It’s not Record Store Day but it’s close: Philly vinyl shops re-open in “Code Yellow”

Record stores in the Philly region tackle reopening in the age of the city’s code yellow.

Of all things whose tops will pop in a Philadelphia marked “Code Yellow,” is record store shopping, an indoor sport where careful, but rapid crate digging and flailing of fingertips against stacks of vinyl LP covers is not to be taken lightly. Of course, all of this can – and has – been done online, before, during and after COVID-19. Several local store owners report surprisingly (at least to them) solid upticks in web purchasing from their shops, and expect things will stay that way – even now that customers can enter brick-and-mortar vinyl stops, albeit with rules of safe social distancing (no more breathing down another shopper’s neck while they shuffle through the rack you really want to be in) and proper floor markings, masks, sanitized hands and sneeze guards installed at counters as part of the live shopping experience.

And while several vinyl-centric shops opened on June 5 such as Port Fishington’s Brewerytown Beats and Main Street Music in Manayunk, it looks as if today, June 8, is a magical start point for many music purveyors such as the Italian Market’s Molly’s Books and Records, South Street’s Repo Records and the Rittenhouse area’s Long in the Tooth. Coming up next is South Philly’s Sit & Spin Records (June 13) and New Jersey’s Princeton Record Exchange (June 15).

Joe Ankenbrand of Molly’s says they’ve spent their C-19 time “laying low and selling vinyl on Instagram a lot.” He maintains that the store’s slow reopening will come with masks, and “with people, one at a time.”

Molly’s is a homey, intimately-sized space, as are several vinyl stores on this list. A spot such as Repo Records, however, is around 2,000 square feet and can allow 10 people in at a time, including Repo peeps Dan Matherson and Jacci Weaver.

“Repo has been closed since mid-March, which is sad, but we’ve done better biz online that we thought we would,” said Matherson, a vinyl purveyor who has been in the biz since 1986 and has no plans to retire. “We have always had our website, which always had some sales. One week after we closed, however, there was a 25% uplift on the website. So, we’ll keep that going even though we’ll be open – we’ve got 9,000 Instagram followers. We’re mailing out stuff regularly. Plus our regulars never stopped shopping here – once we went to twice-a-week curbside. This is all good since, who knows how people will be in Code Yellow. People might still be a little hesitant about coming indoors at first It’s like being an in a car accident- you stay away from driving for a minute, and then you’re ready.”

Jacci Weaver and Dan Matherson of Repo Records.

Hesitant or not, when they get to Repo, along with finding Jacci and Dan refreshed and ready to serve, they’ll see a new Op-to-Pop mural painted in front of Repo from South Street mural titan Adam Crawford. Bins and shelves have been reconfigured for more floor space and marked distance options. The checkout counter has a Plexiglass sneeze guard. They’ll be had sanitizer stations to go with all of the minute-by-minute cleanings.

“Oh, and there’s vinyl. Lots of vinyl,” said Matherson. And that’s the point of having a great, diverse, record store. Lots of vinyl.

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