Lasse Lutick fires up his electric drill and screws a cupboard door into place. With just a few days before the new shop opens, the Red Cat Records co-owner is rushing to put all the finishing touches on the largely empty, vinyl shop.
"This seemed like a really good idea," said Lutick of the shop expansion. "It's not like a booming business or anything, but it's definitely stable enough."
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Lutick and Dave Gowans bought Red Cat's Main Street store several years ago and are now betting on a second location on Hastings Street near Nanaimo Street in East Vancouver.
Though the new shop is replacing another record store, Horses Records, which closed recently after a couple years in business and another nearby record shop called Hits and Misses, which just closed its doors for good on Sunday, the vinyl industry, according to Gowans, is doing very well.
"I think it's still on the upswing," he said. "Maybe it's heading towards more of a plateau a little bit."
"People are still buying records. Each year, we're selling more vinyl than we're selling CDs."
'The vinyl business is huge'
Red Cat's competitor on Main Street, Neptoon Records, also seems to be enjoying the continued popularity of vinyl.
"The vinyl business is huge. Between the digging up of old classics and picking up the new ones, it's really a booming industry right now," said Neptoon manager Ben Frith."
"There was a time where the popularity of vinyl was dwindling. It never went away, but it definitely dwindled for awhile, especially through the '90s and even a bit into the early-2000s, but kind of early-mid-2000s, it started to slowly rise up a bit," he said.
"It's really just been a massive climb every year. I mean, you look at the sales numbers and you just see, it just goes up, up, up every year."
More tangible than digital formats
Many vinyl enthusiasts say they prefer the sound quality that records provide, but for some, it's simply having something to hold in your hands.
"It's gone so digital that a lot of people still like the idea of having something. They want to be able to hold onto something, something tangible," said Frith. "You know, with digital, you don't have that. You have a file that you paid money for that you're never going to see or hold."
Music collector J.P. Fulford pokes around all of the local shops. His CD collection has about 7,000 albums, but he's also got about 1,200 vinyl records.
"Vinyl is, you know, preferred, but I still buy CDs. Some of the music I like doesn't come out on vinyl," he said after picking up a couple records at Red Cat's Main Street store.
"It's kind of a return to vinyl for me. I don't know, it just seems like a lot more things are available that way, so I'm constantly surprised."
"It sounds good," Fulford said of vinyl. "I believe that it's fun to handle. It's fun to look at, and it's a bit of a fetish, to be fair. I mean, I like physical objects.
Lutick hesitates to wade into the vinyl versus MP3 battle, saying only that people who don't love the sound and experience of listening to vinyl simply won't get involved in collecting records.
"Vinyl has this very specific sound that people really like. It sounds great," he said. "I'm not going to say it sounds better, or whatever, because everyone can argue that to the end of time."
For Gowans, the appeal is definitely tied up in the tactile process involved in listening to records — and the contrast with the way mobile, digital music is consumed.
"It's a ritual. It's kind of like a relaxing ritual," he said. "It's like you're turning off for a little bit. It's time to actually chill out and listen to music instead of constantly multitasking."
"I have records that have — I refer to them as personalities … I'll know on track seven that one skips a little bit, or sometimes I'll have to throw a penny on the stylus to play a record all the way through."
Red Cat Records' Hastings Street location opens Sept. 17.
Follow Rafferty Baker on Twitter: @raffertybaker