Hitt Records addresses Columbia fans' hunger for vinyl

Tuesday, January 8, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CST; updated 4:32 p.m. CST, Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Kyle Cook and Taylor Bacon have opened Hitt Records on the top floor of the Ragtag Cinema.

COLUMBIA — A sticky note on a cardboard album cover at Hitt Records reads, "My favorite Joni record!"

Under the square of yellow paper lies Joni Mitchell's "The Hissing of Summer Lawns," which earned the singer a Grammy nomination in 1976.

Post-it notes like this can be found on albums all around Hitt Records, the retro music store in the Ragtag Cinema and Uprise Cafe building that opened in September. Owners Kyle Cook and Taylor Bacon want their customers to have the full vinyl experience. 

The two old friends opened Hitt Records to peddle their own collections of vinyl, as well as records they acquire from others. They decided a vintage vinyl shop in town would mesh nicely with the small but growing demand for vinyl nationwide.

According to the Nielsen Company & Billboard 2012 Mid-Year U.S. Music Industry Report, LP/vinyl sales went up 14.2 percent in the first six months of 2012, compared to the same period in 2011. The number jumped from 1.9 million to 2.2 million,  though the total represents just 1 percent of album sales overall.

A website called Vinyl Lives counts 20 record-press businesses still in operation in the United States, mostly in Los Angeles and Nashville.

The steady vinyl trend has been noticed by the media. In August, Fox Business did a piece about Brooklyn Phono, a New York company that presses vinyl. It released 400,000 records in 2011.

A 2011 NPR segment, "Slow And Steady: Vinyl Survives," reported that vinyl fans are particularly attached to the music of Arcade Fire, The Black Keys and Vampire Weekend, along with classics by the Beatles, Michael Jackson, Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd.

Dedication to music endures

The trends, though, don't matter much to Cook, 28, and Bacon, 30, who have been dedicated to music for years and are sharing their enthusiasm for vinyl through the store.

Cook started playing the French horn in fifth grade and has collected records since childhood.

“I own about 4,000 records,” he said. “I actually have a whole room in my apartment for them.” 

Bacon has been the drummer for a number of bands in Columbia and now plays with The Believers and The Onions. He began collecting records when he was 22 and has donated his collection of 1,500 to the store.

“In the very back of my mind, I always wanted to use them for a record shop,” he said.

Because the two are occupied with other jobs during the week, Hitt Records is only open from noon to 8 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays. 

"I don't plan on changing our hours," Cook said. "I want it to be a special thing, where you come and get a record once a week so you can really really appreciate it. By the next week, you are ready for a new one when the time comes."

Atmosphere designed for browsing

The ambiance of the store's second-story, attic-like space supports the idea that a trip to Hitt Records should be special.

Walls are covered with eclectic album choices such as Alice Cooper's "Pretties For You" and Etta James' "Call My Name." A crate filled with alphabetized classics occupies the center of the nook.

The store has seven record players, including a vintage Califone turntable, where customers can sample any album in the store. A vintage recliner in one corner lets browsers sit and spend  time with the collection. The shop is "soundtracked" by its own products. 

"I come once a week, every Monday," said Corey Ransberg, a regular Hitt Records customer. "I only buy one thing a month, but I still come every week just to stay and hang out."

Cook and Bacon met eight years ago as employees at Shakespeare’s Pizza. During one shift together, The Kinks was playing on the sound system. Cook expressed an appreciation for the band, and Bacon invited him to see a musical at Stephens College based on The Kinks’ album, "Arthur." 

Cook and Bacon connected again in 2006 at KOPN/89.5 FM. They are two of the four hosts of the revolving radio show, "Holy Victrola." It runs from 10 p.m. to midnight on Wednesdays with a variety of music, from psychedelic rock to pop.

They ended up together as employees of Uprise Bakery in the Ragtag building. Cook has worked at Uprise Bakery, as well as Ragtag, for nearly five years; Bacon has been with Uprise for three. 

Each week at the bakery they host Monday Night Vinyl, giving people a chance to sign up and play their favorite records for an evening. 

"We saw that there were a lot of people still using vinyl in Columbia," Cook said. "The wait list goes for six or seven weeks." 

Not easy for record stores to survive

Columbia has not had a shop solely dedicated to the sale of vinyl since 2009. Former vinyl stores included Whizz Records at 20 S. Ninth St., which later became Happy Time Media. When Happy Time Media closed, Mizzou Records opened for a short while at 1013 E. Walnut St.

According to Vinyl Lives, 4,000 music stores — including chains — closed between 2000 and 2010, and 1,600 independent record stores remain. In Columbia, Streetside Records on Providence Road, has announced it will close at the end of January.

The two Hitt Records owners say they fully intend to do what they can to rescue vinyl for fans, many of whom consider it an art form.

Sam Samstella said he used to make the trek to Jefferson City's vinyl shop, In The Groove Records, but can now stick closer to home.

"I'm glad there's a good record shop in Columbia now," Samstella said. "I can tell that they've been digging and picking stuff out. They have encyclopedic knowledge of music — they know what you want to hear."

Supervising editor is Jeanne Abbott.



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Eric Cox January 8, 2013 | 12:52 p.m.

Awesome, so glad to see this get off the ground and I can't wait to get up there and check it out in person. Another great specialty shop that helps keep the downtown area a fun and interesting place to be.

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