The COVID-19 Impact On Buffalo’s Record Stores
With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic rampaging across the globe, many businesses have been flipped on their heels trying to think of creative ways to continue business while following required health procedures.
Most people are aware of the troublesome reality restaurants and other more common businesses have faced throughout this challenging time. Still, many aren’t aware of how niche businesses have reacted to these odd times, especially in the music community.
Record stores were once a staple of a city, allowing local customers to come and get their weekly or daily digest of great records. As great as this was for music fanatics, the streaming industry became a reality, prompting the closing of countless record stores as income from physical copies of music began to dwindle.
In Buffalo, Record Theatre was once the mecca of a record store in Buffalo but unfortunately closed its doors in 2017 after spending more than four decades slinging out records for Buffalo’s various music fans.
Today, there has been a small resurgence in record stores in Buffalo’s West Side with Black Dots Records, 368 Grant St. and Revolver Records, 831 Elmwood Ave. and 1451 Hertel Ave. These two record stores have filled the shoes Record Theatre left behind, with many music fans finding a new home to buy their records.
Like many other businesses facing the hurdle of COVID-19, these two record stores were confronted with a monumental task of doing business during a global pandemic.
“Surprisingly enough, we didn’t lose too much business throughout all this, and having an online presence as we do definitely helps,” said Black Dots Record co-owner Quinn Moore.
Black Dots opened its doors in 2013 when co-owner Joshua Smith wanted to create a record store in his basement dedicated to the punk and hardcore scene with the name of the business being coined after a “Bad Brains” LP.
Soon after, Black Dots developed a dedicated customer base, expanded its records for sale, and found a home on Grant Street. Earlier this year, Black Dots moved across the street into its current location, a larger building with a bar for record enthusiasts to grab a drink after buying a few records.
“Right now, business is basically the same, but we have to follow the guidelines. Everyone has to wear a mask and sanitize before they come in. So far, everyone has been cool, and we were able to receive a little bit of stimulus from the government, which helped a bit,” Moore said. “When we weren’t able to have customers in the store, we were online-only, which wasn’t too big of an issue since we list all of our inventory online and update it constantly. It’s how record stores stay open today.”
Having an online presence has been vital for record stores like Black Dots and Revolver to keep their doors open. Both businesses utilize Discogs, an online database that record stores can use to list their inventory.
Like Black Dots, Revolver has had a slow build of a following that has come to a reasonably impressive mark for any business to accomplish. They both may be benefitting from a trend nationwide in which vinyl records outsold CDs for the first time in 40 years. Unlike Black Dots, Revolver has faced a more difficult group of challenges throughout the pandemic.
“The pandemic has affected us in many ways,” owner Phil Machemer said. “We closed the doors to the shop in mid-March for about three months. At that time, I had to lay off all of my employees and I began running the day to day by myself.”
“We created a web store for our customers to buy directly through our website and choose to have their records delivered or shipped. I made the decision not to deliver records locally and it proved to be a huge success. We opened the store for inside shipping in mid-June and since then sales have been steady.”
Despite the pandemic and difficult time for any business to thrive now, Buffalo’s record store owners have adjusted what they can do for their stores and dedicated customer bases.
I originally wrote this for my school newspaper HERE.
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