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Can Pilsen Become a Destination for Vinyl Collectors?

By Stephanie Lulay | October 22, 2015 8:56am
 Drew Mitchell and Tim Unsell will open 606 Records, a new record store in the neighborhood, on Saturday at 18th and Allport in Pilsen.
Drew Mitchell and Tim Unsell will open 606 Records, a new record store in the neighborhood, on Saturday at 18th and Allport in Pilsen.
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DNAinfo/Stephanie Lulay

PILSEN — Will a second record store opening in Pilsen create competition or help cement the neighborhood as a destination for vinyl collectors?

Ask Drew Mitchell, co-owner of the new 606 Records at 18th and Allport, and he'll say his all-things-vinyl shop will complement the existing vinyl businesses in Pilsen, attracting even more record fans to the neighborhood.

"Having two record stores in the neighborhood, [Pilsen] becomes a destination for out-of-town vinyl buyers," Mitchell said. "If you go up to Milwaukee Avenue [in Wicker Park], you have Reckless, Shuga, Dusty Groove."

"I'm not stopping in one of them, I'm stopping at three of them," said Tim Unsell, who co-owns the shop with Mitchell.

The business partners at 606 Records, 1808 S. Allport, are holding a grand opening party from 5-9 p.m. Saturday. The record store, across from Thalia Hall, is opening just a few months behind Pinwheel Records, a vinyl store that opened in a vacant storefront at 1722 W. 18th St. over the summer.

The new 606 Records, a new and used vinyl store, opens Saturday at 1808 S. Allport in Pilsen. [DNAinfo/Stephanie Lulay]

Unsell, a 45-year-old former buyer for Virgin Megastores in New York and Chicago, and 38-year-old Mitchell, who worked in technology, first forged plans to open a record store when they met at a party in Oak Park four years ago. The two men got serious about the idea two years ago and set their sights on Pilsen.

RELATED: How Chicago Became One of America's Destinations for Vinyl Records

Now both raising children in Oak Park, the new record store owners have ties in Pilsen. Unsell's sister-in-law works at the Museum of Mexican Art and his late mother-in-law was the former chief of Chicago Public School's Network 5, which covers the Little Village and Pilsen neighborhoods. Mitchell, who was born on the Near West Side, previously lived in Pilsen.

"We love the neighborhood, we love the vibe," Unsell said. "Having Thalia [Hall] open up, a nice big music venue ... it's just a great fit."

Both men are avid vinyl collectors, with more than 10,000 records between them.

New vinyl shop 606 Records carries new and used vinyl in all genres and a number of languages. [DNAinfo/Stephanie Lulay]

At 606 Records, they plan to specialize in "dark horse" labels — small, independent labels that don't have the money to spend on big campaigns and don't want to "deal with the rate race" of major music distribution. Locally, they'll be carrying releases from Little Village-based Numero Group and Thrill Jockey in Pilsen.

"We like smaller labels and artists that haven't been discovered yet," Unsell said. "Labels that everyday Joe is not going to know but we know if you listen to it, we know you'll appreciate it."

The store, which will also sell new and used vinyl online, features a collection of more than 4,000 records from a variety of genres, decades and languages.

The vinyl shop commissioned Chicago artist Cody Hudson, with help from Pete Skvara, to paint a mural in the store. Hudson is also a partner in the Land and Sea Department restaurants. [DNAinfo/Stephanie Lulay]

Like The 606 trail that extends through Humboldt Park, Logan Square, Wicker Park and Bucktown, 606 Records is named after the 606 prefix found in each of the city's ZIP codes. The name also refers to the Roland TR-606, the vintage drum machine that debuted in 1981.

The new 606, in combination with Pinwheel, will fill a void for vinyl collectors living south of the Eisenhower, Unsell said. Before Pinwheel opened, Pilsen didn't have a store dedicated to selling records like a lot of other Chicago 'hoods, but some of the neighborhood's vintage stores do sell records in addition to other merchandise.

More than 4,000 records are for sale at 606 Records in Pilsen. [DNAinfo/Stephanie Lulay]

Unsell, who has bought music professionally for nearly 20 years, said vinyl wasn't going anywhere soon. During the last two decades, the demand for vinyl has steadily increased, and in the last five years, "exploded," he said.

"[There is] a small majority of people who are turning away from digital files," Unsell said. "They want to be able to hold [the music], because they don't feel like they own that MP3 file."

606 Records will be open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. The shop will be closed Mondays.

Located across the street from Thalia Hall, new vinyl store 606 Records opens in Pilsen Saturday. [DNAinfo/Stephanie Lulay]

New vinyl shop 606 Records opens Saturday at 1808 S. Allport in Pilsen. [DNAinfo/Stephanie Lulay]

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