By Cecilla Chan, GSN Managing Editor
Darren Skarecky is a numbers guy, a certified public accountant by trade.
How he ended up opening a store in Gilbert that sells music is largely due to his father, Dick Skarecky.
“He had been collecting well over 20 years and had over 15,000 records at his house and getting a little bit of flack from my mom,” said Skarecky, who grew up in Gilbert and now lives in Queen Creek. “It was starting to take over the house and I threw out the idea, ‘Let’s open a record store.’”
That suggestion led to Grace Records, which opened last December at San Tan Village outdoor mall near San Tan Village Parkway and Williams Field Road. It’s the only independent vinyl records store in Gilbert so far – and one of the few in the entire East Valley.
The store’s initial stock came from the collection belonging to Skarecky’s dad, who would play his records on one of three turntables at his Gilbert home.
“He still has at least 5,000 records,” Skarecky said. “He didn’t get rid of all of them.”
The store, which has listening stations for customers, replenishes its shelves with new and used records. The bulk or 85 percent of its 10,000 records for sale are used, selling for $3 each.
“We keep it simple and cheap,” said assistant manager Mitchell Atencio. “We have every new release, every genre and we can do specialty orders, too.”
The store also has music from the 1920s, but they are 78s and not a big seller.
One of the things that make Grace Records unique, Atencio said, is its vast collection of Hip-Hop artists.
“We bought 600 records of Hip Hop from the East Coast and shipped it out here and built a table for it,” Atencio said.
That genre of music got its start on the East Coast and includes artists such as Wu-Tang Clan, Jay Z, DMX, Busta Rhymes, Public Enemy, Gang Starr and Notorious B.I.G.
Grace Records also sells turntables from $60 entry-level record players to $500 primo models and music memorabilia such as T-shirts, lunch boxes and posters. Every other Saturday, a local band performs at the store.
As Grace Records heads towards its first anniversary, it is planning for Record Store Day on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.
The event was conceived in 2007 as a way to celebrate and spread the word about the unique culture surrounding nearly 1,400 independently-owned record stores in the country, according to the Record Store Day website.
Record Store Day takes place in April and November, when special vinyl and CD releases and various promotional products are made exclusively for the day.
Some of the anticipated 157 releases on Black Friday this year include music from Judas Priest, Sheryl Crow, Grateful Dead and Alice Cooper.
“We have many, many limited releases coming out,” Skarecky said. “We will have all kinds of additional sales that day and week, too, and we may have live music and some giveaways for fun.”
Vinyl’s comeback started over a decade ago, and many say it’s here to stay.
Vinyl LP has been seeing a sales growth for 12 consecutive years, with 14.3 million albums sold in 2017, up 9 percent from the year before, according to the Nielsen Music Year-End Report.
The top-selling LP of that year, by the way, was the re-release of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which sold 72,000 records, according to Nielsen. The Sgt. Pepper album also was a best seller when it was first released back in 1967.
Grace Records’ customers include all age groups.
“We get younger kids, that is why we chose a mall setting,” Skarecky said. “It’s a little bit more accessible to the younger audience. We have lot of kids, pre-teens who are buying their first turntables and their parents are buying older records and newer records. We also got people in their 70s and 80s coming in.”
The hottest-selling artist at his store right now is Queen, with the buyers being teenagers, according to Skarecky, who is 46 and grew up listening to CDs and LPs. He was a fan of Beastie Boys’ Licensed to Ill album when it was released in 1986.
Teens also are scooping up The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd at the store, Skarecky said.
In fact, it’s young people who are driving vinyl sales, industry experts say.
Nostalgia may be what is bringing older listeners back to the fold, but for younger fans it’s another story.
“I think they grew up in the digital age, having nothing tangible as related to music,” Skarecky said.
With vinyl, they are actually taking it out of the sleeve, putting it on a turntable and listening while watching, he said.
“It’s an intentional act of listening to someone,” he said. “Digital media is kind of in the background. It’s an appeal to younger kids who have never experienced anything like that before.
“Records have been around 100 years, but we are definitely seeing a resurgence. The younger generation is really latching on to it and really appreciates the appeal.”
Besides an album’s artistic cover, which some people buy just to hang on the wall, the sound quality from an analog recording surpasses that of digital, according to Atencio.
“The sound quality is better than anything out there and has been for a long time and is only getting better with new technology,” Atencio said. “It’s better than streaming off Spotify.”
Lot of the new releases also come with a code for people to get a digital download of the album online, he added. The industry has seen changes over the years.
Today’s records are 180-gram vinyl, which are stronger and more durable and less likely to scratch or warp.
And they are coming out in eye-catching colors like Dylan &The Dead, which features red-and-blue tie-dye vinyl. Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead’s original album released in 1989.
While many vinyl record pressings are duplicates of the original releases, there is new music from those artists in the mix.
“The brand-new stuff got The Beatles recording a performance on the BBC in the 1970s that never made it to vinyl before because they released other stuff,” Atencio said. “They are pressing onto vinyl old bands by going back and finding things and putting them out.”
Right now for Grace Records, the sky’s the limit for vinyl.
“I think it will continue to grow,” Atencio said. “There’s a whole new generation getting into vinyl for their own reason. Lot of people thought it was a fad when it started, but 10 years of sustained growth, it’s looking not so much a fad but a trend.”