A series of music store closings in the early 2000s and the nearing loss of Bart’s CD Cellar, expected to close at the end of the month, has placed a dark cloud over Boulder’s once-booming music and vinyl industry.
Locally owned record store Albums on the Hill and other shops like the Beat Book Shop — which dedicates half of its store to records — seemed to be Boulder’s last hope of vinyl survival, until now.
Absolute Vinyl and Little Horse Books, a new vintage record and bookshop opening in North Boulder, will shine some light on the local music scene, with a collection of more than 35,000 vinyl records.
Local owners Michael Price and Doug Gaddy said it’s not just music they want to bring to the shop, but anything that contributes to the dignified and nostalgic vibe of the store.
“It’s a culture that we’re tapping into here,” Price said. “Doug loves records, music, and the essence of that and I love the same things about books. That’s what’s getting lost right now and that’s what we are trying to bring back to Boulder.”
A “lack of local color and culture” combined with “astronomical rent” pushed Price and Gaddy away from considering downtown Boulder to a location farther north at 4474 N. Broadway, the owners said. The shop will have its soft opening Friday and will be open periodically until the grand opening on Jan. 21, which will feature live music and an open house.
Gaddy — who is mainly responsible for the music section of the store — said the focus will be on rock, jazz and classical genres, but everything from country to yacht rock to soul can be found among the bins of vinyl. An equally broad selection of vintage books and other nostalgic memorabilia will fill the remaining nooks and crannies of the small, but lively space.
“We want to add a snappy, shiny, clean vibe with so much energy to the culture here,” Gaddy said. “We want people to feel a sense of dignity here, a place to find surprising joy, to discover their personal nostalgia.”
But in a struggling economy, joy and nostalgia may not fit into a tight budget.
Michael Bunnell, executive director of the Coalition of Independent Music Stores, said now is a great time for vinyl despite the economy.
“We’re seeing the rebirth of that whole format,” Bunnell said. “Vinyl is not just something that plays in the background. It’s a ritual and requires focus. Young people seem to be connecting with that more and we saw a big surge in vinyl sales last year, especially during the holidays.”
Vinyl sales were up 30 percent to 40 percent in sales this holiday season over last year, Bunnell said. Even now, vinyl only makes up about 1 percent of total music sales, he said. But there’s a place for stores that specialize in the traditional format, he said.
Beat Book Shop, a locally owned book and record store along Pearl Street, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.
Owner Tom Peters said it takes patience and passion to run a business like his, especially amid a recession.
“It can be done,” Peters said.
Other local shops are less optimistic.
Andy Schneidkraut, who has owned Albums on the Hill for more than 20 years, said opening a books and music store is “tough no matter what, but especially in this economy.”
His words to the new storeowners are simple, “good luck.”
Despite the recent surge in vinyl sales, Price and Gaddy said they are aware that the economy will provide challenges, but they are ready for the challenge.
In a tough economy, saving on rent can save your business, Price said. And, Price spends most of his time scouting for vintage items in thrift stores and online, saving money on merchandise, which makes it more affordable to buyers.
Along with a financial strategy, both bring previous business experience to the shop. In 2004, Price opened the Little Horse Store on Pearl Street, where Gaddy sold his records. Both have been selling items online and said they will continue to help sustain their new shop.