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Transmission
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Feature Thu Nov 02 2006

Our Favorite Record Stores, Vol. 2

Once again, as a part of our ongoing series, Gapers Block: Transmission brings you some of our picks for the best record stores in Chicago. This week, we take you to the much loved Dusty Groove and Reckless Records.

Name: Dusty Groove

Location(s): 1120 N. Ashland Ave.

Hours: Monday—Sunday, 10 a.m.–8 p.m.

Website URL: http://www.dustygroove.com

First opened: Online since 1996, storefront evolved since 1997

Approx. Size: 2000 sq. ft.

Owner/Operator: Dusty Groove America

Types of music sold (genre): Soul, Funk, Jazz, Latin, Brazilian, Hip Hop, French, etc.

Types of music sold (format): LP/CD

Buys/Sells used cds/tapes/albums?: Yes

Dusty Groove began as an online mail-order retailer in April 1996. The idea behind it was to offer consumers a place to buy music that wasn't necessarily easy to find. Specialty stores in large metropolitan areas were generally the only places to find a lot of what Dusty Groove sells. And even then it wasn't very easy to find stores that stocked the range that Dusty Groove set out to. Many of those stores were in New York and London, but hardly attainable to the average record collector. By beginning online, Dusty Groove brought together people from around the world that would have never been satiated by their local record stores. It also allowed night owls to shop at all hours. Really, who hasn't been awake at 2 a.m. and thought, "I really need a David Ruffin album"? (I would suggest My Whole World Ended or Who I Am.)

By the end of 1997, with demand for a proper store growing, they moved to a larger space and opened Friday and Saturday afternoons. In 2001, they moved again to a new building and opened a real store, but were still only open a few days each week. This led to a terrific idea — the drive-thru window where local customers who'd ordered online could pick up their music on days when the store was closed. With customers eventually showing up even on days when the store wasn't open, Dusty Groove finally decided to stay open every day in 2003. And it's been that way since then. Of course, the bulk of Dusty Groove's business is still done through their website, but the store is never empty.

dga1.jpg

When you first walk into Dusty Groove, there are chairs just inside the door presumably for anyone whom you've dragged along that isn't going to spend hours digging through cutouts and classics. As with nearly every record store, the first thing to do is flip through the new used section, which can be found in the first bins in the middle row. One of the advantages to actually visiting Dusty Groove as opposed to just visiting the website is that you get dibs on the recent trade-ins for all genres. Once you have that record in your hands, it's yours even if someone logs online to buy it. One drawback to Dusty Groove is that they do not have listening stations. All used music is graded on its condition, though.

Perhaps the biggest advantage to visiting Dusty Groove is the atmosphere of having so much different music in the same location. Whether you're looking for some northern soul or a Fat Boys single, you're likely to hear or come across something that catches your attention out of nowhere. And don't be afraid to ask the excellent staff for guidance. Even if you're vague about what you're interested in, they can probably steer you in the right direction. With CDs lining the outer rim of bins and vinyl taking up the middle row, the interior's set-up is pretty easy to navigate. The contents are designated appropriately and stickers near the top of each album allow browsers to flip quickly instead of pulling out CDs or records to identify them.

dga2.jpg

When checking out, take note of the records on the wall behind the counter. These are typically the cream of the crop – records so good and/or so rare that you're unlikely to see them for sale very often. And always keep an eye on the staff behind the desk to see if what you're buying gets a smile and nod of approval. That's a good feeling right there. Actually, just going to Dusty Groove is a pretty good feeling. This is one of Chicago's best record stores.
-James Ziegenfus



Name: Reckless Records

Locations: 1532 N. Milwaukee Ave., 3161 N. Broadway Ave. (and if you ever get to London)

Hours: Monday—Saturday: 10–10, Suunday: 10–8

Website: http://www.reckless.com/

First opened: Milwaukee Ave. Store: 1996, First store was in London in 1980

Approx. Size: 1200 sq. ft.

Owner/Operator: Charles Taylor (in CA) GM for Milwaukee Ave. store: Bryan Smith

Types of music sold (genre): everything under the sun!

Types of music sold (format): CDs, LPs, 45s, Cassettes, DVDs, and VHS

Buys/Sells used cds/tapes/albums? : They "Buy Sell & Trade CDs, Records, DVDs, Videogames, Videos and more!"

Reckless.jpg

Walking through the front doors of Reckless Records, one just can't help but get a first immediate sensation of being overwhelmed — slightly. "Tons," Chris Connelly, manager of the Milwaukee Avenue store says, when asked just how much music was actually piled into the building. The walls are lined with CDs, stacks and stacks of records are displayed in the center of the room, which create aisles to stroll through, letter cards mark the alphabetized selections, so you can quickly thumb through the bins while band posters decorate the windows and show announcements pile near the entrance. All in all, Reckless sounds like your standard record store, except, it's not. Once the nervousness of just "How am I ever going to get through all of these choices?" passes, a sense of calm returns when you realize really, you're just thumbing through an old boyfriend's collection.

Reckless Records creates a familiarity for its patrons. Memories are brought back of high school friends — those cataloguing-gurus who could spit out the chronology of replacement bass players for that band whose name you could never quite recall. The clerk behind the counter is actually a genie in a bottle, and if you say the right word, the bootleg you've been hunting down will magically appear. These characters and more have been preserved inside the walls of this little record shop.

Some might say that the days of prized and displayed cover-art are over, quickly replaced with mp3s on your iPod, but Reckless doesn't seem to think so. The store is a throw-back — be-it only to some five years ago at this point — a little time capsule for those who love to dive for vinyl as well as those who just want that new Radiohead album.

recklessinside.jpg

Reckless Records first opened its doors in 1980 in London by owner Charles Taylor who managed to create new locations in San Francisco as well as Chicago over the years. Reckless' Wicker Park debut was in 1994 on North Ave. only to move to the Milwaukee location in 1996. With Reckless' Milwaukee Ave. store being located in what is commonly referred to as hipster-central for Chicago, it's a given that this store prides itself on having the most hard-to-find and up-to-date new and used indie labels and musicians available for it's art-set based clientele. However, don't think indie is all that you'll find here — from rap to hip hop, country to classical dance to soul Reckless has just about everything. Even disco.

Over the years, Reckless has managed to maintain a sense of underground and it gained a wide sub-culture following, at the same time, they are just as welcoming to that tourist who stepped off of the El via instructions from their hotel's concierge.

"Reckless was one of the first places I was told to visit when I got here," says Caitlin, a Chicago tourist from Portland, OR hanging outside the storefront. "Everyone knows Reckless," she says. Reckless is also a favorite among the student-set, as the cost for a CD won't make you dig in the lining of your pocket book for that last cent. "We price things really well," Connelly says, "if you want you can get a Steve Miller Band album for a buck," he laughs.

If Steve Miller is not your thing, you can still pick-up recent Jenny Lewis LP for $12 or replace that missing Bjork, Debut record for $4.

"We have a knowledgeable staff," says Connelly in regards to finding exactly what you need. "If you're really looking for something but don't want to pay full price we will find it for you in our used CDs and call you when it's available." Connelly follows by saying, "I'm not sure many people know we do that."

Connelly has been working for Reckless for over 10 years now and says his job simply "facilitates an addiction", that of a person who is a relentless music collector. However, if it's not CDs you're looking for, Reckless also offers videos and some films on DVD, VHS and even video games. If you can't seem to pry yourself from that new computer game, Reckless has all their items on their website, though a trip to the store is advised as many have fallen in love with its four walls.

One of the perks of popping in is catching one of the many in-store performances they offer. There is a calendar on their website and a newsletter you can sign up for so there's always a chance to see a cool band take the small stage at Reckless. Just get there early since the space fills up quickly.

Reckless' customers are loyal and for a record store, their employees seem to even keep coming back. Connelly mentions he sticks around because the company is run democratically, and the apparent real plus, "we have the best looking staff".
-Catherine Rigod

(Dusty Groove photos by James Ziegenfus and Reckless photos courtesy of Reckless Records)

(Want more advice on record stores? Check out our first favorites feature here.)

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »

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Alarm Magazine
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  Labels, Promoters
  & Shops:

Alligator Records
Atavistic
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Bloodshot Records
Dave's Records
Delmark Records
Drag City
Dusty Groove
Flameshovel Records
Groove Distribution
He Who Corrupts
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Reckless Records
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Thrill Jockey Records Touch & Go/Quarterstick Records
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Transmission is the music section of Gapers Block. It aims to highlight Chicago music in its many varied forms, as well as cover touring acts performing in the city. More...
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