Vinyl is Dead? Long Live Vinyl!
You could be forgiven for paying your last respects to the vinyl record some 20 years ago when it’s fate looked certain. CDs were universally embraced and declared the superior audio format. Audiophiles agreed the sound was “perfect” and “crystal clear”. Funnily enough, this seems to be the exact reason why music buyers are digging out their record players again. People still carry a torch for vinyl records because CDs sound too perfect, too clinical.
Record buyers reason that vinyl is warmer, richer, and has a fuller frequency spectrum than the overly compressed digital audio. Records also give the listener more to connect to with large cover artwork, inserts and packaging they can proudly display. There is also the process of taking a record out of its sleeve, placing it on the platter, setting down the tone arm and hearing the needle make contact. Even the crackles and pops that people were so happy to be rid of decades ago are now fondly cherished. This is the market that Abilene’s only dedicated vinyl shop, The Record Guys, caters to.
Keeping it in the Family
The Record Guys Abilene, Tx officially began back in 2001 as a record stall at flea markets in Buffalo Gap and Fredericksburg by owner Kevin Howell and his sons, Jon and Justin. 3 years down the road, business was strong enough that they were able to open their first shop in a small strip mall on South 7th here in Abilene.
Several years and locations later, the shop found it’s groove at its present location in Abilene, at an old Paleteria at the corner of South 7th and Leggett. This current space is the largest yet, giving ample room for furniture, stereo displays and more records than had ever been available before. The shop also hosts special events in the form of free live shows and all day Record Shop Day promotions.
The Record Guys proudly claim to stock more than 20,000 vinyl records including LPs, 45s, 12” singles plus cassettes, 8 tracks, picture discs, stereo equipment and more. Genres span from Classic Rock to Hip Hop to New Wave to Soundtracks to Country and everything in-between. Record Guys operates with the philosophy that records should be available to the masses so there are massive sections of $2-$5 LPs alongside racks of more obscure or rare titles priced anywhere from $8 on up.
Online vs. Offline
When asked about what makes their shop not only viable but desirable in the age of Amazon and iTunes, co-owner, Jon Howell, doesn’t have to think long about his answer. “We truly love music, we’re trying to get this stuff out there. We don’t get as much money as we can out the records we sell, we prefer to try and sell more to people. It’s a fun time… a very chill place where people can come in and sit, hang out and enjoy the atmosphere. Come talk to me about music, talk to me about why I love vinyl.” It’s this passion and the community vibe of the shop that makes it vital and resilient as major chains are closing daily.
There has been a concentrated effort by shop owners and customers alike to keep the independent record store alive. Events like Record Store Day have been a boon for shops all over the world, with attendance and buzz growing with each year. As long as the love for vinyl continues, there will always be room for the Records Guys in Abilene to thrive and expand.