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Record Store Renaissance Hits North Brooklyn

By Meredith Hoffman | November 11, 2013 7:10am | Updated on November 11, 2013 11:37am
 Travis Klein co-founded Human Head records this fall.
Travis Klein co-founded Human Head records this fall.
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DNAinfo/Meredith Hoffman

BUSHWICK — Each evening when he leaves his "boring" job handling imports and exports at a logistics company, Joe Cozza goes straight to his own business — a 3-week-old record store called Vinyl Fantasy.

It may be his "passion project," but Cozza said the tiny Bushwick space was cheap and well positioned to thrive.

"Our rent isn't crazy high...and record stores aren't going anywhere," said Cozza, 27, despite the recent closure of Williamsburg's Sound Fix and other vinyl stores in the city. "Digital is fine but, at the end of the day, people want to have something tangible."

Vinyl Fantasy is among several record stores to open in North Brooklyn this fall, the perfect location to revive the vinyl industry, owners said.

"There's not a singular place on a map I could point to that would be better than the Bushwick area to open a record store," Travis Klein, the co-owner of recently opened Human Head, said.

"Every new up-and-coming musician that wants to make it moves to Brooklyn. There's literally opportunity around every corner."

Optimistic as they may be, the new record store owners are strategizing with highly curated selections, concerts and parties to make their shops relevant in the local arts community.

"We try to hand-pick each record...and we're having people come in to do acoustic sets," Cozza said of the shop he runs with his friend Russell Hymowitz. "We have one artist a month come in to curate a show...Every [show] is free. It's just a cool thing to make the most of our space."

Meanwhile Klein's new shop on Johnson Street has a back space that will soon be home to concerts and even the filming of a YouTube channel, where musicians who practice down the street can come show off their talent.

As for his music selection, Klein constantly travels outside of New York to purchase cheap, high-quality albums for his shop.

"Yesterday I was driving around Pennsylvania, next week I'm going to Ohio and the following week Wisconsin," Klein said. "It's those Midwestern prices you can't beat here."

Human Head and Vinyl Fantasy both opened up completely independently, while other new stores are connected with record labels or have a history elsewhere in Brooklyn. The label Captured Tracks opened a shop in Greenpoint at the same time as the company celebrated its fifth anniversary, and staff said they'd been delighted at the store's success.

"The shop was opened because we had a front retail space available in the space we chose for our new office, not a very exciting answer, but it's the truth," said the label's owner Mike Sniper.

"We aren't reliant on the shop paying the bills, but it's been doing just that anyway, so that's good."

Meanwhile Academy Records relocated from North Williamsburg to Greenpoint, where the shop could pay less for a larger space. 

The only record store that's landing in the most expensive part of Williamsburg, Klein noted, is Rough Trade, a major London-based label opening a 15,000-square-foot shop and venue near the Williamsburg waterfront at the end of November.

"That's going to be insane, like a Times Square of a record store," Klein said. "It's ridiculous, two stories...I'm going there opening night."

Klein said he didn't see Rough Trade or any other of the shops as a threat, but rather that he felt the positive momentum of a revived local focus on records.

"It's like a collective of good things happening," he said.