WTOP is proud to spotlight the many small businesses that make up the D.C. region as part of our Small Business September coverage. The Small Business September series is brought to you by EagleBank.
In an era dominated by digital streaming and instant gratification, running a vinyl record shop presents distinct rewards and challenges. For Charvis Campbell, who owns HR Records in D.C., it is all about passion.
“In a lot of ways, for us, this is about us celebrating music and celebrating what we love,” Campbell said.
HR Records (which stands for Home Rule Records) is on Kennedy Street in Northwest.
Campbell has been at that location for about five years now.
“There have been some collectors who have appreciated the sound of the vinyl and the experience that vinyl has,” Campbell said. “We have some loyal customers who I feel like come in almost every day, and that’s a wonderful thing.”
Vinyl records offer a certain tangible experience that digital formats can’t replicate, enthusiasts said. The act of flipping through album covers and the ritual of carefully placing the needle gives a unique feeling.
“I joke with people and say that you’re never going to get fat playing records,” said Campbell. “You have to get off your butt to flip the record eventually, especially if you’re trying to drop it and find a particular song.”
The sound of vinyl that people love is “hard to describe,” according to Campbell.
Unlike digital platforms, where an almost infinite library is a few clicks away, the selection in a record shop requires meticulous curation.
From tracking down rare and sought-after albums to maintaining a balance between classic favorites and contemporary releases, the constant pursuit of maintaining an appealing inventory demands time, dedication, and a deep understanding of music trends.
“To me, digital music almost sounds too perfect,” Campbell said. “It’s not layered, but with a good vinyl you’re going to hear those layers and hear everything you need to hear to feel good.”
Just about all small businesses went through a difficult stretch during the worst of the pandemic, and Campbell’s shop was no different.
He had to shut down the store for several months. However, Campbell was able to find new ways to reach more customers.
“During COVID, people found a greater sense of love for vinyl,” he said. “We were shipping domestically and everywhere all over the world for many months, and that’s what kept us in business.”
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