BRIDGEPORT — The neighborhood's changing, but Let's Boogie Records and Tapes is basically the same place it was when it opened in 1976.
There are faded posters of Led Zeppelin, KISS and Ted Nugent adorning the walls, plus thousands of new and used vinyl records stuffed into the racks, and a shelves full of cassette tapes ready to be bought by ... whom, exactly?
Generally, they're road trippers driving in old cars or bands traveling through Chicago in rundown vans, said Neal Keller, longtime owner of the store at 3321 S. Halsted St.
They say 'I can't believe you have that here,' and I tell them 'Yeah, well, they've been here a long time,'" he said.
Keller, of southwest suburban Homewood, opened the store 37 years ago, adding to a musical landscape that once included the nearby Melody Record Store and even stores like Woolworth’s.
He started stocking rock records from The Scorpions, Judas Priest, Journey, REO Speedwagon and yes, even carried some disco records. Still does.
The store now caters to one of two groups: “the audiophiles and the vinyl junkies,” Keller said.
The former are on a never-ending quest for a pristine version of a record they already own; the latter browse the shelves and add to their collections.
He doesn't specialize in any genre, so on the shelves you'll find country, polka, jazz, progressive rock, classic rock and much more.
It's what brings customers like Luis Salgado, a 32-year-old salesman, to the store in search of hip-hop CDs. Keller carries a glass display case full of them, along with rare bootleg recordings and VHS tapes.
"Anytime I get a chance, I come over here and see what's he's got," Salgado said.
Then there are the neighborhood newcomers, guys like roommates Jason Dahlberg and Conner Hollingsworth, who moved to the area for cheap rent and a vibrant cultural scene. They came in search of hard rock records and left with titles from Budgie, Stray and Sir Lord Baltimore.
Keller, 64, said he's also only vaguely familiar with music streaming services like Spotify and Pandora. He said he doesn't use a computer but can tell when a music blog is hyping the next big thing or promoting the older mainstays.
"It happened with Tom Waits, it happened with Zappa. I mean, I sold eight copies of 'King Crimson,'" he said.
Hang around the store long enough and you get the sense Keller is loyal to the classics and has little patience for new bands or music that's too far out there.
Once in a while, a text buzzes into Keller's flip phone from customers “too lazy to put down a beer or the bong” and visit the store. This time, it's a customer looking for material from Can, a German experimental group formed in the late 1960s.
Keller shrugs, exasperated. Never heard of them.
Soon after, the phone rings — he always answers with “Let’s Boogie” — and the conversation is short.
“Buffalo Springfield? Of course!” he said.
Let's Boogie Records and Tapes is located at 3321 S. Halsted St. It's open 11 a.m.-6 p.m. weekdays; 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sundays by appointment only. Phone: 773-254-0139. Cash only.