2012-07-19 / Business News

Vinyl fix

What keeps them coming back
BY EVAN WILLIAMS


Bill Garner has owned House of High Fidelity in Naples since 1957. Lately, vinyl records have become more popular. 
EVAN WILLIAMS / FLORIDA WEEKLY Bill Garner has owned House of High Fidelity in Naples since 1957. Lately, vinyl records have become more popular. EVAN WILLIAMS / FLORIDA WEEKLY RENE MIVILLE, A TALL GENTLEMAN WHO lives on Captiva Island, told me he has a collection of more than 50,000 albums. Recently, he brought a few thousand to sell at the mixed boutique store in downtown Fort Myers, The Franklin Shops (a building he owns).

He stopped to say hi while I was looking at the records over the July 4 weekend. One record, he pointed out, pulling it off the shelf, could probably go on eBay for $10. But he’s selling them cheap, for $2 apiece; seven for $10; and so on. He’s not interested in the profit margin. Instead, he says, after seeing the light of vinyl’s far superior sound, he hopes to share his passion by getting more people hooked on that old-fashioned analog sound.

“You know, like a dope dealer,” Mr. Miville said. “It’s called price penetration.”


Ralph Tarantino has owned The Record Trader in Fort Myers since 1987. 
EVAN WILLIAMS / FLORIDA WEEKLY Ralph Tarantino has owned The Record Trader in Fort Myers since 1987. EVAN WILLIAMS / FLORIDA WEEKLY Once you get the taste for it, there are plenty of places around town to get your fix. I visited many of them and talked with consumers who attest to vinyl’s popularity among a smaller but energized niche of listeners. “There has been a resurgence,” said 57-yearold Cole Markland, a Port Charlotte resident who loves classic hard rock like Cactus and Black Sabbath. “It is true. It is true. I’m not saying it’s huge.”

Vinyl is less refined than ultra-smooth digital recordings, but has a straightforward, low-tech sexiness that never really went out of style the way tapes and even CDs have. When has anyone ever compared a CD to fine wine (as Mr. Miville does with vinyl), or become almost spiritual (in a Grateful Dead sort of way) when speaking about an MP3 file?


This Chubby Checker album brought back memories of the 1960s in New York City for David Arrowshmith. This Chubby Checker album brought back memories of the 1960s in New York City for David Arrowshmith. “Vinyl is the only way to go, man,” said Michael Mozzetti, a 29-year-old DJ who was shopping at TJs Cd’s & More in Port Charlotte last week. “Vinyl’s the best. As long as you can keep ‘em clean, you’re good to go. There’s nothing better than a clean record and a clean needle.”

He laughs.

“It’s tradition, man. It brings you to that place and that’s what music’s supposed to do. Vinyl’s the only way to get you to that place, man.”

Easy on the ears

On U.S. 41 just south of Hanson Street, below a tattoo parlor, The Record Trader is crammed with LPs, 45s, comic books, action figures, CDs and tapes. Owner Ralph Tarantino, hidden behind a counter, was listening to old, profane Robin Williams comedy sketches one day last week.


Music enthusiast Cole Markland at TJ’s Cd’s & More in Port Charlotte. Music enthusiast Cole Markland at TJ’s Cd’s & More in Port Charlotte. “This is my little piece of heaven,” said Mr. Tarantino, who opened the store in Fort Myers in 1987. Business has more ebbed than flowed over the years, but this year has been a bright spot for vinyl — his best sales year out of the last 10, he said. Aside from the diverse collection of records in the store, from cheap ones to pricey collectibles, he sells at Fleamasters Fleamarket and on eBay.

“I think analog is what we speak and what we hear,” he said, making the case for vinyl. “Analog is easy on the ears. Digital is just a bunch of numbers. How do you tell a computer to add feelings? I believe analog is a warmer sound. It’s a living sound.”

The Record Trader also has plenty of old turntables, tuners and speakers, and Mr. Tarantino can patch together a system for you.

If you’re looking for a new or high end turntable, try House of High Fidelity in Naples, which also sells televisions, new and used records, and is a repair shop. “A lot of people are bringing in turntables needing cartridges, belts, and we can pretty much take care of all of ‘em,” said owner Bill Garner.

A high-end system there includes a Jolida tube amplifier ($1,139), Klipsch loudspeakers ($3,200 per pair), a Music Hall turntable ($449), and a separate pre-amp ($429.) An expensive system like this would qualify you to be in an “audiophile music lovers club” that Mr. Miville said he hopes to start. If you’re interested and have a serious sound system, contact him at rmiville@comcast.net.

High Fidelity also carries new systems in the $500 to $600 range, Mr. Garner said. The store beefed up its selection of albums and turntables since the format has gained popularity.

“It’s really been in the last year and a half or two years that we started to see it come back,” said Mr. Garner, who is 83. “More and more people are starting to get into it so we decided we’d get into it as well.”

He echoes Mr. Tarantino’s feelings about vinyl’s superior sound.

“It’s not sterile like CDs,” he said. “It’s all pure analog, which is the way we hear. It’s more like it’s a live performance.”

Mr. Garner opened the shop in 1957 in Naples, and back then they used to have a jukebox that played 45s.

“We were close enough to the school that kids would come in and play the jukebox,” he said. “It used to drive me nuts when they were all playing records, but it was fun.”

Making the case for vinyl

Mr. Miville said he also appreciates the big, colorful album covers, which are now more remote and intangible behind glass screens.

His personal taste in music runs towards 1950s crooners like Frank Sinatra, as well as jazz and opera, he said, but that isn’t the majority of what he brought to the Franklin Shops, a selection that includes popular music from the 1960s to the 1980s.

Although he has an extensive digital selection, he insists, “If you listen to an MP3 and then play the same song on vinyl, it’s almost impossible to go back. It’s like drinking a merlot with soda in it and then having a fantastic cabernet or a French Bordeaux.”

Sandy Drexler, who works at TJ’s CDs & More in Port Charlotte and is owner TJ Koontz’s girlfriend, shares that passion. For her, the sound of vinyl is embedded in her upbringing.

“The albums I have are all the albums my parents had when I grew up,” she said. “I listen to the same sound I listen to when I was growing up. It has those pops and crackles. It’s not as clean as a CD but you don’t care.”

But vinyl can easily get scratched up, worn down from the needle pressing in the groove, warped by heat, or ruined by dust, says Russ Koski, who was shopping at TJ’s. “Here’s my problem with (vinyl) albums,” Mr. Koski said. “You get one piece of dust in there in the wrong spot and it’s there for good.”

For David Arrowsmith, it’s easier to listen to television music stations, piped through his house. He was selling off 300-some records at High Fidelity in Naples last week.

Still, they were loaded with memories. A Chubby Checker album (remember “The Twist?”) transported him to New York City circa 1960 when he was a young advertising executive, dated one of the Rockettes, and did the twist at the Peppermint Lounge.

Record stores

¦ House of High Fidelity, 1585 Pine Ridge Road, Naples; closed for vacation July 21-Aug. 5; 262-0100

¦ Main Street Antiques & Collectibles, 2229 Main Street, Fort Myers; 689-6246

¦ The Record Trader, 3091 Cleveland Ave., Fort Myers; 337-4330.

¦ Rainbow Records, 2113 Del Prado Blvd. South, Cape Coral; 458-4000

¦ TJ’s Cd’s & More, 3275 Tamiami Trail, Port Charlotte; (941) 624-4223 ¦

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