Record Store Day: Why are so many vinyl record stores opening in Palm Beach County?

Analogopolis Records, Films, Games & Things is a mouthful of a title for a record store.

Let owner Tom Procyk explain.

“There are all these record stores with crazy names,” he said. “I was looking for something hard to say and hard to pronounce, but once you hear it you won’t forget it.”

The 36-year-old music enthusiast opened Analogopolis (rough translation: city of sound) in a Juno Beach shopping plaza last November. His red-walled store is tastefully curated, with over 1,000 vinyl platters presented alongside everything from throwback laser discs to vintage Florida post cards.

Of course, Procyk is ready for The Question. Yes, vinyl is hip. Yes, vinyl is making its zillionth comeback. But is it possible for a physical record store to survive and even thrive in an age of online streaming?

“Everybody asks that, a couple times a day,” said Procyk, a former film projectionist. “I figured the time was right. I’ve got a strong customer base that comes every week to buy albums.

“I’m not going to be rich, but it’s better than punching a clock.”

Procyk isn’t alone in believing vinyl record stores can be successful in Palm Beach County. Melanie and Jesse Feldman opened a small, 800-disc record store, Rust & Wax, inside the Elizabeth Ave. Station in West Palm’s warehouse district last August. William Wright debuted Space Cadet Records in the back of a Tequesta furniture store in January.

They join two veteran vinyl shops — Top 5 Records in Lake Worth and Confusion Records in Lake Park — to create the largest hub of vinyl sellers here since the chain and indie record store heyday of the ’80s and ’90s. And that’s not counting numerous thrift stores and bric-a-brac outposts, such as Lake Park’s Kelsey Vintage Goods, and the occasional head shop, such as Palm Springs’ Purple Haze. As well as racks of new (and usually overpriced) vinyl at Barnes & Noble, Urban Outfitters, Best Buy and FYE.

RELATED: Readers remember Palm Beach County’s lost, forgotten record stores

In about a month, Mike Mann is opening a combo coffee roastery, java shop and vinyl store called The Roasted Record on Colorado Avenue in Stuart. It grew out of a blog and website where he mused on home-brewed coffee while listening to vinyl. He plans to have about 600-1,200 records for sale, making it the first true record store between Tequesta and Port St. Lucie’s longtime indie shop, Sounds Good Music.

While record stores have thrived in Broward and Dade counties for years, they’ve had a rougher go in Palm Beach County. Just last year, both Brown Acid Records in Boynton Beach and Railroad Records in Lake Worth came and went in a matter of months.

But Procyk and other store owners believe Palm Beach County is ready to support vinyl businesses.

“I think people are tired of having music that’s just on a computer,” said Jesse Feldman, of Rust & Wax (think vintage and vinyl). He’s a lawyer by day, and Melanie is a social media marketer. They already run an online business, but craved a permanent physical address. “We loved the concept” of Elizabeth Ave.’s multi-tenant space, said Melanie Feldman, and they want to sell about 1,200 records there by May.

Wright is selling about 4,000 records at Space Cadet, housed in a makeshift corner at Island Time Trading Co., a Tequesta furniture store and liquidator. He was part of Brown Acid briefly, but thinks he’s got a better shot up in Tequesta, where he also hopes to expand soon. “A lot of people are really into vinyl now,” he said. “Some people think it’s stagnant, but I don’t think so.”

Recording Industry Association of America revenue reports for 2017 bear that out. While all formats fell in sales, physical products, such as CDs and vinyl, fell the least, the Washington Post reported. And vinyl sales alone jumped 10 percent to $395 million. The RIAA said it was “a bright spot among physical formats,” the paper reported.

But longtime record sellers have a few words of caution for the newbies.

John Clements is the godfather of Palm Beach County record store owners. He ran Confusion Records in Stuart for 20 years, before moving to a cluttered, overflowing shop in Lake Park 12 years ago. He wonders how stores can stay in business selling used records for $10-$20. While he sells high-priced new records — and along with Sounds Good Music is the only local shop involved in National Record Store Day on April 21— the bulk of his roughly 40,000-60,000-disc business consists of hundreds of $5 used albums. And racks of CDs, too.

“They don’t understand you need a variety of stock,” he said. “Who can compete with $5 records?”

And many don’t stay the course. “Once they find out you’re not going to make a bundle,” they tend to quit, he said. “You’ve got to be able to ride out the slow times.”

The owner of Top 5 Records has been selling vinyl in downtown Lake Worth for nine years. “It’s busier now, but everybody that’s smart is cautious,” said John, who doesn’t want his last name used (“It’s not about me, it’s about the records.”)

He added: “Everybody wants to be in the record business, but you’ve got to know what you’re getting into.”

At Top 5 Records, that means selling only vintage rock, soul, pop, blues and jazz — nothing new. He makes sure the vinyl is in top shape. “My whole thing is condition, condition, condition, and no excuses,” he said of his 10,000 discs on display (he has about 80,000 total.)

Rust & Wax is a stickler for spot-checking and cleaning albums, too. Procyk, of Analogopolis, even makes a gurarantee: “We ultra-sonic clean every album,” he said. He has an electric gizmo in the back of his shop called the Vibrato - scratchy discs are lowered into a bath of jeweler’s liquid and turned at barely noticeable speed. Twenty minutes later, the platters emerge with greatly reduced surface hiss and no dirty grooves.

“I wonder if this is going to become the bigger business,” said Procyk.

The new sellers have dreams of creating a cultural community around vinyl — Procyk wants to team up with a nearby wine bar for nights playing rare pressings of even rarer records. The Feldmans at Rust & Wax want to institute a monthly DJ vinyl event, and are doing a pop-up shop at SunFest.

Each of these entrepreneurs has a similar back story — avid collectors of vinyl in their youth, they always wanted to own a record store. They thought about it for years. They knew why they shouldn’t, but the urge was too strong. And why shouldn’t they make some scratch off all that wax stacked around their homes? Plus, there’s always somebody calling who wants to unload their record collection, keeping the supply chain flowing.

Almost all of them are one-person businesses, working afternoon to early evening hours. They want each other to succeed — the Feldmans happily shared news about Mike Mann’s Stuart business. John, at Top 5, passed along information about Wright’s Space Cadet store and went to Analogopolis anonymously to buy records and support the new guy on the block.

Bottom line: running a record store is a cool job. You never know who’s going to drop by.

One day, a bunch of guys on bicycles were sitting outside Top 5. “Hey mate, when are you going to open,” they asked John when he arrived. It was none other than Duran Duran, which was staying at the Four Seasons while doing a week of Southeastern shows.

Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth visited both Top 5 and Confusion Records, snapping up classic rock and avant-garde discs. Other record store drop-ins have included singer Kenny Vance, of Jay & The Americans, and rapper Afroman.

Another day, John noticed a guy with pasty white skin on an expensive bike near 1st Avenue South and J Street. When the guy extended a greeting, he recognized Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones. “He was riding laps in the intersection.”

But it doesn’t have to be a famous rock star to make a record seller’s day. It’s the unusual requests.

“I had someone come in and buy five Jim Croce albums,” said Procyk. “I had young kids asking for Annette Funicello yesterday. And I had a lady in her late 50s who bought every AC/DC and Aerosmith album and said, ‘I’m gonna have a party tonight — with myself!’”


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