Longevity. No word better describes Gramaphone Records, which has been selling quality vinyl on Chicago's Northside since 1969. The store has embraced the city's love of jazz and blues and has played an integral part in the explosion of house and hip-hop music thereafter. And even with vinyl sales steadily declining these days, 12"s remain the store's staple product. "We'll stick with it as long as we can and it'll be probably be 2020 in Gramaphone and you'll still see a majority of vinyl," says store manager Andy Moy, who's been with the outfit since 1984.
While Gramaphone has recently moved a few blocks north of its original location to a more spacious site at 2843 N. Clark, the essence of the store hasn't changed a bit. "It's a meeting place, kind of like the barbershop," says Moy. "You have everybody in the music business coming over to meet people, give each other a hug, ask them what's going on this week, what's happening. And that's what the store is all about: it's a community. That's what we've always billed the store as–35 years later it still has the same feeling."
The barbershop-like atmosphere has attracted world-renowned talent over the years–both workers (e.g. Derrick Carter and DJ PNS) and shoppers (e.g. Daft Punk and Paul Oakenfold). Moy, who introduced house music to the store, cites the arrival of Derrick Carter as helping spark this phenomenon. "In this business you meet people who come and go, but people like him–this man had music in his blood, just pouring out of his pores," says Moy. "And I recognized it right away."
Reaching out to up-and-coming talent has been a regular occurrence with the Gramaphone family, whether it's employing well-known DJs or stocking albums from an unsigned act. "We like to try to make artists out of whoever we can," says Moy. "You got talent? It's our job to try to get you up there. 'Cause that's what the music business or any art is all about. And that's what we pride ourselves on."