The largest used record store in the region will go out of business this month after owners struggled to meet the demands of younger music lovers buying and selling collectible vinyl on the Internet.
The Vinyl Cave, 1717 Belknap Street in Superior, will close its doors Dec. 31. Owners Tom Unterberger and Tom Johnson hope to find a single buyer for an inventory that includes more than 10,000 albums, 300,000 singles, rock memorabilia and vintage stereo equipment.
Johnson, who retired from Burlington Northern Railroad three years ago, said the store complicates his tax returns and has become a financial burden. He said he can no longer afford to keep it open.
“It costs me money to be part of this now,” he said. “Let’s face it, we’re selling old records to people in Duluth and Superior. It’s not like we’re in New York or L.A. or Chicago or even Minneapolis where there’s a lot of people and a lot of money. There’s just not enough people here to keep it going anymore.”
Unterberger will move a small portion of the records to Globe News, a separate business he owns in the same building. The records will replace a greeting card section in the back of the store.
“I can’t get out of it,” he said. “In fact, I’m still buying vinyl.”
Unterberger said the Vinyl Cave has dedicated regulars but the store is not generating enough new, younger customers.
“The store’s still doing OK,” said Unterberger. “We had a great day on Saturday. But it’s just not all there. The 45 market has disappeared and we can’t find the kind of albums people are looking for anymore.”
Johnson agreed: “It’s not Ricky Nelson, Elvis and Connie Francis anymore,” he said. “It’s Tom Petty, Fleetwood Mac and CCR. It’s the heavy metal and hair bands from the ’80s. That’s what people are looking for now and it’s harder to find. We’re not able to restock like we used to.”
Internet sales, a big part of the vinyl market today, has not been a Vinyl Cave strong point.
“That’s part of the problem,” said Unterberger. “Neither one of us are that tech savvy.”
Unterberger and Johnson have sold used records in Superior for 18 years. In 1999, the pair purchased and moved Duluth’s Young at Heart record store inventory after owner Richard Wozniak retired. They also bought records from jukebox operators and private collections to stock a record room at Unterberger’s Viking Bar. The Vinyl Cave storefront opened on Belknap Street in 2008.
Customers on Monday were disappointed to hear about the closing.
“That’s a shame that they’re going to be closing,” said Duane Edblad, of Duluth. “I’ve spent a dollar or two here over the years.”
“Places like this are real gems. It’s sad to see they can’t make it,” said Jason Scorich, of Duluth. “I appreciate what they’ve done all these years keeping the records available here.”
Scorich was shopping for comedy, spoken word and show tune records from the 1950s and ’60s. He said without the Vinyl Cave he will be forced to shop online.
“It’s not the same as going through the stacks,” he said. “It’s not as fun.”
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