Hidden behind a line of 100-plus giddy teens waiting for doors to open for the Rixton show at the Ready Room, Music Record Shop quietly opened for business for the first time this past Wednesday. The storefront is nothing fancy. A single red door sits in brick next to a hand-painted window as a neon sign gives all the info needed to peak a record collector's interest... MUSIC. Inside, a modest-sized room is filled with fresh, beautifully packaged new vinyl from every genre. Highly sought-after reissues from Faith No more, Outkast, Bathory and Killing Joke sit alongside new releases, punk-rock classics, local artists, an impressive collection of horror-movie soundtracks from the UK's coveted Death Waltz label and more.
With its focus on new import vinyl and catering to the local market, this is a record shop with a vibe that's more specialty store than garage-sale rummage. There are a couple of CDs and a small rack of cassettes, mostly from smaller indie labels, but the star of this shop is unmistakeable; crisp, clean, collectible new wax.
Owner Mark Carter recently packed up his Kirkwood store and relocated to what he considers St. Louis' new hot spot, the Grove.
"There are restaurants, bars, a microbrewery, coffee houses in addition to all the music venues. We did not have any connection to either the Ready Room or Demo but had heard that the Grove developers really wanted to attract a music retail store," Carter says. "Once we visited the area and knew that we could be in close proximity to both stages, we were ready to make a deal for space, knowing that their customers would naturally be our customer base as well. Ironically, our situation turned out better than expected when Demo decided to subdivide their space and an offer was made for us to move right in between both sites. We could not have dreamed of a better scenario."
Much of Music Record Shop's stock comes directly from overseas suppliers with deep catalogs, with a close eye kept on buying patterns and which types of records sell best. Ordering in bulk also creates room for reasonable prices, with most records priced around or below what they go for online and without those pesky shipping costs, which can sometimes be higher than the records themselves when ordering from other countries. This quality over quantity approach also gives a slight advantage in selection over some other local shops. You won't have to dig through 30 Krokus albums to find that Burzum import you're looking for, or trip over any overstock boxes of Saturday Night Fever.
"We are always looking for great releases and new labels," Carter explains. "Most importantly, we listen to what the retail customer is saying specifically in the St. Louis market and make sure we have the stock in place that they want to buy."
That focus on local music and events makes being set up directly between two venues an ideal way to get involved. The store is currently open noon to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, but it will be staying open late some nights in conjunction with shows at the Ready Room and the Demo, hosting in-store signings, meet and greets, and selling merchandise of the performing bands who will get to keep 100 percent of the proceeds from their in-store sales.
Carter's start in the business dates back to the days of VHS and cassette tapes, where he worked on the production side of the industry before progressing into the DVD/CD era as a distributor. Once he caught wind of the vinyl resurgence about five years ago, he fell in love with the format.
"Vinyl creates a different listening and visual experience. Its not only a different sound quality of richer and deeper resonance, but also it's the beauty of larger format artwork on the jacket and included features like posters and liner notes," he says. "Playing vinyl makes you listen to an LP as the artist intended. LPs create a story at that moment in an artist or bands time. Vinyl is not a bunch of songs pulled from different artists and different LPs with no connection to create a playlist."
He also sees the importance of vinyl as a means to gather people together to share the listening experience as a group. "The act of pulling a record out of the jacket and inner sleeve, placing it on a turntable, setting the needle in the groove and listening with a group of people over dinner or at a party cannot even remotely compare to placing a ear bud in your ear and pressing a button to listen to digitized sound or plugging in an iPod into a speaker box. It's a much more artful event. "
With the Grove's thriving bars, restaurants, coffee shops, venues, tattoo shops, microbreweries and more, a premium record store is just another highlight for this ever-expanding stretch of Manchester.
"We really want to make the store a destination point to find music, specifically vinyl, from performers featured at Demo and Ready Room plus other venues in St. Louis, as well as offer the hard to find new LPs, whether import or domestic," Carter says. "We will carry a selection of used vinyl as well, but it will never be the main thrust of the store. There are many other things we have planned in the future but it's one step at a time."
"We are really excited about all the happenings for Music Record Shop and the Grove in general. We truly feel that the community of businesses in the Grove offers a lot to St. Louis, especially the music-loving patrons. "
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