The Vinyl Countdown
The Vinyl Countdown, 322 E. 11th St., is like the New Beetle of record stores: evocative of the past, comfortable here in the present, and likely to become outrageously popular with the kind of hipsters who like to wear vintage cateye glasses, drink Pabst Blue Ribbon in fashionably square bowling alleys, and download Johnny Cash ringtones to their Androids.
As its name suggests, Vinyl Countdown’s focus is on LPs — but this is definitely not your mama’s record store. You won’t find any scratched-up estate-sale castoffs here. All the records I found were brand-new, still in their shrinkwrap, and more often than not, the work of current artists (although I did linger over a reissue of Guns ‘N’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction and consider a brand-new copy of Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited before finding myself irresistibly drawn to Amy Winehouse’s Lioness: Hidden Treasures).
If you’ve been conditioned to associate vinyl records with cardboard boxes tucked into the corners of thrift shops with signs on them saying “$1.50 each or five for $5,” you may find the current retail price of new records — usually between $18 and $25 — a little steep, but keep in mind that new records are rare as hens’ teeth, and the quality of modern vinyl far exceeds that of the stuff you’re used to picking up for a quarter at thrift stores.
In addition to vinyl, the shop offers a small selection of T-shirts, handmade Shrinky-Dink jewelry created by the owner’s wife, and a few decorative items and gifts, mostly of the sleek-faux-retro-minimalist variety. (They know their audience.)
Service is great, special orders are welcomed, and the location — a block south of Route 66, where Elgin dead-ends at 11th — is convenient, with plenty of angle parking right in front of the store.
Vinyl Countdown pretty much epitomizes what I love most about indie businesses: the notion that with a little creativity and determination, ordinary people can find a way to turn hobbies into livelihoods.
This is what the mom-and-pop movement is all about, kids. Go take a look at it. And pick up that new Amy Winehouse album while you’re there. Girlfriend sounds incredible on vinyl.
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