Vinyl record shop endures
ESCONDIDO —- After enduring the ups and downs of eight-track tapes, cassettes, compact discs and I-pods, one record store in Escondido is holding on and hoping that reports of a vinyl comeback don't fade away.
Want to find an import-only copy of Jimi Hendrix's 1968 "Electric Ladyland" album, on display with Post-Its concealing the bodies of the ladies on the cover?
Or perhaps sample the "unrepresentative" music that Canadian rocker Neil Young's record company sued him for making in the early 1980s?
Gary's Record Paradise Vol. II offers classic rock, preferably on black plastic records made of polyvinyl chloride.
"I don't know if time has caught up with us," said owner and manager Eustaquio Kirby, a day before the store's 30th birthday this weekend. "Some people say vinyl is coming back."
To illustrate his point, he picked up a new LP version of "Endless Wire," released last year by The Who.
Aficionados say that vinyl offers a warm sound that digital CDs remove, but walking into Gary's shows that part of the appeal of the vinyl record comes from provocative or cheesy album covers. Records with well-preserved cover art sell at Gary's for several times what they did in the 1970s.
Early phonograph records were made of shellac and vinyl records came into wide use after World War II, only to fall out of favor after the introduction of CDs in the mid-1980s.
Although the British recording industry reported a jump in vinyl sales in the first half of this year, records make up a tiny fraction of U.S. music sales tracked by Nielsen Soundscan, the company that provides weekly sales figures to Billboard magazine. In 2006, 858,000 LPs were sold, compared with more than 550 million CDs.
Nielsen Soundscan says vinyl sales in 2006 increased slightly compared with 2005, but the trend for the last several years has been down.
Kirby specializes in locating hard-to-find albums. He and a co-worker visit garage sales and swap meets a couple days per week to find hidden jewels for his customers, he said.
"We offer CDs, but what if you're looking for something like Humble Pie or Grand Funk Railroad?" he asked.
He has a separate job as a physical therapist and keeps a treatment table in the back of the store.
Financially, the store "runs just even," he said.
Kirby said he doesn't view chain stores as his main competition. Rather, it comes from other North County shops that specialize in vinyl records, such as Lou's Records in Encinitas and Spin Records in Carlsbad.
"From my point of view, vinyl never really went away," said Lou Russell, owner of Lou's. "What we're seeing now is that major labels are paying more attention. A lot of young people are looking for classic rock on the original vinyl."
Gary's is named for Gary Goldstein, who founded the business in 1977 at 113 S. Broadway, next to what is now a vacuum cleaner store.
Goldstein said he previously worked at a Los Angeles record store called Platterpuss. He felt he had enough savvy to open his own store in the San Diego area, away from the competition of Los Angeles. He benefited from Elvis Presley's death because he had a trove of Elvis records, he said.
Goldstein moved the business in 1997 to 336 E. Grand Avenue, near Taste of Florence restaurant, and then to West Mission Ave in 2001. He sold the store in 2003 to become a math and literature teacher at Escondido Charter Elementary School, but still visits a couple times per month.
Goldstein said Kirby, who has worked at the store since 1986 and bought it in 2004, has shifted the focus of the store from compact discs toward vintage vinyl in an effort to stay viable.
"The challenge is even harder now," he said.
Goldstein said he experienced one of the "greatest honors" in his tenure when Alfred Lion, founder of jazz label Blue Note Records, visited the store. Lion, who died in 1987, lived in Rancho Bernardo near the end of his life.
Gary's has scheduled an acoustic guitar birthday concert in the store's parking lot on the afternoon of Aug. 18.
— Contact staff writer Quinn Eastman at (760) 740-5412 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at nctimes.com.
Gary's Record Paradise Vol. II
440 W. Felicita Ave., Escondido
Classic rock records on vinyl
Open 1 to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday