Back in March I wanted to buy a copy of Conquer the World: The Lost Soul of Philadelphia International Records after reviewing it for Popdose. Laurie’s didn’t have it in stock, but they were more than happy to order it for me. And when I recently brought a new copy of Sloan’s Navy Blues up to the counter, I was offered a used copy that cost half as much — but I refused! Know why? Because we all need to support our local independent record stores, and Laurie’s is my favorite in the Windy City. One of its employees, Melissa, was kind enough to answer a few questions recently about the Planet of Sound and its particular place in the music-retail universe.
Do you feel you can do more business in Lincoln Square than in, say, Wrigleyville or near one of the college campuses in Chicago (where the incoming freshmen were born in 1990)?
It’s hard to say. College-town record stores are at a disadvantage anyway because they don’t get much business during Christmas, when students go home, and during summer breaks — and these are the times when we’re at our busiest. Also, I think that younger people, especially teens, are less likely to buy CDs and more likely to utilize the MP3 format. I think that our store could do well anywhere in the city, because no matter where you go in the city there will be music lovers. College campuses, on the other hand — probably not the best place for a store like ours.
What are some of your biggest sellers right now?
Jay Reatard, Sigur Ros, the Hold Steady, Wolf Parade, Mucca Pazza, Smoking Popes, My Morning Jacket, Alejandro Escovedo, Silver Jews, the Melvins, and Alla.
Have you seen an upswing in vinyl sales the way the rest of the industry has?
We have definitely noticed this. Vinyl is on the upswing, for sure, and we think that’s awesome!
As a public service, would you like to tell the general populace about any particular CDs you never want them to try to sell back ever again?
This is a fabulous question. Here’s a brief list: We don’t buy any pop/vocal, classical, most showtunes, and most New Age. We shriek at the thought of looking at CD collections consisting of any of the following: Melissa Etheridge, Bonnie Raitt, Hootie & the Blowfish, 10,000 Maniacs, Spin Doctors, Everlast, Fuel, Soup Dragons, Dave Matthews Band … I think you get the picture. Basically, the ’90s don’t do too well for us.
What do you see as the future of record retail? What do stores like Laurie’s hope to do to keep customers coming back and not letting their computers take over their listening habits?
Well, we’re doing better than ever, and it’s because we have lots of awesome customers who genuinely love music. We also make sure to have a very wide variety of music on both CD and vinyl, new and used. It’s also important for us to carry non-music-related items: DVDs, books, shirts, and other odds and ends. There is literally something for anyone at our store. We think that being fun, eclectic, affordable, and diverse is one of the secrets to our success!
Laurie’s is located at 4639 N. Lincoln Ave. in Chicago and can be reached by phone at 773-271-3569 or online at lauriesplanetofsound.com, where the “Cover Love” section provides some great visual nostalgia.