South Hillside record shop specializes in good ol' vinyl

Ed Swarts remembers his first record — a 45 rpm of Three Dog Night's "Joy to the World."

"I played it every day," he said.

Swarts is now in the business of peddling similar memories through his used-records store, Spin It Again Records on South Hillside.

Spin It Again specializes in the vinyl albums that dominated the music market until CDs came along, along with smaller selections of 8-track tapes, singles and VHS versions of music videos.

The rock/pop section features artists from Abba to ZZ Top. Country, jazz, classical and "various" — think "Gold Fever Sounds" by the '70s-era Wichita State Shocker band — get their own bins as well.

Music posters adorn the walls. Record players stand ready to let customers listen before they buy.

Although Swarts is a lifelong music fan, he says the inspiration to open the store came from the knowledge that he was about to be laid off from his job of 20-plus years at the Skyline manufactured-home plant in Halstead, which closed last year. He said he knows of only one other such business in the area, Rewound Sounds in Delano.

Since he'd lost his own stash of albums in a theft years before, his first step was to start combing the area for collections that were in good shape and reasonably priced.

"Usually it's a wife telling her husband, 'You're got to get rid of all those records,' " he said.

Swarts, who had installed and tested various mobile home parts for Skyline, has put that background to work. He built the shelves for the shop and repaired a jukebox that spins records in one corner. Rather than spend $600 on a machine designed to clean records, he rigged his own system out of a turntable and a vacuum cleaner. He also replaces parts in most 8-track tapes before reselling them.

Most albums are priced in the $6-to-$10 range. A few, like a 1960 George Jones salute to Hank Williams in near-perfect condition, cost up to $100.

Swarts said he prices albums according to a trade industry guide called Goldmine. So far, the average customer has been leaving with about $40 to $50 in albums, he said.

His record and 8-track players are also for sale, along with accessories like record cleaners, the plastic "spiders" that fit inside 45s and an old device that allows cassettes to play in 8-track players. He's made a few clocks and ashtrays out of albums and may sell those in the future as well.

People collect vinyl records for a number of reasons, Swarts said. Some albums contain music that hasn't found its way onto CDs. Older customers may be trying to fill out a portion of a collection they started years before; younger customers buy "because their father listened to it and they like it." Then there are the album covers, considered works of art themselves.

Most of all, Swarts says, is the "warmer, purer" sound that vinyl records offer.

"I don't have anything against CDs, but to get the real sound of somebody like Grand Funk Railroad, you've got to play it on a record," he said.