It wasn’t that long ago that vinyl records were left for dead. Or for folks with a nostalgic fixation. Guys like Johnny Kass, who for years drove anywhere to take unwanted records.
Turns out it wasn’t just nostalgia, but darn smart.
Kass now has 600,000 records, a mail-order business at gojohnnygo.com, and three new stores in the metro area, Hi-Fi Hair & Records and Dead Media in Minneapolis, and GoJohnnyGo Records in White Bear Lake. And he couldn’t be happier to start thinning the herd.
“If I can take a Black Sabbath record from someone’s grandmother, give her some money for it, get it to a fan, make him happy, and I make a little money,” he says, “it’s a triple win.”
It’s all in the inventory. Laura and Dave Hoenack have found the same thing at their Minneapolis store on East Lake Street, Hymie’s Records, which they’ve run since 2009. They have more than 110,000 LPs for sale and 10,000 45s, and the stock stays fresh.
“The inventory is supposed to be a river, not a lake,” says Laura Hoenack. “Records aren’t supposed to stay in the store.”
To Hymie’s, vinyl isn’t back; it never went away. “We’ve been around all this time, even during the slow periods, and we’ve done OK,” she says, noting that on a good week they do about $3,000 in sales, and revenues have gone up 10 to 15 percent each year. Kass estimates there are now 35 record stores in the metro area, with six opening in 2014 alone, including two within a block of each other in St. Paul’s St. Anthony Park.
Why the vinyl ruckus?
The answer is in new vinyl records. The mark-up on new vinyl can be compelling—the new Neil Young LP sells for over $30, which Hoenack says is too high, considering it probably cost $4 to make. She prefers to keep her prices lower. “The amount of new vinyl has increased from zero when we took over to about 30 percent of our inventory today,” she says. “Young people are really buying it.”
Vinyl is booming across the world, with sales at the highest level since 1996, according to the Official Charts Co.
Kass thinks vinyl’s back. “The new generation wants to listen to music this way.”