The comeback of vinyl collecting at “Joe’s Records”

Daniel Matt, Reporter

“Joe’s Records” store in the South County Mall in St. Louis is regaining its popularity, especially when it comes to vinyl collecting.   

The store’s owner Joe Smith has been in the music industry for 30 years and has seen it change from decade to decade.  

“It’s really interesting the last year or two and especially this store there’s been a real youth market that’s been missing for a long time,” Smith said. “It kind of got by with this niche thing of the old audiophiles and a very specific target demo audience but now there’s a lot of young people buying again.” 

“Joe’s Records” opened in the middle of the 2020 pandemic and has been successful ever since. Smith said he believes the pandemic helped to jumpstart and revive the hobby of collecting records. 

“We hear a lot of people come in saying they’re buying their first, and that’s always really exciting,” Smith said. “I’ve made a lot of regular customers here because of the boom in the pandemic and people wanting to experience their music in a different medium.” 

“Joe’s Records” offers an easy working environment for its employees, which encourages a comfortable shopping experience for customers. 

“On a typical day we usually have a greeter and a cashier,” store employee Ethan Wagner said. “We do a lot of talking with customers but it’s always very casual. It’s a job that encourages me to be myself, which is rare these days.” 

Smith said he is not one to tolerate gatekeeping in music, and he makes sure to keep up with the newest hits.

“Music is for everyone,” Smith said. “My favorite record is the one I just sold, whatever that may be. I make a habit of trying a band I haven’t heard before if I sell a record and I encourage my employees to do it too”. 

Smith believes, however, that people do not have to be fans of an artist in order to buy records.  Joe’s Records has over 700 band shirts that make up a large portion of the store’s income.  

“The image is still part of the band’s ethos,” Smith said. “So when they buy a shirt, I don’t quiz kids and ask them to name five songs from a band. I think that’s a jerk move…there’s still the image, they’re still buying into the band in some way or the artist…I think it’s a very interesting phenomenon.” 

Smith said while running a record store isn’t his first choice for a career, he wouldn’t change a thing. 

 “It’s sort of like a crazy little science experiment,” Smith said. “I love working with my two kids as well and bond with them through our shared love of music. That’s what it’s all about.”