New Kid on the Cherokee Street Block: Phono-Mode, A Record Store for Vinyl Junkies
Attention vinyl devotees and converts: There's a new place in town to get your 180 grams and 45s. Phono-Mode opened on Cherokee Street in April, and it's the only all-vinyl store in St. Louis.
Diana Benanti Get yr vinyl on at Phono-Mode, St. Louis' brand-spankin'-new record store on Cherokee Street.
Phono-Mode is located in the historic antique district, and it's owner Jason Lammert's first business venture. The place is small but stocked with everything from classic '60s rock and garage to newer indie artists; the store sold out of the new Broken Social Scene album in a few days. Lammert said he's primarily interested in '60's and early '70s. The prices range from 25 cents for 45s to $55 for a two-album Bauhaus reissue, but most of the records are in the $15 dollar range.
Lammert admits opening an all-vinyl record store in a down economy is a bit of a gamble, but he thinks the resurgence in vinyl collecting over the past few years has created a ready market. According to a Reuters article, Nielsen SoundScan reported 2.8 million vinyl units sold in 2009, up from 1.8 million in 2008. Lammert believes that CDs will become obsolete before vinyl does: "MP3s are the same quality as CDs, there's no reason to hang onto them when you have that digital format. A record is more nostalgic and collectable."
He said most of his customers have surprisingly been "people of our generation" and not people who lived through the heyday of vinyl. Phono-Mode's sole employee besides Lammert is local zinester Ben Stegmann, who added that Phono-Mode's clientele is niche-oriented in its tastes. "Beatles fans buy nothing but the Beatles, some people will only buy jazz and nothing more."
What Phono-Mode will carry depends on the limitations of the modest space, but Lammert is unpretentious and aims to appeal to a wide variety of tastes, from electronic to reggae, two genres that he thinks are lacking in the stock of other stores. Lammert said he shies away from the super mainstream stuff, most country and classical, but if, say, Justin Bieber were to come out with an LP, and someone really, really wanted it, he would be willing to order it.
There's been a lot of support from the neighborhood; when I arrived, Lammert was chatting with other shop owners on the street. The only complaints so far have been about their music being too loud. Lammert said they're going to put in a small listening station in the front of the store where people can hang out and listen before they buy.
Lammert doesn't think Phono-Mode will take business away from Apop Records -- which is located on Cherokee as well, west of Jefferson Avenue -- and said the proximity of the two stores may actually help his business. In fact, he thinks that Phono-Mode's size is an advantage, not a weakness: You can get through the stacks in an hour or so, which is an impossibility at more established stores such as Euclid Records or Vintage Vinyl.
And while Lammert of course wants people to come in to Phono-Mode, he says that people should frequent all the record stores in the city.
"People should go everywhere," Lammert says. "Check out as many places as you can."
2308 Cherokee Street
Monday and Tuesday: noon to 6 p.m.
Wednesday through Saturday: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Sunday: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.