An old-school record store finds a new home in North Lawrence
photo by: Chad Lawhorn
When I recently told my kids I had an old J.C. Penney turntable in the storm shelter, I thought I would have to explain what a turntable was. Actually, no need. (They are still confused, though, about a J.C. Penney.) Instead, they made me drag out the turntable. That tells you a bit about why a pair of entrepreneurs have opened a vinyl record store in North Lawrence.
Orange Cat Records has opened in the last couple of weeks in the retail building at 923 N. Second St. If you don’t know where that is, it is a couple of doors down from Englewood Florists. (If you don’t know where every florist shop in Lawrence is located, you must not have a turntable that your spouse only recently learned about.)
Will O’Rourke and John O’Brien opened the shop after working together at a Kansas City music store for the past several years. It was easy enough to decide to focus on vinyl records. Both are collectors, and the big platters are having quite the renaissance. Teens definitely are one of the growing markets.
“It is a little bit of being hip,” O’Rourke said of what is driving teens to the old-school technology.
It is always difficult to ascertain why anything becomes hip, but O’Brien has a theory that the popular video game Guitar Hero has helped. When that game became popular about a decade ago, it exposed a whole new generation to heavy metal music that always has been popular on vinyl.
Teens, though, aren’t the only ones driving the market. There are a considerable number of 40-year-olds who are just old enough to have owned a few vinyl records. (They obviously are buying again, when, during the middle of a tornado, they realize they can’t find their AC/DC “Back in Black” album.)
Perhaps the most interesting group of buyers, though, are people who used to be collectors back in the ’60s and ’70s.
“They sold their collections when CDs came into vogue,” O’Rourke said, “and now they are buying back the same things they used to own.”
That is an easy market to spot. They’re the people who are constantly slapping their foreheads. Hopefully, they are not looking to replace an old Howling Wolf album. At about $180, that was the most expensive album I saw in the shop. Most, though, are in the $5 to $15 range.
There are both old and brand-new albums. Yes, music companies are again putting new releases out on vinyl, plus they do a lot of commemorative pieces. Used albums, though, will be Orange Cat’s bread and butter, O’Rourke said. He said, in addition to selling, the store buys albums from people looking to sell.
The store obviously will have some competition. Love Garden Sounds in downtown Lawrence has a big following. O’Rourke and O’Brien, though, aren’t viewing it as a competitive relationship. Instead, they think a mass of record stores in Lawrence will make Lawrence more of a destination for collectors.
“If there were five record stores in a block, collectors would go to all five of them,” said O’Rourke. He said they decided to open in North Lawrence in part because they like being just off the interstate, and also because he lives in North Lawrence.
The shop plans to be known for its heavy metal music collection, but it also will have several other genres, including some jazz and country. They also hope to be known for touting the uniqueness of an old-school album.
“This is so much different than buying music by a download,” O’Brien said. “When you go buy a record, there is a ritual to it.”
O’Rourke agreed, pointing to all the color and variety of album covers that adorn the shop’s walls.
“When you buy an album, it is music and art all in one,” he said.