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Turning the turntables: Gainesville's vinyl culture continues to grow in popularity

Benjamin Suarez, 21, looks through the rock/indie pop section at Hear Again Records. “I have a little bit over 30 [vinyl] right now,” Suarez said.
Benjamin Miller/WUFT News
Benjamin Suarez, 21, looks through the rock/indie pop section at Hear Again Records. “I have a little bit over 30 [vinyl] right now,” Suarez said.

Stepping into a record store for the first time can be overwhelming. The numerous rows of vinyl, the strange smell of aged record sleeves and customers quietly browsing between shelves stirs excitement and anxiety into the ambiance.

For some, a personal hobby was thrust into the stratosphere of popularity. For others, a new pastime exploded into cultural relevance.

Next to thrifting and the appeal of possessing things that have passed through the hands of others, record collecting represents the growing fascination with vintage novelties.

Quinn Messner, 37, works at Sunshine Records and routinely restocks the hip-hop/R&B and modern pop displays due to their popularity.

“Our modern pop section is picked clean right now,” Messner said, pointing to the lonely Adele and Beyoncé vinyl leaning on the back of the boxes. “People come and go right to that section.”

Sunshine Records opened in March 2023 and quickly grew a follower count of over 3,500 on Instagram. Since then, it hosted a back-to-school sale in September, once again attracting the attention of record enthusiasts from all walks of life.

Sunshine Records opened to the public just last year. “When I was in high school, I was buying records every day,” said Quinn Messner, who works at the record store.
Benjamin Miller/WUFT News
Sunshine Records opened to the public just last year. “When I was in high school, I was buying records every day,” said Quinn Messner, who works at the record store.

With this revival comes a high demand for vinyl-oriented shows, festivals and assorted sales. Sunshine Records, at 220 NW 8th Ave., co-hosted The Gainesville Record Fair, a free-entry event at Cypress and Grove Brewing Co. in late January with Bounty Records, an online vinyl store with a selection ranging in the thousands.

Hear Again Records is another record store with a front seat to the cultural revival that is vinyl collection.

Andrew Schaer, 47, owns Hear Again Records at 201 SE 1st St. and sees a wide array of people browsing through the orderly selections.

“It’s all over the map,” Schaer said. “It’s high school all the way up to anybody who can still hear.”

A unique quality of Hear Again is its large selection of alternative and indie records, as opposed to being more oriented toward used vinyl.

“When [younger people] come in here, I want them to find Melanie Martinez, I want them to find Taylor Swift or Cage The Elephant because that’s what’s big in their lives,” Schaer said.

“The more the merrier,” he added.

Schaer said a big part of the modern vinyl interest comes from the fact that the medium of vinyl is much higher audio quality than streaming services such as Spotify.

“Having things that quickly accessible is awesome,” Schaer said, “but in terms of the quality of what you’re listening to, you try to take that [streaming music] and amplify it in your family room, and it just doesn’t sound good.”

Schaer concludes that listening to music with friends with a streaming service just isn’t nearly as enjoyable and memorable as listening to records with a turntable.

“Nobody goes over to somebody’s house and says, ‘Hey, let’s grab a six-pack and stream these MP3s,’” Schaer said. “It’s just not a thing now, right?”

“But it is a thing to grab a six-pack and listen to some records, enjoy conversation, enjoy the company and tune off to everything,” Schaer added, “and I think that people really appreciate that.”

Vinyl stores come with their fair share of diverse and knowledgeable customers, like Benjamin Suarez, a 21-year-old geography major at the University of Florida.

“The first [vinyl] I bought at a record store was ‘The Score’ by The Fugees and ‘Blackstar’ by David Bowie,” Suarez said. “Growing up in the age of streaming, you have access to everything — so to have that physical aspect that you’re actually holding something is really cool.”

Suarez also spoke about how his friends share similar interests regarding vinyl collection.

“A few of my friends have record players, so we can go and buy vinyl together,” Suarez said. “It’s something in my small sphere of people that’s popular between us, which is very nice. Very convenient.”

The culture surrounding vinyl often extends to other vintage hobbies, like browsing through old, used books at Wormhole located at 1801 NE 23rd Ave. On top of being a bookstore, Wormhole also boasts a unique vinyl collection tucked away near the front of the store next to assorted CDs.

Philip Wurm is a book dealer who shares an interest in not only books but the assorted music merchandise he has hand-selected.

“Vinyl is trendy,” Wurm said. “I love the weirder, old stuff you can find on vinyl, but I just do that because I care about it.”

Similar to other independent businesses in the area, the music section is not just limited to vinyl or CDs.

“I have really weird cassette tapes from a bunch of different cultures,” Wurm said, pointing to a tape with a Japanese cover.

Wurm said that Wormhole hosts different literary reading events and small concerts for local artists. Wurm also boasts a working printing press that he uses to make things as small as business cards to as big as posters.

The local businesses and their dedicated customers are both primary contributing factors in keeping the thrifting and vinyl culture alive in Gainesville.

Benjamin is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.