With a glass of whiskey in hand and 1970s Brazilian funk music playing in his cozy East Village record shop, bearded storeowner Jonathan Sklute explained his philosophy: “This is kind of like my clubhouse; everyone’s welcome to come and hang out.”
This weekend, Sklute’s shop Good Records NYC will be one of over 700 independently owned record stores in the nation participating in Record Store Day, an annual tradition begun in 2007 that celebrates vinyl-collecting with promotional sales and special releases and performances by artists.
Michael Kurtz, a co-founder of Record Store Day, said he and fellow founders “wanted to create an event that reflected our culture, and we also wanted an excuse to throw a party and celebrate music. By accident, we created a holiday for music.”
The holiday they created has spread from about 300 participating stores in the United States to around 1,700 worldwide. “The secret of Record Store Day’s success is that no one owns it. No one tells anyone what they can or cannot do. What each record store does with the day is up to them,” said Kurtz.
Sklute’s Good Records NYC shop (218 E. 5th St.) will stay fairly normal this Saturday by simply adding in some food and DJs. “For Record Store Day, I always try to lay back a little bit in the cut and just have people come in here and have it be a discovery and best-kept-secret type of vibe,” Sklute said.
A short walk further east, at Academy LP’s (415 E. 12th St.), store manager Cory Feierman also hopes to manage a relaxed vibe, but expects to be overwhelmed at times with longer lines and commotion. “It’s not cozy at all, it’s more like people nudging shoulders,” he said.
He attributes this in large part to the influx of new and eager customers that day brings to his store. Feierman estimates that “on a normal day, it’s usually about 60 percent regular customers, but on Record Store Day, it’s about 90 percent first-timers.”
While the day always tends to be excellent for store revenue, both owners and co-founder Kurtz realize the difficulty in attracting many customers while still maintaining the unique atmospheres of the shops that define the traditional record store experience.
Kurtz hopes his creation will not diverge from that tradition, but foster more love for preserving vinyl and interacting with like-minded connoisseurs. “We see our role as not only providing music fans with the ability to consume mass-produced products, but to offer them something more, something a bit magical, something a bit more artistic,” Kurtz said.
“My personal ideal record store experience is romantic. It is a personal discovery process that creates memories that stick with you,” he added.
One major appeal of record shopping, sifting through shelves of unfamiliar old records alongside fellow eccentric browsers, is something Sklute does not want diluted among the hype and added traffic of Record Store Day.
“There’s no need for the flapping arms, running down the aisle. We don’t want people elbowing each other out of the way to get to the records,” he said.
Sklute believes his small and more casual store can take advantage of the attention of Record Store Day without losing the vintage record store experience. “I don’t like big shindigs and too much pressure,” he said. “There are lots of places you can go wait 30-deep in line, but if you don’t want to do that and you’re looking to unwind a little bit, that’s why we’re here,” he added.
Despite the potential commotion of the day itself, the strong and loyal customer base of New York City has allowed Record Store Day to succeed in the city.
“If you buy and sell your records on one day, that’s great, but if I make a returning customer, that’s even better. That’s what the investment is,” Sklute said.
As a Harlem resident, though, Sklute hopes the fervor for vinyl that has allowed the event to succeed can find returning customers beyond Greenwich Village. “Harlem could be well-served by having a record store of its own,” he said. “It’s been a dream of mine to open a store uptown.”