Record seller finds suc­cess with new store

North Penn Life - - DATEBOOK - By Brian Binga­man bbinga­man@jour­nal­reg­is­ter. com

Af­ter three lay­offs in a span of 10 years, enough was enough for East Norriton res­i­dent Ja­son McFar­land.

“Af­ter the last lay­off, I couldn’t find any­thing,” said McFar­land, who usu­ally has good for­tune with se­cur­ing job in­ter­views.

That was when he tried his luck on­line sell­ing record al­bums that he bought at yard sales, thrift stores and flea mar­kets. “It just kind of clicked,” he said.

“He’s al­ways been a col­lec­tor; he’s al­ways been a mu­sic fan. That’s one of the things that drew us to­gether,” said McFar­land’s wife, An­gela, who en­cour­aged him to pur­sue his life­long dream to open a record shop — some­thing ren­dered nearly ex­tinct in the dig­i­tal age.

The Vinyl Closet started in April 2011, out of a clos­et­like, 9-foot-by-5-foot room at the North Wales con­sign­ment shop Bow­man’s Emporium. “It seems risky to start a busi­ness in gen­eral. To start it in a down econ­omy, it’s cer­ti­fi­able,” said An­gela McFar­land, who de­spite hav­ing a full-time job, han­dles the busi­ness side of The Vinyl Closet, in­clud­ing its Face­book page, where fans re­spond to an­nounce­ments of new se­lec­tions, usu­ally ask­ing about spe­cific al­bums.

Word got around among record col­lec­tors and dealer cir­cles to the point where The Vinyl Closet re­quired its own store space.

Vinyl Closet fre­quent shop­per Adam Co­hen, a res­i­dent of King of Prus­sia, ex­plained why au­dio­philes fa­vor vinyl over dig­i­tal me­dia CDs and mp3s. “Sound moves in waves. A bit is a pic­ture — a lit­tle teeny pic­ture. The [sound fre­quen­cies] from the very top gets cut off [by dig­i­tal con­ver­sion of ana­log record­ings]; the stuff from the very bot­tom gets cut off,” he said.

“The whole other thing is the [al­bum] art­work,” said Co­hen, point­ing out the dif­fer­ence in size be­tween CD al­bum cov­ers and LP record sleeves, the lat­ter of which can hold posters, such as the one that came with The Bea­tles record al­bum “Let It Be.”

There are also out-of-print rar­i­ties avail­able only on vinyl, such as the ob­scure, psy­che­delic-era re­lease Co­hen pur­chased be­cause he was amused by the art­work and the liner notes.

In De­cem­ber, the McFar­lands signed a lease on a 650 square foot North Wales Court store at 117 W. Main St., which for now is enough to house the shop’s wide va­ri­ety of LPs, 45 rpm records, cas­sette tapes, eight track tapes, VHS movies, books — and yes, even used CDs.

McFar­land said that it’s pos­si­ble to buy six record al­bums for $5.25 or four video­tape movies for $12, bar­gains that res­onate in a slug­gish econ­omy.

An­gela McFar­land thinks her hus­band’s per­son­al­ity also has some­thing to do with the growth of the busi­ness. “He’s knowl­edge­able, he’s per­son­able ... and [the shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence] feels like they’re hang­ing out and lis­ten­ing [to records] in the base­ment,” she said.

“What’s amaz­ing to me is the walk-ins,” she said, telling a story about how her hus­band called her while she was mind­ing the store and was able to iden­tify a cus­tomer solely based on a phys­i­cal de­scrip­tion that she gave.

“He’s a jazz guy, put this on,” he said.

When asked about who was buy­ing records these days, McFar­land said, “Right now ... a lot of young guys are buy­ing.”

“I don’t look at it as a job, even though it is,” said McFar­land, who es­ti­mates that he in­vests 80-100 hours a week in the busi­ness.

“The hard part is you have to con­tin­u­ally buy. My whole thing is to turn it around,” he said, point­ing out that sell­ing mer­chan­dise and fresh­en­ing it up with new se­lec­tions is the name of the game.

Hours are noon to 7 p.m. Mon­days and Wed­nes­days through Satur­days; closed Sun­days and Tuesdays. Call 484-638-8761 or visit www. thevinyl­closet.com.

Pho­tos by GE­OFF PATTON

The Vinyl Closet owner Ja­son McFar­land, left, shares a find with cus­tomer Adam Co­hen while go­ing through a pile of used records he just pur­chased.

Along with records, The Vinyl Closet sells cas­settes, VHS tapes and more.

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