The 12 Best Record Stores In Chicago
By Staff in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 20, 2014 9:15PM
One of the aspects of the music industry seeing strong growth is vinyl record sales. Last year, vinyl sales jumped an improbable 32 percent over 2012. Maybe we shouldn't use the term "improbable;" vinyl sales have been on a steady rise since the mid-90s, as the music industry imploded into a cycle of consolidation, corporate mergers, and trying to figure out how to best capitalized on digital download sales.
So it's no wonder the major labels took notice and decided to jump on the Record Store Day bandwagon. As Jim Kopeny said in his post, long live record stores, but fuck Record Store Day. Independent record stores have somehow managed to overcome music industry hubris and stupidity, and the challenges posed by large chains such as Sam Goody and the late Tower Records, to thrive as what was old has become new.
Part of this has been an ability to grow and adapt. In addition to vinyl, independent record stores also carry significant inventories of CDs and DVDs, while buyers have become more discreet in what they buy from people looking to dump records they no longer want in their collection.
Following are the 12 record stores we believe are the best in Chicago. As always, please do not treat this list as absolute; use this as a forum for discussion.
This was the scene at Dusty Groove Records at 10:45 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014. (Photo via Dusty Groove's Facebook page)
If you’re looking for one of the deepest collections of vinyl in Chicago, look no further than this longstanding Wicker Park shop. Whether you’re looking for a salvaged basement treasure, a pristine import, or anything in between, Dusty Groove will have it. What I love about Dusty Groove is their extensive inventory of jazz, hip hop, Afrobeat, Latin, Tropicalia and other music styles from around the globe. The staff is always friendly and knowledgeable and will go the extra length to help you find the best selections for your record collection. —Chuck Sudo
Dusty Groove is located at 1120 N. Ashland Ave.
I know, this seems an absolute given, right? Almost verging on cliche. However the reason for that is Reckless Records’ long history of delivering an awesome selection at reasonable prices. While their locations on Broadway and in the Loop are just fine, it’s the Wicker Park store that feels like the hub and lifeblood of them all. Is it being at the nexus of where hipsters rub shoulders with the yuppiariti that makes their selection both deep and unexpected? Who cares? Just set aside an hour this week (two if you decide to brave the crowds on a weekend) and expand your music collection at a reasonable price. —Jim Kopeny
Reckless Records is located at 1532 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Despite its compact storefront location, Dave’s manages to offer a hearty cross-section of vinyl, from freshly pressed 180-gram collector’s albums to vintage offerings. Pretty much every genre of music is represented, and prices range from reasonable to even more reasonable. Seriously: the “cheapie” bins are a goldmine of classic rock, country, jazz, and classical. And kitsch. If you want to start building the perfect Jackie Gleason or Martin Denny collection, $20 spent at Dave’s will take you down the road apiece.— Rob Christopher
Dave’s Records is located at 2604 N. Clark St.
Rolling Stones Records
Opened in 1971 (and still firmly planted in that era), Rolling Stone Records is a favorite of mine. I was introduced to the store by a friend, and at once was overwhelmed by the rainbow shine of thousands of CDs strung like beaded curtains from the ceiling. It’s cavernous and unpretentious, fun and kitschy and something about the red walls and clink of those CD chandeliers endears the place to me. It’s fun to dig through what Rolling Stones has to offer. For me, it’s about that feeling that I used to get as a kid digging through everything to try and find something unique, something I really wanted. You never feel like you should know more than you know, or contend with uppity staff. They have a huge selection, and there are still listening stations for you to take a record for a spin. On top of all that, the prices are great, which makes it easy to find a stack of movies and music to take home. Surfing for something to scratch your ear’s itch should be fun, and that’s what Rolling Stones Records does best. —Marielle Shaw
Rolling Stones Records is located at 7300 W. Irving Park Rd., Norridge
Bric-a-Brac Records & Collectibles (Photo credit: Jessica Mlinaric/Chicagoist)
Bric-a-Brac Records & Collectibles
Visiting Bric-a-Brac Records & Collectibles is like stepping into someone’s attic and discovering a trove of all the coolest toys from your childhood that your parents would never buy you. Come for the vinyl, especially post-punk, local, and indie finds, and stay for the incomparable selection of curated cassettes, VHS, buttons, posters, and playthings. The Avondale boutique deals in nostalgia from the 80s and 90s so it’s a great place to snag gifts for discerning friends in need of Street Sharks or a Jessie Spano doll. If you need more reasons to visit Bric-a-Brac, stop by one of their frequently hosted concerts or comedy shows or just go say hello to Dandelo, the store’s resident Corgi. — Jessica Mlinaric
Bric-a-Brac Records & Collectibles is located at 3156 W. Diversey Ave.
Logan Hardware's new space is just two blocks from the original location that now houses Logan Arcade which is chock full of pinball and classic arcade games. At Logan Hardware, customers can enjoy browsing through a plethora of reasonably-priced records, CDs and gift items. To further sweeten the experience, a secret code is stamped on the receipt after a purchase, allowing visitors to enjoy playing pinball and other arcade staples on free play in their back room. On the Saturdays I have went in to shop (always on my way to their arcade a couple blocks down the street), the crowd is healthy and diverse, and the space is chill and unpretentious. It has the casual and welcoming vibe the arcade possess, along with a space that is incredibly pleasing, open and catering perfectly to the neighborhood. — Carrie McGath
Logan Hardware is located at 2532 W. Fullerton Ave.
Crate diggers and vinyl aficionados will fall in love with this 47-year-old shop that's jam-packed with rare finds, if you take the time to dig. They also sell CDs, laserdiscs, 8-tracks and cassettes, but the draw is finding something on vinyl you may have lost or never heard of that makes an ideal addition to your record collection. Looking for a new turntable or record player? Beverly Records sells those, as well. If you're a tavern owner or someone that owns a jukebox, Beverly Records has a 45 club with a $10 registration that gets you a 10 percent discount on all 45s, custom printed labeling and a newsletter letting you know of new 45s that have arrived in the store. — Chuck Sudo
Beverly Records is located at 11612 S. Western Ave.
Less crowded than Reckless, cheaper than Dave’s and less picked over than, umm, Reckless, Permanent Records has carved out a nice space in the record store stronghold of the northwest side. Their bread and butter are quality but well priced used vinyl. We’re not just talking about the tried and true rock classics, used copies of newer and lesser-known albums are readily available alongside Dark Side of the Moon. They have a smaller selection than other stores, but seem to value quality over quantity. This is a welcomed sign for anyone who loves picking up new vinyl but doesn’t want to spend three hours on a Saturday doing it. — Rob Winn
Permanent Records is located at 1914 W Chicago Ave..
Laurie’s Planet of Sound
A longtime staple of Chicago’s Lincoln Square neighborhood, Laurie’s Planet of Sound, they of the sardonic ‘do not buy’ list of two years back, was named as one of the best in the U.S. by Rolling Stone. But don’t take their word for it. One step inside the true friendly confines of Laurie’s reveals a remarkable, loving devotion to all things indie, underground, and cult that lets you know the praise isn’t just empty hype. [Check out the wall of cheeky horror and erotic DVDs for some true buried treasures.] The subtle waft of incense will set your mind at ease as you browse their shoegazer section, or as you peruse the Ghosts of Record Store Days Past. Whether you’re picking up an exclusive lost classic, or a music DVD of an old favorite band, Laurie’s is absolutely a Chicago essential.— Jon Graef
Laurie’s Planet of Sound is located at 4639 N. Lincoln Ave.
Hyde Park Records
This South Side record store has seen a complete makeover in the past decade. Once a drab used record shop, Hyde Park Records has now become a favored spot for crate diggers, DJs looking for that unique and rare 45 or dance mix for their collections, and other vinyl enthusiasts, as well as shoppers looking for used CDs and DVDs. Their DJ nights are very popular and bring in people from inside and outside the neighborhood, while their live events feature talent drawn from Hyde Park and across the South Side. Few record stores endear themselves into a neighborhood fabric like Hyde Park Records. —Chuck Sudo
Hyde Park Records is located at 1377 E. 53rd St.
Bob Koester of Delmark Records and Jazz Record Mart. (Photo credit: Nora McMahon)
Jazz Record Mart
I’ve spent days of my life rooting through the vinyl and CD racks at this iconic downtown store. Jazz Record Mart is the world’s largest collection of jazz and blues record store. A sizable portion of that collection consists of the Delmark Records catalog. (Owner Bob Koester founded both JRM and Delmark.) But there are also scores upon scores of used records, new releases and reissues by Blue Note, Verve, Decca and other famous labels, imports and box sets on vinyl, CD and more. Jazz Record Mart has had an itinerant life, moving several times in the past 20 years. Like the music it sells, it’s proven to be stalwart and capable of surviving. —Chuck Sudo
Jazz Record Mart is located at 27 E. Illinois St.
Saki is a still a fairly new addition to the local indie record store scene, but there are no first time mistakes or amateur hiccups in sight at this Logan Square spot. That’s thanks to a well curated selection of music, books and zines, art and even some audio equipment thrown in there along with a stellar live schedule, saki is spacious while still inviting. The layout isn’t cramped, so you can enjoy browsing while one of the numerous local acts or touring bands play live. It’s a little off the beaten path compared to some other record stores (looking at you, cramped Reckless Records in Wicker Park), but that just means we feel more comfortable browsing their collection of local releases, niche albums and great compilations even longer when we visit. It’s the perfect spot to grab some new suggested tunes from the staff, take in an intimate in-store set and relish an afternoon of digging through new and used vinyl in one of the more laid back, relaxing record stores in the city. — Lisa White
saki is located at 3716 W. Fullerton Ave.