Sunday, February 14, 2010

RIP Vinyl Fever

Because I got my Master's at Florida State, I had the pleasure of living in Tallahassee for three years. During my second year there, I grew tired of taking out student loans and decided to get a job to augment my incredibly meagre stipend. Initially I worked at Waterworks as a cocktail waitress on the weekends, but not long after I also began working at Vinyl Fever, Tallahassee's best-loved independent record store. I was also a TA, of course, so you can imagine that my translations of Euripides and Tibullus suffered to a certain - ahem- extent.

I worked at Vinyl Fever for about a year before I decided I just couldn't handle the two jobs on top of TAing and my own grad classes. At that point I made one of my great mistakes and one that I regret to this day - instead of quitting my job at Waterworks, I quit my job at the Feve. I didn't really think about it too much then, so I didn't register the fact that monetarily it would have been in my interests to stay at the record store (especially given the vagaries of waitressing in contrast to the Feve's employee discount). Most importantly, for my own peace of mind and happiness, staying at Vinyl would have been far and away the better choice. I desperately want a time-machine so I can go back six years and slap myself, hard, for being such a moron.

Vinyl Fever. (Pics from Lee, former owner.)
Vinyl Fever was not the first record store I worked at that died a terrible death. When I was an undergrad at Virginia Tech, I worked at Crossroad's, Blacksburg's awesome-est independent music store (take that, Record Exchange!). Eventually the owner of Crossroads bought out a competitor, transformed us into a movie-rental record store, and set us on the relatively brief slippery slope to 'going-out-of-business.' (Technically it still exists, but in a new location and not at all the same store I worked at in 2000.) And while that was sad, it was nowhere near as apocalyptically terrible as Vinyl Fever closing today, February 14th, 2010.

Vinyl Fever ruled. It had a kick-ass selection of new discs, used and vinyl.

It had tons of character, and because it had been around for many years, it was full of junk past employees had made or left behind.
The Wall of Shame. Every kid caught stealing had their polaroid taken and posted in the back. The pictures stretched all the way through the 90s.

The customers were cool, especially the ones who came back every week and wanted to talk shop with you. Best of all, of course, were my fellow employees. You know all those stereotypes out there about nerdy record store emps? They're actually correct, for the most part. I think Vinyl Fever was good at keeping out the totally pretentious people and instead somehow managed (at least when I worked there) to employee awesome, funny, down-to-earth, and seriously earnest kids.

Kirk Lawrence in the Vinyl Fever parking lot, the day a DeLorean came.
That's the thing about record store employees. They're incredibly passionate. Now, I've worked in all sorts of retail and service jobs, from media outlets to pizza delivery to grocery stores to restaurants. And nowhere, of all the places that I've worked, have my co-workers been so excited, so into the product that they sell, so much fun to be around.

My Stones Throw Records display. We made this the day Ian Mott (of Poster Job fame) and I decided we were tired of not getting any free promos from Stones Throw; we plastered up the display and sent the label a picture in the hopes that they would send us some free schwag. They never replied. Thanks for nothing, Peanut Butter Wolf!

As you can imagine, Vinyl Fever has developed into a mythical sort of place in my memory, my time there a Golden Age...literally - my memories of it are tinged with the hot afternoon light that used to slant in through the windows and 1) make everything glow, and 2) blind us all. For me, Vinyl Fever embodies a time when I was still wild and young and carefree, a time before I sold my soul to academia. Knowing that the doors are closing for the final time today makes a little part of me die inside. It's as if the invisible Gates to Fairie are shutting forever and thus sucking all the magic out of the world. The comforting fact that Vinyl Fever is still trucking along with Tom Richardson at the helm can no longer be the foundation for my nostalgic vision of Tallahassee. It's a terrible day for me, personally, and for all fans of independent record stores, everywhere.

Woe to the world. An Era ends.



Katie, don't despair. Vinyl still survives but unfortunately gets centralized in less and less hubs, like Athens, Georgia, Philadelphia.

J. Harker said...

That is a pity! Man!

But the Wall of Shame is incredible.

doug said...

That's unfortunate, especially since the business itself was doing so well.

Sounds like it was a great place.

Katie Rask said...

Thanks for the emotional support, everyone :)

Anonymous said...

Awesome store, awesome post, sorry about you having to grow up and become an academic. We used to have a similar store in Ft. Lauderdale, called Peaches, that closed about ten years ago. Now it's a Hustler adult video/sex toy shop. Draw your own conclusions about the decline and fall of western civilization . . .

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Tallahasse and visited VF quite a bit from the mid 80s to early 90s. That was when Kim and Lee were there. They were awesome! My biggest VF regret was (and still is) not buying a DJ Dick CD that I have never seen anywhere else since.

Anonymous said...

Man I lived and breathed at this place as a kid when my mom was in school in the 90's at FSU. Im pissed that I found out now....