Sunday read: The record store that refused to die

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Photograph by Todd Leopold.
A few years ago, I traveled to Columbus, Ohio, to do a story on a vanishing breed: the independent commercial music station. The station, CD102.5, was battling a variety of competitors — streaming, downloading, the fickle nature of the music consumer, the giants like Clear Channel.

There were times it hung on by the width of an LP groove. After all, who needs a music radio station when we have millions of songs at the touch of a keyboard, ready to be programmed into your iPhone?

But CD102.5 is still around today, and it’s survived with the kind of community-oriented smarts that’s always distinguished a local business. It brings up-and-coming bands to town. It programs aggressively. Most of all, it’s in touch with its city.

It doesn’t have a choice, really. It’s succeed or die.

CD102.5’s offices are a few miles south from the Summit Street record store called Used Kids. As Pitchfork’s Joel Oliphint tells the story, it’s the last indie record store standing from an era when they used to line a strip across from The Ohio State University:

With all the talk of a vinyl resurgence over the last several years, it’s easy to forget that the format still represents only 12 percent of physical album sales. It’s not like the 1980s and early ’90s, when you needed two hands to count the number of record stores on this stretch of High Street across from Ohio State University. This year, on Record Store Day, Used Kids is the sole remaining music shop in the campus area.

Used Kids has had its ups and downs. The store was founded in the ’80s when used record stores were an alternative library for music-hungry listeners. (I spent a good chunk of my college change — and received a healthy music education — at Atlanta’s Wuxtry, which is still doing its job more than 30 years later.) In the ’90s it actually made healthy profits, due to the CD boom.

Then came falling CD sales, and a fire, and spats between the original owners. A new owner, Greg Hall, bought the store in 2014, only to find out his landlords had different ideas for the space. He recently moved it to Summit Street and is building traffic the same way CD102.5 is: by staying aggressive. It’s succeed or die.

“I think change is something that is super important for people to be able to deal with,” he says. “I accept it, hustle my ass off, and change, change, change. I do the Bowie thing.”

The Pitchfork story is the Sunday read. Give it a spin while cuing up some vinyl.

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