St. Louis is among the nation's top cities in many respects, with courteous drivers, literacy and dog guardianship all coming to mind. But now our independent music shops are getting a little attention too, with Vintage Vinyl landing a spot on USA Today's list "The 10 Best Record Stores in the USA."
In a story posted May 20, USA Today scribe Leif Pettersen writes about traversing the country in search of havens for vinyl purists. The publication selected Vintage Vinyl as one of these music paradises, citing its alluring bins of records and variety of genres as part of the store's excellence.
Here's what USA Today says about St. Louis' beloved record store in the Delmar Loop:
The decidedly punk rock business story of Tom Ray and Lew Prince starts at a stand at the Soulard Farmer's Market in the late '70s, progresses to two different shops riddled with building code violations, then on to the St. Louis landmark and legitimate tourist destination they run today. The bins of new and used and deeply discounted music and videos has been known to transform casual browsers into collectors in just one visit. All the genres are well represented from classic country and early hip hop to jazz, new age and electronica.
"Whatever the source or medium, it always feels great to be recognized as one of the 'best' in the particular business that you operate in," says Jim Utz, who's in charge of marketing and promotions for Vintage Vinyl.
While the USA Today honor is a big one for Vintage Vinyl, Utz is quick to point out that St. Louis is on the music map because of the region's many independent record shops and serious vinyl collectors.
"St. Louis has always been an amazing town for music fans, and the number of really good and diverse record stores here is a result of that," he tells RFT Music. "The fact that St. Louis has so many great local stores that each do their own unique thing is great. It shows that music isn't disposable to people here."
Vintage Vinyl is in good company on USA Today's list, with revered shops such as Amoeba in Los Angeles, Wuxtry Records in Athens, Georgia, and Long in the Tooth in Philadelphia also making the grade. Utz, a long-time album collector and music connoisseur, says he has visited about half of the stores on the publication's list and has a few ideas about where USA Today should stop by next.
"I've spent multiple mortgage payments in both Reckless Records and Waterloo Records over the years," Utz says. "Other stores around the country that I would have added to the list would include Shake It Records in Cincinnati, Grimey's in Nashville, Luna Records in Indianapolis and End of an Ear in Austin. What I like about these stores and most record stores, in general, is that if I ask around, I will learn something new about music and likely walk out with a new favorite record."
This isn't the first time USA Today has recognized Vintage Vinyl, though. In March, the newspaper included the record shop in its travel guide to visiting popular "hipster" hangouts in St. Louis. Hipster or mainstream, Vintage Vinyl has something for everybody.
"We've always considered ourself a 'neighborhood' record store and have always tried to curate the stock at Vintage Vinyl to best service the people in our neighborhood and the surrounding ones," Utz says. "We have customers who might be called 'hipsters' -- though we'd never call anyone a hipster -- but our customer base has as many sweet seniors shopping our gospel section as angsty, mohawked youth perusing the punk section. In most cases our customers shop all the different music genres in the store."
That must be how the shop, which celebrated its 33 1/3rd anniversary last fall, nabs such a variety of in-store entertainment and exclusive collectibles.
"The Delmar Loop has always been a pretty diverse area, and we've tried to be a cultural town hall for all the different people to coexist and even share experiences through music," Utz says.