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Vinyl keeps spinning in H.B shop

A loyal customer base looking for rarities and good service supports Vinyl Solution Records. The analogue sound is 'warmer' than digital, says one music editor.

June 13, 2012|By Michael Miller
  • Darren "Drak" O'Connor, right, the owner of Vinyl Solution Records, helps his customers Cory Heskett, left, and Patrick Pescador at his store in Huntington Beach on June 4.
Darren "Drak" O'Connor, right, the… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

The late Doc Watson wailed over the speakers at the tiny record shop on Beach Boulevard, and like many a bluesman on the road, he was in the midst of a journey.

Watson, one of America's most prolific roots musicians, died at the age of 89 a few days before Darren "Drak" O'Connor put his 1976 album, "Doc and the Boys," on the turntable at Vinyl Solution Records.

The LP was in excellent condition — no noticeable pops or scratches — and the jacket showed just minor signs of wear.

A longtime customer, before flying to the South in April to see Watson at a folk festival, had asked O'Connor to find some vintage recordings. With help from one of the store's freelance assistants, who had a small Watson collection at home, O'Connor stocked a few and sold them to the buyer. "Doc and the Boys" was the last left, and O'Connor was reserving it for the next time the man stopped by.

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As the bluegrass chugged along, O'Connor got curious and reached for his Goldmine Magazine price guide — one of the many objects that pack the shelves behind the counter, where photos, books, rolls of tape and CD box sets compete for space.

"I will bet it's worth a lot more now that he's gone," O'Connor said, flipping through the guide. "But let's find out."

The answer turned out to be $12, but O'Connor cared little for that. He routinely offers albums at one third the listed price, or, when he relies on his assistants to price them, he bypasses the guide altogether.

"'Cause he's such a good customer, Troy's probably gonna give it to him for $10," O'Connor said. "We want to keep the customer happy. If we told him $20, he'd probably pay that, but that's not how we work."

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A thriving niche market

Vinyl Solution, which resides in a strip mall between a nail salon and a florist, puts more stake in retaining customers than making a few extra dollars on a sale. Some of O'Connor's clientele have frequented the shop since it opened in 1989, occasionally coming to spill about divorces or other personal woes.

And the phone rings constantly throughout the week — sometimes with customers asking for records or, just as often, offering to unload their collections for free.

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