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Record Collector adapts to the new normal, prepares for three Record Store Days

Record Store Day(s)

Record Collector, Iowa City -- drop dates on Aug. 29, Sept. 26 and Oct. 24

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The Record Collector in 2017. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

Since 1982 Record Collector has been a hub for Iowa City’s music-loving community.

When founder and original owner Kirk Walther passed away back in 2017, many vinyl enthusiasts worried whether Iowa City would lose this sacred place where they could dig through crates of old jazz records, pick up the newest release of their favorite metal band or take a chance on something new, recommended by the store’s extremely knowledgeable staff. Thankfully, longtime employee Bobby Larson was ready to step in and carry the torch.

Since then, Larson has kept the spirit of Record Collector alive. Its crates are still filled with rare finds, old classics and new releases from major labels and independents alike. It is the go-to place for local musicians to release their physical product, and I can speak from experience when I say there is no greater feeling than receiving an email from Larson saying he is out of stock and needs some more albums.

When everything had to shut down back in March, the charm of aimlessly digging through stacks of records had to stop as well. Little Village was able to catch up with Bobby Larson via email to discuss how record shopping has changed during a global pandemic, and how the store plans to approach one of its most lucrative days for sales.

What do you consider to be Record Collector’s role in the community?

We hope that we are the local source for all things ‘physical music,’ whether it’s a local CD or a mainstream pop vinyl record. We hope to be a hub for music discovery to the folks of Iowa City and beyond.

In what ways has the pandemic impacted operations at Record Collector and that relationship with the community?

It’s made it harder for us to have in-person communication and feedback with our customers, which impacts how we order product and how we learn and discover new things. Corona also re-scheduled “Record Store Day” for us which is typically our biggest revenue day of the year and is normally in April, but this year the list of exclusives has been divided into three Saturdays. The drop dates are Aug. 29, Sept. 26 and Oct. 24. So we don’t yet know the full extent of how this changes our bottom line.

What interesting or creative changes have you made to the Record Collector business model since the pandemic hit?

We started an online inventory … This allows people to place orders for curbside pick-up or local delivery, which helped us dramatically while we were closed. People really helped support us.

We are now open with a five-person capacity, requiring face masks of course, and requiring people to wear rubber gloves when looking through our inventory for the time being. I don’t know that any of these are that interesting or creative, but we are trying to keep ourselves, our employees, our customers and community safe.

For the first Record Store Day drop date we might have a line of people waiting before opening and we will have to create some fun social distancing floor markings for the front of the store. There’s always something new to be done that helps, even though some folks really want things to be the way they were a year ago — and of course it would be far less stressful if that was the case — but right now we have to take all the precautions that we can.

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How many Record Store Day special releases will you be carrying? Are there any you are particularly excited about?

So, I’m not sure what the total number of releases we’ll carry will end up being, but for this first RSD drop on Aug. 29 it’ll be at least 75 titles, and the second and third drop dates I’m guessing will be between 50-75 additional titles each, so all together it’s definitely in the range of 150-200 different exclusive titles that we will carry. We post a list of all the exclusive inventory that we receive to our social media usually a day before the drop date itself.

There are always some titles I’m excited about and this year is no different in that way. There’s an artist named Kelley Stoltz that is doing an entire cover album of Echo & the Bunnymen’s album Crocodiles and I think ideas like that are cool. There’s a reissue of an older Nas album that I think is cool. There’s some BBC material from 1972 for the band Hawkwind that I’m psyched to hear. There’s an official vinyl release of Tyler, the Creator’s album Cherry Bomb that should be a popular one; Brittany Howard from Alabama Shakes has a live album, just tons of stuff….

Kirk Walther prepares for the fifth annual Record Store Day in 2012 at Record Collector. — Little Village

What is the plan for the future of Record Collector for the duration of the pandemic and beyond?

For the duration of the pandemic I just hope that we can keep up with the precautions that we’ve already implemented and hopefully things will get better until a vaccine is available. If there are new precautions we can put in place or ways that we can help keep people safe then we will, but for the store to continue we’ll need to find ways to keep getting good music into folks’ hands, so we’ll continue to try to do that any way we can.

How can people help and support Record Collector?

Check out our website and social media for updates and check our inventory for ordering at bit.ly/RCstock.


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