9 Excellent Chicago Record Stores You Should Visit
By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Apr 14, 2016 5:00PM
Photo by Maarten Van Damme
I am no fan of Record Store Day but I love, love, love actual record stores. In an age when so much music is available at our fingertips, visiting a record store still fills an innate need, offering a sense of community and human contact spurred by a mutual love of music. And these shops can also be educational. Every store on this list employs folks who are more than happy to chat about music with you. They will learn about your likes and dislikes and do their best to turn you onto something new. In my mind, that’s the best thing about record stores; they foster a sense of discovery. No matter how old or new the records in the bins you flip through may be, they all hold the promise of changing your life with sound.
The list that follows are just nine of Chicagoist's favorites, but I must stress that I have yet to enter a bad record store in the city. So if your personal favorite isn’t on this list, don’t take it personally; I trust it’s just as awesome as the shops below. And for brevity’s sake I excluded anything not strictly in the city limits—but if you have a car or Ventra card I highly recommend hitting up Rolling Stones Music in Norridge or the legendary Val's Halla Records in Oak Park.
Reckless Records in Wicker Park, photo by Jim Kopeny / Tankboy
Reckless is the grandaddy of indie record stores in Chicago. The Broadway flagship store has stayed in the same spot, but the Wicker Park location keeps moving in order to open up more space and, presumably, stay ahead of rent increases as the neighborhood has grown in popularity. In the ‘90s Reckless was the epitome of indie—you were afraid to buy an uncool record for fear the staff would laugh in your face—but in later years the folks behind the counter have turned into trusted, and less judgmental, advisors and confidants. The selection of music, both used and new, is staggeringly deep, and affirms Reckless’ reputation as Chicago’s premiere record store.
Reckless Records is located at 3126 N. Broadway and 1379 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Photo via the Gramaphone Records Facebook page
Gramaphone specializes in electronic dance singles and LPs—it's the center of the universe in Chicago when it comes to remixes from all over the globe. Are you looking for the latest Detroit techno? Gramaphone has it. How about a German remix of a Chicago house tune? Gramophone has it. The latest from Bon Jovi? Gramophone doesn’t have it. basically, if you want to fill your house with the latest in cutting edge beats, or just relive last Saturday night’s packed dance floor at Smart Bar, then Gramophone has what you’re looking for.
Gramaphone Records is located at 2843 N. Clark St.
Photo via the Logan Hardware Facebook page
Logan Hardware started out as a small record store with a few arcade machines in the back room you could play for free if you bought $10 worth of merchandise. Since then, the arcade swallowed the records and the location added a bar, which meant the actual records had to move a few blocks west. Logan Hardware has a nice selection of CDs, alongside new and used musical gear, but it's their bargain priced records that I love. If you’re looking to beef up your selection with vintage vinyl, the kind that feels like it might be a millimeter away from being transparent, then I urge you to dig through the selection at Logan Hardware.
Logan Hardware is located at 2532 W. Fullerton Ave.
Laurie’s Planet Of Sound
Fist of all, we know lots of people think that a woman named Laurie owns this joint, but don’t go in looking for her. The owner is actually John Laurie, a suburban record clerk who decided to just open up his own shop in the late ‘90s. The selection at Laurie’s is vast, and it's the kind of shop you can lose an afternoon in. Laurie's Planet Of Sound also fosters a pretty devoted community of shoppers and employees, so there’s definitely a family feel to the joint. This is also ground zero if your tastes are largely suited to the sounds of MTV's 120 Minutes or all thing underground in the '80s and '90s. Our one word of advice if you’re looking to sell must there? Make sure you check out their do not buy list first!
Laurie’s Planet Of Sound is located at 4639 N. Lincoln Ave.
Photo via the Dusty Groove Facebook page
If you’re looking to get your old school should on, or find exotic jams from all over the planet, then you’ll want to head to Dusty Groove. But the beat isn’t the only thing powering this shop. Since the close of the Jazz Record Mart earlier this year, Dusty Groove is where we turn when we’re looking to further our adventures into the realm of jazz. Dusty Groove is also the kind of shop where the average patron will probably only recognize a smattering of the records in the bins, so there’s a whole lot to discover in your explorations here.
Dusty Groove is located at 1120 N. Ashland Ave.
Photo via the Hyde Park Records Facebook page
Hyde Park Records
Looking to do some weekend crate digging? Then Hyde Park Records is where you want to head. This South Side spot caters to everyone, but if you’re a DJ—or just like to play one at home—their stacks are worth a careful comb-through. The store also hosts plenty of DJ events, so even if you’re not in the mood to buy some vinyl you can still get your groove on.
Hyde Park Records is located at 1377 E. 53rd St.
Photo via the Dave's Records Facebook page
Dave sells records. Just records. Vinyl, vinyl, vinyl and nothing else. At all. Dave is as old school as you get. His most modern move in recent years was to start a blog. On MySpace. That he never updates. Dave’s Records rules.
Dave’s Records is located at 2604 N. Clark St.
Photo via the Permanent Records Facebook page
I’ve always viewed Permanent Records as the snotty younger sibling to the more established Reckless Records. They don’t share ownership, but there’s something in the vibe of the DNA of both shops that just feels familiar. But if Reckless is the cool dad, then the Permanent staff are the well meaning, if sometimes bratty, teenagers. The shop hosts in-store performances, has a wide and varied selection of music, and generally just maintains a kick-ass vibe. Occasionally you can find the folks behind the counter spinning records around town as—wait for it—the Permanent Records DJs; practicing what they preach and spreading the good will of cool music.
Permanent Records is located at 1914 W. Chicago Ave.
Photo via the 606 Records website
606 Records is definitely the newest record store on this list. Located in Pilsen across from Thalia Hall, and owned by Tim Unsell and Drew Mitchell, the shop specializes in delivering offerings from smaller and harder to find labels. No indie snob will be able to turn their nose up at this selection, and less experienced listeners can expect to stumble across new discoveries. Head on down and welcome the youngest addition to our list in person.
606 Records is located at 1808 S. Allport St.
UPDATE: Unfortunately saki closed its doors at the end of 2016.
Photo via the saki Records Facebook page
saki is one of the newer stores on this list, and sprouted in response to the growing legions of hipsters in Logan Square right as that neighborhood started blowing up. Selection-wise they cater to pretty mainstream tastes, but to me their true value is in the community they foster, holding fairly frequent in-store performances from local groups. And while the selection is pretty standard the staff is always willing to bend your ear and suggest something a little further off the beaten path. They’re like dealers; you get a taste of something standard and then they hook you on more challenging (often rewarding)stuff.
saki is located at 3716 W. Fullerton Ave.