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Local vinyl record stores surviving the pandemic

Posted at 8:28 PM, Sep 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-26 01:36:52-04

TULSA, Okla. — Record Store Day is usually in April.

The shutdown and impact from COVID-19 led organizers to decide to celebrate the day over three consecutive days this year: August 29, September 26 and October 24, according to the Record Store Day website.

So, how are record businesses in Tulsa doing? Currently, five local vinyl record shops reopened since the shutdown and are surviving the pandemic.

Located on South Trenton Avenue in Studio Row near the Pearl District, Studio Records opened up in a craftsman style house on May 3, 2019.

“We had a line waiting to get in, so it was a great day,” recalled Studio Records' owner Mike Nobles.

The record shop is known for their wide spectrum of genres; everything from Rap to Classical.

“We always had customers looking for hard to find Rap records so we really expanded that,” stated Nobles.

The shutdown in March required Nobles to close his store for about six weeks, forcing him to figure out new ways to run his business.

“We were able to really focus on the online aspect which was in the plan anyway but we had to do it at full speed," said Nobles. “We also started doing "appointment" shopping where customers could pick a time and shop alone, with us staying out of their way. And curbside pickup.”

Nobles admits the shutdown did hurt business. Since he reopened cleaning increased, masks are required and the shop only allows six people inside at a time for social distancing.

“What has been unexpected, is that our business has been way up since we reopened. There seemed to be some pent up demand from people being cooped up at home and it seems people started getting turntables during that time," expressed Nobles.

The Studio Records owner believes the vinyl record business will endure the current economic climate.

“I think the real driver is that in this digital society people still like to interact with things and playing and owning vinyl is tactile. You have to interact with it. I think people miss that by just It forces you to really be a part of the whole listening experience,” said Nobles. “The conventional wisdom in the music business was that it was largely "recession proof" as even during tough economic times people still listened to music. Perhaps a bit of that is [still] happening now.”

Josey Records is on S. Rockford Avenue, near South Peoria Avenue and opened in early 2017, according to the store manager John Gabriel.

“The name comes from the street in Dallas where the original store was located. The Dallas store is our flagship,” stated Gabriel. “It is currently the biggest record store in the U.S. since Amoeba in Los Angeles closed.”

The Tulsa location offers one of the largest, most diverse collections of used records in town. Before the shutdown, Josey Records was also a venue for live music.

“Record stores have always been a place where people of similar interests can come together and have a community,” shared Gabriel. “I love when parents bring their kids in, or kids just find us and are just getting started. It’s a great feeling.”

Gabriel became the manager of the Tulsa location two months before the shutdown.

When Tulsa mandated all non-essential businesses to close Josey Records let two employees go. They posted their stock on social media.

“Each day, I would post pictures of 120 records, people would buy them online and I would either ship, deliver or provide curbside pick-up,” Gabriel explained. “That kept us afloat, and it was clear that we weren’t just fulfilling the need for our regulars to get their fix, but they were making a point to support us.”

Josey Records reopened in May and even rehired one employee. Gabriel said there's an increase in used records coming into his shop since before the shutdown.

“We seem to be doing better than ever. A big part is our community support,” shared Gabriel.

Gabriel has confidence in the future of the vinyl record business.

“My view is that [society] sort of hit a digital wall. You aren’t just letting it play in the background for hours on end. Actually playing a record is a way of engaging with the music. There are so many ways that vinyl brings you close to the music you love,” said Gabriel.

Warren Showman owns Blue Moon Discs, it's been open for an impressive 25-years.

While on vacation in Arizona, Showman’s wife bought him a neon, crescent moon.

“When I opened my store [in October 1994], I put that neon moon in my window and named it thusly,” stated Showman.

Blue Moon Discs’ original store was located in Claremore. In 2002, Showman moved to the Brookside area. Due to the increase in rent, the record shop moved to a venue near East 21st Street and South Sheridan Road in 2007, where it lives now.

Showman temporarily closed his doors in March and reopened in May, with limited hours. Since reopening, business is good at Blue Moon Discs.

“A face mask is required for entry, hands are disinfected before people are allowed to handle the records. Most people appreciate that,” said Showman.

Daniel VanDurmen is the owner of Oil Capitol Vinyl, which is located near East 26th Place and South Memorial Drive.

“It took me about six weeks to build all of the bins, paint, decorate and stock [before opening],” shared VanDurmen.

VanDurmen describes himself as the sole employee, custodian, record cleaner and store DJ.

Oil Capital Vinyl attracts record lovers of all ages.

“Old geezers like myself, either still collecting or rediscovering the obsession, or much younger folks falling in love with a physical, music medium for the first time. Part of it I believe, is a yearning to again, seek, find, collect and hold a physical representation of music,” expressed VanDurmen.

Oil Capitol Vinyl shutdown for most of April.

“We offered direct shipping, as well as curbside pickup, but really there was very little of that actually happening,” said VanDurmen.

Since reopening, VanDurmen said business has still been slow, with the occasional busy day.

“The larger record stores in town might have been positioned to weather the shutdown better,” said VanDurmen. “Seriously, I hope Oil Capital Vinyl can survive, grow, and maybe even move to a larger location eventually.”

Tony and Michelle Cozzaglio exclusively sold records only from mid-2016 to April 2019. Then, the couple opened Boulevard Trash, the only punk rock shop in Tulsa, located near South Harvard Avenue and East 16th Street.

“Our love for supporting the punk community is why we opened up Boulevard Trash. We are record collectors. We wanted to provide a safe place in our hometown for anyone to come and have access to alternative clothing and music without judgment.” shared Michelle.

Boulevard Trash offers a certain subculture of music. They specialize in punk, hardcore, metal, and rock n' roll records.

The Cozzaglios closed their store in March and focused on their online business.

“COVID definitely hurt in-store sales for us. Since our target audience is a little smaller, we've been fortunate that during this time we [are able to] cater to such a tight knit and supportive community,” said Michelle.

Boulevard Trash reopened on June 3, with safety precautions.

The Cozzaglios recently re-closed their store for two weeks for a complete remodel. Michelle says she is thrilled to unveil a bigger and better, Boulevard Trash on October 3.

There has certainly been a modern revival of vinyl culture. The nostalgia behind record collecting seems to be proving that the record store business will likely survive the economic trials of 2020.

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