Chicago vinyl stores spin into decline

(Photo: Racks of vinyl at Dave's Records in Chicago. Credit: Brandon Ousley)

(Photo: Racks of vinyl at Dave’s Records in Chicago. Credit: Brandon Ousley)

Inside the Oak Park music store Val’s Halla Records there are rows of vinyl, cassette tapes and CDs. Glancing at the store’s diverse selections, you might believe it’s resilient.

But, it’s one of the many record stores in Chicago in bad shape, and possibly closing its doors soon.

“We also, like a lot of record stores, are in a crisis situation that was begun with the whole world of downloading,” says Val Camilletti, the owner of Val’s for 40 years.

According to Camilleti, a fundraiser is being held to help keep its doors open.

“It’s because we have already an extraordinary selection of used vinyl, and not enough of a selection, at this point, of new vinyl that there is a campaign going for us to raise some funds, so that we can be prepared even immediately for this Christmas season,” she says. “Our focus is to pay down some of the debt that we already owe to our distributors, in order to be sure that we’re positioned well to take care of the customers.”

Like Camilleti, many record store owners have tried to keep the vinyl business afloat in Chicago. But, vinyl retail is dwindling in digital times.

“Some of those record stores, when they made the switch from vinyl and cassette to CD, they made it completely,” says Camilletti. “They let go of their vinyl stock. That’s the thing we never did.”

According to Camilletti, the challenge of keeping vinyl retail afloat is finding the cash to keep records in the racks.

“People always had an option, they had an option of either cash or trade,” she says. “Because of this horrible cash crunch, we have not been able to pay cash as frequently or generously as we would like to.”

Dave Crain, owner of Dave’s Records in Lincoln Park, says the decline of CD sales caused problems for stores.

“A lot of the stores that have closed were probably a mixture of CD and vinyl, and part of what happened to those stores was the bottom fell out of CD sales,” says Crain. “A lot of stores that have survived have survived by boosting up their vinyl sales.”

Crain says his store doesn’t retail CDs because of the sound and value of vinyl.

“It is the perfect time for vinyl,” he says. “When CDs took over, a lot of people got the impression that they just didn’t make vinyl anymore, which wasn’t the case. … I think vinyl would still survive, but I think you still need the connection as a record store to the new music that’s coming out as well.”

As Val Camilletti struggles to keep Val’s Halla Records afloat, she says the fundraiser makes her hopeful.

“Part of this campaign is to generate those new customers, especially the young customers, and to give younger customers the idea of what it was like to hang out in your favorite record store,” she says. “Not just to listen to vinyl. Not just to buy vinyl to take it home, but to share in that experience that never happened with CDs. … Those discussions and those stories about the last 50 years of the music industry, since the beginning of rock ‘n’ roll.”

Val’s fundraiser will be held at 835 N. Kenilworth Ave., on Dec. 13 from 7-10 p.m.

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Record Store Day At Dusty Groove America!

Hello people! It is that time of the year where music lovers, DJs, and vinyl collectors come together to dig out rare, collectable and groovy gems. It is a time that people also build friendships and social groups based solely on the different music that they come across on this particular day. Yes, record store day is one of those important days for the music heads. As a matter of fact, Dusty Groove America held its annual record store day last week, in honor of all of the music lovers and collectors, such as myself, and what an enlightening experience it was. I even took a couple of pictures to show how amazing it really was!

Sounds of laughter, conversation, cash registers, and music from studio speakers filled the entire store.

It is a day that has usually gone down as one of the proudest days for music lovers. It has had its share of criticisms from people who are stuck in the ever-changing digital age of today, but it has stood its ground. Record Store Day across America has grown in stature yearly, since the renaissance of vinyl has gotten more exposure in recent times.

As the day went on, the store was filled with crowds of people from the back room (shown here) to the front.

Dusty Groove America continued to pay homage to the music lover by observing the annual holiday with new surprises and unbeatable music gems. When first arriving at the store for the event last week, it seemed as if there was no one was present. The advertisements and flyers that plastered on the walls around the store varied from promotions of upcoming concerts to legendary icons. Thousands of discounted vinyl records, used CDs, cassettes, and DVDs were perfectly stacked in brown cardboard boxes, which sat in wooden containers. After a couple of minutes, the store instantly became packed with anxious music lovers, ready to usher in the celebration.

Everyone was awaiting the opening of Dusty Groove's annual event.

One avid vinyl fan, Robert Williams, 35, declared that he believed that record store day is the best holiday since Christmas. “One thing that I always look forward to every year is record store day as it is so revealing to check out stuff that I wouldn’t normally find in other mainstream music stores. I recently converted to being a vinyl audiophile not so long ago as well, so that is another great thing.”

The hot items of the day were the used CDs, vinyl, 45s, and other miscellaneous items.

When the store opened at 10 in the morning, no one was to be found until the next hour.

As the day winded down, I brought some great items. Can you identify any classics in this stack?

For more information about Dusty Groove America, log on to its internet store at http://www.dustygroove.com or visit the Chicago Store. Great place to visit, especially for music heads and novelty collectors. If you have ever visited this spectacular store or share other information, please comment on this blog post and follow my page. Thanks so much and let real music live!