Worldwide vinyl sales may increasing at an exponential rate, but that won’t stop San Diego wax institution Off the Record from closing its doors at the end of April.
“You gotta be a hardcore music person to appreciate the fact that vinyl sounds better,” the store’s manager Paul Russe told SoundDiego. “Most people don’t care. They’re not concerned about that stuff. Music for a lot of people is background. For people who care about vinyl, music isn’t background — it’s foreground.”
Even though recent reports have vinyl sales up nearly 30 percent in 2015 over 2014’s numbers — the 10th consecutive year that vinyl sales have grown — it’s just not enough.
“Sure, vinyl sales are up,” Russe continued. “But they’ve come back from zero. It’s kind of a ‘isn’t that cute’ kind of thing. It’s a curio. ‘Oh, isn’t that an anachronistic way to listen to music.’”
And for Off the Record (currently located at 2912 University Avenue), that particularly enlightened demographic just isn’t enough to keep the store afloat. Russe explained the reasoning behind the closure.
“It’s not any one reason,” Russe said, sighing. “It’s a number of reasons: finances; gentrification of the neighborhood; the raising of rent; the fact that this neighborhood has transitioned from a place to shop to a place to drink — no one comes to record stores when they’re out drinking.”
It’s a sad, disappointing fate for the San Diego staple. Off the Record, which began its life in 1978 on El Cajon Boulevard in College Grove and then later on 5th Avenue in Hillcrest (where it moved in 1989), made a name for itself by being a one-stop shop for everything music: vinyl (new, rare and used), CDs (new and used), music-related posters, ‘zines, stickers, patches, and various other types of music merchandise.
It housed sweaty, jam-packed in-store shows by everyone from Nirvana to Slayer, Motorhead, Husker Du and the Misfits. Then in 2005, due to rising rent, low foot traffic and Hillcrest’s expensive metered parking, the shop relocated again to North Park, which was in the midst of a huge commercial revitalization that hinged mostly on the influx of countless pubs and craft beer breweries. According to Russe, the in-vogue neighborhood — which bustles nightly with local (and out-of-town) drinkers — also sealed the store's fate.
“It’s not a place where people come to shop anymore,” he explained. “It’s an area where people in their 20s come down to go to the 20-30 bars here. There’s hardly any retail stores open. Even Claire’s [Coffee Shop, which had been located next door] closed and they’ve been here for 21 years. They had to close for the same reasons. We used to have a lot of night business, but now that it’s a bar scene at night, you don’t go to a record store when you’re out drinking.”
While it’s a considerable shock to those of us that have spent countless hours flipping through their treasured bins, Russe and the rest of the staff are still reeling as well.
“I haven’t had time to digest it,” he said. “I just haven’t had time to think about anything because we’re trying to get everything priced and out on the floor. But, it blows. It’s a bit of a shock.”
For the opportunists out there (or maybe those that would like to come in one last time and pay respects), Off the Record is having a going-out-of-business sale until they shut their doors on April 30. New vinyl and CDs are 20 percent off, while used CDs and vinyl are 50 percent off. And for those that might be wondering — according to Russe, the shop has no plans to reopen somewhere else.
So whatever you do, be sure to head in for one last vinyl hunt before Off the Record stops spinning for good.