As Vinyl Fever closes, local record stores ponder the future

Vinyl Fever could close by this weekend. Ooh, is that London Calling poster for sale?

Photos by Luis Santana/tbt*

Vinyl Fever could close by this weekend. Ooh, is that London Calling poster for sale?

Record stores die. All of them do. • It happened just a few weeks ago in Arizona, when Eastside Records, a 25-year-old Phoenix institution, shut its doors over New Year's. "It was exactly like High Fidelity, that kind of record store," said Jimmy Eat World singer Jim Adkins, a loyal customer. "It's a bummer. I mean, I get it; it's tough selling physical units now." • Local music fans know that all too well. A month ago, Tampa's Vinyl Fever — open three decades, and recently named one of America's best record stores by Rolling Stone — announced it would close in February due to flagging business. But marked-down inventory has been selling so fast that owners say the store likely won't last past this weekend. They've planned a goodbye party for Saturday, with live music, giveaways and more. • With Vinyl Fever on its last legs, tbt* spent a day this week visiting several stores left standing, to see how they're avoiding a similar fate. — Jay Cridlin cridlin@tampabay.com

Daddy Kool Records

666 Central Ave., St. Pete; (727) 822-5665, daddykool.com.

The economy hasn't killed Daddy Kool, which opened in 1985 and last year moved to new, larger quarters across from the State Theatre, enabling them to expand their displays of CDs, records, T-shirts, vinyl figurines and copies of 33 1/3. One reason: Daddy Kool's owners also run No Clubs Productions, a thriving concert business, and so the shop sells tickets to shows at the State Theatre, Jannus Live, the Ritz Ybor and elsewhere. "It basically keeps the door open," says store manager Manny Kool.

Bananas Music

2887 22nd Ave. N, St. Pete; (727) 321-4616, musicfinder.com.

Like Vinyl Fever, Bananas was named one of America's best record stores by Rolling Stone. And like Daddy Kool, it expanded last year, opening a 10,000-square-foot store across from Mazzaro's Italian Market. The shop still feels like the furniture showroom it was, but it's growing. Besides, the 34-year-old retailer's bread and butter always will be its stock of vinyl records, most of which are warehoused at the old location (2226 16th Ave. N). Collectors the world over have gotten lost in those stacks.

Asylum Sights and Sounds

6566 Central Ave., St. Pete; 7180 49th St., Pinellas Park; asylumsite.com.

Tampa Bay's oldest music store opened in Sarasota in 1970 and expanded to Pinellas in 1976. These days, though, the St. Pete location is essentially a head shop. In recent months, manager John Harris has replaced four CD racks with clothing racks. "I should have done it long ago," he said. The store will never totally phase out music, he says, though it's nearly impossible to compete with chains and online retailers. "It's like having a buggy whip store," he said, "and you're seeing all these cars drive by."

Disc Exchange

6712 Central Ave., St. Pete; (727) 343-5845.

"I have a really specific request," says Greg Premer of St. Pete Beach. "Bobby Sherman." In seconds, owner Nick Sorace heads to the back of his overstuffed store and pulls out the former teen idol's 1969 self-titled debut in mint-condition vinyl. This, says Sorace, is why he spends almost every day in the 27-year-old store. He knows where everything is, and if he doesn't have it, he'll get it for you. But Sorace is committed to keeping up with the times. "Somebody comes in and asks for the new Ne-Yo or Cee-Lo, I gotta have it," he says. He even planned to expand until a deal to buy the place next door fell through. "My main worry," he said from behind a chin-high stack of vinyl, "is how long can I physically keep up with this?"

Sound Exchange

14246 N Nebraska Ave., Tampa; 732 W Lumsden Road, Brandon; 7688 49th St. N, Pinellas Park; soundexchangetampabay.com.

With Vinyl Fever closing, the crown for Tampa's top record store falls to this local chain. The flagship store on N Nebraska Avenue opened in 1987, and is a browser's dream, with expansive aisles of CDs of all genres, plus box sets, books, DVDs and vinyl records. In fact, LPs are selling better these days, says manager Steve Crace — not just old stuff, but new releases, too, like Trent Reznor's score for The Social Network.

Mojo Books and Music

2558 E Fowler Ave.; (813) 971-9717, mojotampa.com.

The "music" part is a bit of a misnomer — CDs take up a corner of the store, although there is a respectable vinyl collection, too. Mojo's revenue comes primarily from having thousands of used books, with a sizeable clientele from nearby USF. But the store does have a sizeable collection of books on rock 'n' roll, and it often stages concerts on weekends. Between Mojo and Sound Exchange, retro-minded students should have no trouble finding old tunes.

Vinyl Fever

4110 Henderson Blvd., Tampa; (813) 289-8399, vinylfevertampa.com.

On Jan. 26, the day Charlie Louvin died, Vinyl Fever displayed a poster signed by the country legend at an in-store performance in 2007. Owner Lee Wolfson hadn't decided if he would sell it during the store's fire sale, but almost everything else was on the market, even that notorious Strat autographed by the Rolling Stones. (Wolfson wouldn't name the price.) Merchandise has been flying off the shelves all month — so why close? Their lease is ending, Wolfson said, and "it's not profitable enough to pay for another move" That's good news to Jade Dellinger, a customer who co-authored the Devo biography We Are Devo! For 15 years, he's been begging Wolfson to sell him a rare poster from a 1982 Devo concert. Wednesday, Wolfson let him have it for free. "So everything's not for sale," he said. "Some things are beyond that."

Vinyl Fever

The store is likely to close after this weekend, owners say. But first, there's a free goodbye party starting at noon Saturday with DJs and bands starting at 3:30 p.m. (For more on the music, see Page 35.) Remaining merchandise will be on final markdown, and the store will serve free Pabst Blue Ribbon to those of age. For details, call (813) 289-8399.

As Vinyl Fever closes, local record stores ponder the future 01/27/11 [Last modified: Thursday, January 27, 2011 5:18pm]

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