A Superior native and long-time music collector who haunted some legendary, long-lost Twin Ports area record stores plans to open his own shop in Duluth’s Lincoln Park Craft District.
Todd Hanson, owner of Hole in the Wall Books and Records in Hayward, has announced plans to open a new store in the former Riverside Flooring building at 1814 W. Superior St. this fall. The store will be called River City Records and Books.
Hanson said he will consolidate his Hayward store, which opened in 2017, and a former store in Rice Lake, Wis. at the new Duluth location. Dury Nelson will serve as the store manager.
“We’re just going to go bigger in a bigger population,” he said.
Hanson said the new store will have a major music focus offering new and used records in a wide variety of genres including jazz, funk, soul, reggae, punk, heavy metal and classic rock. There are also plans for the store to include a performance space for live music.
Comic books, used CDs and DVDs will also take up floor space but the heart of the business will be vinyl records and books, said Hanson.
“I want to carry stuff that’s more eclectic music-wise,” he said. “You can go to Walmart and buy Taylor Swift — not that I won’t carry Taylor Swift at times — but I want to carry what you can’t find at the big-box stores.”
Duluth has a diverse music audience, said Hanson, so River City Records and Books will specialize in variety.
“I want teenagers to buy records all the way to people older than me and everybody in between,” he said.
Hanson said he has acquired a large number of record collections in the past six years and will move them all into the Lincoln Park store. “I don’t have enough space in Hayward,” he said. “So there will be a lot of cool records going into the Lincoln Park store.”
Hole in the Wall Books and Records in Hayward will close this fall.
Hanson, 61, grew up in Superior and attended the University of Wisconsin-Superior where his father taught in the education department. In the late 1980s and early ’90s, he performed in an alternative rock band called the Reason, which toured the upper Midwest.
But Hanson fell in love with record and book stores at a young age in Duluth.
“I go way back to Carlson Book, Last Place on Earth and Young at Heart records,” he said. “Those were my (1970s). I remember taking the bus over there and buying comic books and records at Carlson Books. It was so cool.”
Duluth has been without a retail store dedicated to new and used music since the Electric Fetus closed at the outset of the pandemic. Hanson said he was surprised no one stepped in to fill the void.
When customers from the Twin Ports visited his Hayward store, talk would turn to opening a place in Duluth.
“Everybody I talked to said you should try Lincoln Park. It’s the up and coming area. The craft district — just the cool shops — my store fits perfectly in that kind of environment,” he said. “I think I’m lucky that nobody else has gotten in there. Just happier than heck.”
According to St. Louis County property records, the building at 1814 W. Superior St. was constructed in 1886. A 2017 Lincoln Park Neighborhood Resources Survey recommended the property be included in a West Superior Street Commercial Historic District. The survey said the two-story structure was originally built as a retail store, common in the neighborhood at the time.
According to city directories at the Duluth Public Library, the building became home to Greene-Grignon Granite Company in the 1920s. The company manufactured cemetery headstones and other stone monuments for decades. Greene-Olsen Memorials closed in 1981 and the building served as a Salvation Army store for the next 11 years.
Riverside Flooring took over the space in 1993. According to a 1991 Duluth News Tribune article, Alan Anderson started Riverside Flooring in the town of Blackhoof outside Barnum in 1981. The business moved to Esko before landing in Lincoln Park.
Property records show Enger Lofts LLC owner Alan Nelson purchased the property in May 2023 for $340,000. Riverside Flooring closed around that time. Its website is no longer active and calls to a business phone were not returned.
Hanson said he signed a three-year lease and will operate his store on the 4,000-square-foot main level.
Brick-and-mortar stores face difficult online buying and streaming service challenges but Duluth music fans said stores can also be a gathering place for the community.
Longtime record collector Walt Dizzo said he was excited to see a new music store in town. “I welcome all chances for record buyers and music lovers like me to have a new place to check out and shop and support,” he said.
While there are still a few used record stores in the Twin Ports, Dizzo said some locals travel to the Twin Cities in search of new and hard to find artists on vinyl. Big-box stores like Target and Barnes & Noble are the only places in Duluth that sell new releases. “Hopefully (River City will have) more indy and interesting titles than the average mall store,” he said.
Duluth singer-songwriter Danny Frank said Duluth can always use another music-scene hub. A place where artists can sell merchandise and promote and perform shows.
“I think it’ll be a benefit,” said Frank. “In addition to having a music store, I think it’s important to have a place that’s really going to put an emphasis on local music, particularly in a place like Duluth where we have such a vibrant music scene.”
With its growing number of breweries, restaurants and shops, a Lincoln Park store should provide good exposure to local artists.
“That’s the perfect place,” he said. “Records are sort of a hipsters paradise and Lincoln Park is definitely that.”
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