Photo by Wing Young Huie
Raoul Benavides and his collection of records
As digital streaming pushes CDs to the musical periphery, records, conversely, have enjoyed a mighty renaissance. With acts ranging from Mumford & Sons to The Black Keys to Adele pressing albums, LP sales in the United States have increased nine-fold since 2007, making now the best era for vinyl since the early 1980s.
2007 - 988,000
2008 - 1.88 million
2009 - 2.5 million
2010 - 2.8 million
2011 - 3.8 million
2012 - 4.6 million
2013 - 6.1 million
2014 - 9.2 million
We met Raoul Benavides at Heyday in Lyn-Lake for brunch to talk about his record collection or, more precisely, why he thinks it’s a good idea to start selling it. Benavides, 42, is an accomplished photographer and owner of the Twin Cities pro photo industry’s go-to rental shop Flashlight Photorental. He’s also married to pastry chef extraordinaire Michelle Gayer of the Salty Tart. And yet despite being ensconced in success (not to mention living in the golden age of digital music streaming), he decided to open a two-story record shop in Northeast.
You’re opening a record store in a city that is already full of record stores. Why?
Minneapolis has always been a great music lover’s town. Access to music is easy and the local music is so great. Originally, I wanted to open up a photo gallery, although that didn’t work out financially because who can afford $25,000 photo prints? So this record shop is kind of a gallery for music culture.
What do you love about vinyl?
The thing about records is you have to do something, you have to put the needle on because—I mean, it’s not some CD that will just end— the record’ll go crrrk. Playing a record keeps me in the moment. . . . Sometimes you listen to music, or sometimes you hear music like it’s just stuff in the background. What it does is it keeps you connected to what is happening because that record is going to end. And then there is the actual record sleeve. I am such a visual person, and you literally have a piece of art that you can hold or frame on a wall.
Your website says you’ll have more than half a million records in the store.
[The space] is 3,000 square feet and there are two floors. The first is going to be all rock, punk, folk, country, and upstairs will be R&B, soul, funk, hip-hop . . . and you won’t see Tom Waits posters or [stickers]. I kind of consider that juvenile stuff. Instead I bought a series of black-and-white portraits from Mark Seliger, which will be on the first floor with cover art and walnut shelves. And there’s a vault—
There’s this old bank vault. Looking at it, it’s got a big handle that opens the first door, and then after that there is another door that swings open. The walls are thick and the room is not that big. It’s not fully imagined yet, but I would eventually love to have people look through there, like for collector/VIP records.
So where are all these records coming from?
Well, I bought six collections in the fall—other people’s collections. One was this whole collection of, like, 26,000 records from Michigan. In the vault, I have this VPI record cleaner where I’m cleaning the ones that have merit and sorting them out. We usually process about 5,000 records a week, so I’ve got a feeling I’ll have 200,000 records just in storage because I’ll keep buying and I won’t be able to pull them out until I’ve got room in the store.
Is your store only for aficionados?
There will always be Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, and you’ll always be able to find the new Grimes. I mean, I don’t think it’s going to be very pop-centric, but there’ll be all of the biggest bands’ greatest albums, a bunch of new stuff, and a whole bunch of local hip-hop. Jazz and classical are one of those things where I may struggle with demand versus space needs. The more demand I have, the more space and energy I’ll give it, but I don’t know yet how that’s going to go.
What’s your most prized obscure record?
Oh, I know my favorite record. I’m going to be selling it for $1,250. It’s a record put out by Jean-Michel Basquiat. He put out this one record on a label that he made up called Tartown. It’s a hip-hop battle between this famous graffiti guy called Rammellzee and K-Rob, and the best part about it is it sounds so contemporary. Here, look at this [points to the album’s Wikipedia page]. “Due to the rarity of its original pressing, it has been called the Holy Grail of rap records.”
Wow, you’re willing to part with that?
Well, for me, it’s about sharing. It’s not about me and I don’t feel special because I own it. I feel special when I share it. That’s the thing; by starting a record store, I just want to be a vehicle to share with the people.
Flashlight Vinyl, 1519 Central Ave. NE, Mpls., flashlightvinyl.com