Vinyl record fans still picking up good vibrations
They were called CDs.
“I opened up and that very first week I heard about them,” Shurba, 66, recalls. “I thought, ‘Oh, my God. What do I do now?’”
Twenty-eight years later, Shurba says Remember When Records in Westmont probably would be out of business if it relied on compact disc sales.
Instead, he says, vinyl records are once again where it’s at among younger audiences and serious music collectors.
“I don’t know how it started,” Shurba confesses. “I was shocked. I never thought it would come back to records at all.”
For Shurba, the experience of buying a freshly pressed vinyl record and putting it on a turntable is all too familiar.
Growing up on Chicago’s West Side, he used to ride his bike to Sears every weekend in the late 1950s to pick up the latest singles and LPs.
His love of music was further encouraged by his father, who played guitar, and eight siblings, who stayed current with music trends.
“I listened to everything,” Shurba says. “I searched all over my Zenith portable radio and would always find the black stations. You heard stuff there you couldn’t hear anywhere else.”
After high school, Shurba was drafted into the Army and later became a union sheet metal worker. It wasn’t until a flood destroyed his entire record collection in 1972 that he began to tinker with the idea of opening his own store.
In the years following the flood, Shurba says he turned to estate sales, garage sales and record shows to rebuild his collection.
He saw others buying and selling records for a living and realized, “I can do this.”
“One thing led to another,” he says with a chuckle. “It was like an old horror picture. Don’t put water on it – it grows.”
Shurba and his wife, Julie, opened Remember When Records in 1983 and would go on to occupy three different locations in Downers Grove before eventually finding a permanent home at 309 W. Ogden Ave. in Westmont. Today, it remains one of the few independently owned record stores in the suburbs to offer both new and used vinyl.
Shurba estimates the store carries more than 50,000 CDs and records, which fill up two floors’ worth of space. He also has had in-store performances by Chicago-area acts such as the Ides of March and Jamestown Massacre, and carries movies and rock ’n’ roll collectibles.
In addition, Remember When Records is one of about 1,200 annual participants in Record Store Day, an international event that aims to support independent music stores through outreach, marketing and special promotions.
Record Store Day co-founder Eric Levin said the store is not alone in thriving on vinyl once again.
“The vinyl revolution has just saved us all on a certain level,” says Levin, who also owns Criminal Records in Atlanta, Ga. “We’re outselling vinyl-to-CDs three-to-one. We are definitely seeing CDs plateau.”
At the same time, Shurba says, Remember When Records has not been immune to the dwindling value of CDs, or the popularity of digital downloads among consumers.
But a few things never change, he says – the Beatles are still his top seller, and vinyl is still fun.
“It’s a little tougher nowadays. There have been times I thought, ‘Why do I do this?’” Shurba says. “But whether you have good weeks or bad weeks, you have to stick to it.”
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