important is that people listen to music — as much of it as they can.
“There's so much recorded music in the world,” he said. “In our lifetimes, we'll only scratch the surface. The more music you can listen to in your lifetime, the better.”
You can read our full guide to Record Store Day happenings around the Tampa Bay area here.