On a Sunday afternoon, Josh Kynd is camped out in a lawn chair in the middle of Club Dada, surrounded on all sides by fold-out tables filled with crates of vinyl. He's here with a handful of other vendors for the quarterly Beat Swap Meet, a recurring pop-up record sale in Dallas. Kynd has frequented sales like this and Vinyl Tap for years, but later this month he's planning on committing to something much more permanent: Opening a record store.
"I got 50,000-plus records, man. I got to do something with them," Kynd says. His new store, RetroPlex Records and More, will be a record shop and vintage store located on Jupiter Road in Garland near I-635. "We kind of want our house back. So we're going to open a store, and now's the time — for vinyl, at least."
Kynd isn't the only one in Dallas who's had that idea in recent years. Stores like Josey Records, Spinsters Records and even the combination bar and record store, Off the Record, have opened in Dallas. But even with the resurgence of vinyl and popularity of events like Record Store Day, selling records can still be a risky business. In recent months, both Dead Wax and Groove Net, two of the most respected local vendors among crate diggers, have closed their storefronts.
Kynd is well aware of the risk he's taking. A veteran DJ and member of DJ crew Our House, he opened another store under the same RetroPlex name nearly 10 years ago, but the timing coincided with the exodus to digital music. "I started with 13,000 records in my store and left with 50,000," Kynd remembers. "That's how much [the market] washed out. No one cared. They were leaving them on my doorstep." The store closed in 2009.
Now, though, he says it's a different story. He's been running an online store, Pop-Up Records, out of his house since before his first go with RetroPlex, selling his records on Ebay and Discogs. Tracking those Internet sales was one of the main reasons Kynd felt confident in committing to a new store.
"People in the States are buying more albums — Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac, the Doors — which tells me people are getting back into wanting vinyl itself," he says. "They're not just buying the repress, they're buying the collector's item, too. That's a good sign."
In spite of recently closing his own storefront to focus on his online business, Groove Net owner Randy Frierson agrees with Kynd. "I've been selling records since 1977 and I'm 63 years old now. This is my way of easing out of the retail end of it," he says. "But to be quite honest, if I was little bit younger, if I was 40 years old, I would have another retail store. I would probably have a fairly big store."
Like Kynd, Frierson says the Internet is a major help. "I specialize in really obscure stuff," he says. "Stuff you've probably never heard of." But thanks to websites like YouTube, his customers can sample virtually any music, no matter how obscure. Each week, he sends out a mailing list of new arrivals to his regular customers. "I'd say 60 to 70 percent of the entire order, it comes in on Friday and by Saturday afternoon it's gone."
In fact, Frierson's sales are almost too good: "My neighbors thought I was selling drugs because there would be 12 cars outside and people walking in and out with boxes and stuff." But he does see a limit: "Records are still a niche market," he cautions. "I think it's gotten as big as it's going to get."The challenge is to make the business work with the overhead of a brick-and-mortar store. "Sure, I'm going to see a dip in profits, given that I'll have a store to pay for," Kynd admits. "But I'm also promoting to a larger [audience]." He points out that with RetroPlex's location, he'll be the closest record store for six surrounding suburbs. "Placement's everything. I'm on a street where easily 10,000 cars pass by each day. It's a big city and it's only getting bigger."
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By its nature, Frierson says owning a record store requires some inherent risk — and not everyone who opens a store is a risk taker. "A lot of stores that open up have good intentions," he says. Unfortunately, "The people who open the stores love records, but don't have the business acumen to do it." A big part of that is knowing your customers: "You get an avid record collector [selecting inventory] and he buys the wrong thing. He may tend to buy more what he likes than what the public likes."
Still, Kynd is optimistic that his reputation from more than 20 years in the local scene, as well as his customer base from the Beat Swaps and his online store, will help bring in customers. "I've been a collector of all genres. I'm not really discriminate of any music. You might find classical to soundtracks to jazz, '50s, '60s to '80s — whatever," he says of his collection. "But being a DJ, I'm [also] guaranteed to have a really strong electronic area."
At the end of the day, Frierson believes it all comes down to simply selling the right product, and it doesn't matter where you do it — even a "shotgun-type store in a mini strip mall," like Kynd is preparing to do.
"Wherever I go, they'll find me," Frierson says of his customers, many of whom he says have been shopping with him since the '70s. "If you build up a reputation and sell some cool records, you can open virtually anywhere and make it. Anywhere."