Record seller finds success with new store
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.
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.