December 29, 2012
As one record shop closes, vinyl music plays on in another
BY LAUREN ABDEL-RAZZAQ
Ferndale - As The Record Collector, a longtime haven for fans of vinyl, prepares to close its doors a new record shop literally down the street is ready to keep the music spinning.
Warren Westfall, owner of The Record Collector, will be starting off the new year by shuttering the store he's had for the last 15 years on Nine Mile Road in Ferndale. His last day open is Monday.
"Technology is changing. We're in a digital age and I'm selling hard copy," said Westfall, who previously had stores in northwest Detroit and Livonia. "Even with the demise of some of my competitors, I was waiting for a bump that never happened."
Meanwhile, two enthusiastic young men are working to build a customer base at Found Sound, a record shop that opened in July also on NineMile.
On Saturday, The Record Collector was still crammed tight with merchandise, even though Westfall plans to be out of the building by next weekend. A small crowd of shoppers bumped past each other in the narrow aisles, hands flicking through rows of records and CDs. Outside, signs on the shop's front window and doors read "End Times" and "Goin' Outta Business."
Westfall, 62, says he knew he was finished back in October.
"I just couldn't keep up anymore," he said. "Maybe if I wasn't so passionate about what I do, I would have closed sooner."
The shop's imminent demise has left some of the regulars, including Bob Gorczycki, stocking up while they still could.
"They always have the really rare types of things you just can't find anywhere else," said the Warren resident.
A collector and occasional seller of records himself, Gorczycki says he sometimes buys online but he prefers to be out in the stores.
Between 2003 and 2009, about one-third of all independent record shops in the U.S. have closed their doors, according to the Almighty Institute of Music Retail, a California-based marketing firm.
It's a pinch that has hit Metro Detroit, which in recent years saw the closing of iconic record stores Record Time in Roseville, Car City Records in St. Clair Shores and the downsizing of Street Corner Music, which moved from its Beverly Hills location to a smaller building in Oak Park. Westfall says he will continue buying records and selling them online even as he loses his physical presence in Ferndale.
Meanwhile, sales of vinyl are seeing a resurgence in recent years, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Year-to-date vinyl album sales are up 18 percent over last year, with nearly 3 million albums sold in independent record stores, according to the information and sales tracking system.
Westfall believes the renewed interest is fleeting.
"It's just a fad. Most of the younger people who are coming here to buy records are listening to them on record players and not turntables," he said. "They're buying reissued vinyl that was recorded digitally. It's not the same."
At Found Sound, owner Dean Yeotis is betting that a market for records will still exist and he is relying on his co-managers Ray Hayosh, 31, and Chris Butterfield, 27, to create a store that harkens back to the purity of the music shops of the past.
"We've really worked at making this place not just a retail store but a place where people can come in to talk about music. We have shows. We play movies sometimes," said Hayosh.
Added Butterfield: "Record Time was like that for me when I was in high school and we wanted that here."
The two were working at the Roseville shop when it was preparing to close in the fall of 2011. That was when Yeotis, a Flint lawyer, walked in and offered Butterfield a job, they said.
Eventually the two learned the offer was legitimate and together they crafted the concept of Found Sound.
"It makes you feel good. It evokes memories," said Yeotis, who said he had always wanted to open a record store. "It's a place for the community to get together, talk about music, listen to music and just enjoy."
Hayosh estimates the shops sells about 70 percent used items and 30 percent new items. They also have CDs, 8-tracks, DVDs of performances and band apparel. Inside, records and vintage album covers decorate the retro purple walls as stacks and stacks of music wait to be purchased and played. The shop is more than twice the size of The Record Collector.
They've found a fan in Ferndale resident Paul Derochie, a collector who frequently browses the stock at the local stores.
"I live half a mile away. I can walk here which is awesome," he said. "It's good to see a space used for getting records out there."
Westfall says he wishes his competitors the best.
"They think they have a business model that will work where others have failed," he said. "God bless them, they are going to give it a shot."
From The Detroit News.
Permission granted by copyright holder for this express use only.
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