Grant Street record store a ‘modern throwback’ to days of vinyl

In a world where downloading has taken over the music scene, there’s something about owning a physical record by your favorite artist that gives you a sense of pleasure.

At the corner of Lafayette and Grant, across from Sweetness 7 and just a few steps down the stairwell is Black Dots, at 223 Lafayette Ave., a store that opened up in June that sells primarily vinyl records.

Black Dots caters to many different genres of music, including punk, metal and hardcore. It has recently expanded its sales items to used rock, pop, and hip hop LPs, to reach out to a broader audience.

With bright green walls, stacks of records, and band t-shirts surrounding him in this punk paradise of a basement, owner Joshua Smith talked about his passion for music and how he has one of the greatest jobs in the world.

“I get to just sit and listen to music all day and find out about new bands,” Smith said. “It’s the only thing I’ve ever really wanted to do.”

When Smith started getting into punk and hardcore music, he exclusively bought records, as they were an essential part of the scene.

According to him, purchasing records is an experience. Playing it on your record player, out loud, is an experience that you can’t get from just downloading.

“Anybody who wants to physically experience music, most of the time they want to buy records,” Smith said.

A friend of Smith’s owned the building Black Dots is located in, and when Smith saw the basement, he thought it was perfect to open up a record store in.

“It’s a great location,” Smith said. “I really like this neighborhood, being across from Sweetness 7 and right next to the book store.

“(Grant Street) is improving so much and so rapidly. There’s a lot of stuff opening up and it’s an exciting time to be a part of this street. There’s a lot of cool things down this way.”

The store has seen a good flow of sales these past few months, which is something Smith is happy with. Eric Bifaro owns the print shop in the same building as Black Dots and feels that for a new record store, business has been picking up as of late.”

“With any new record store in 2013, you’re going to have a rough time, but I think they are doing pretty well for what they are,” Bifaro said. “I’m here every day because I work in the building attached to it, and more often than not, (I see) people perusing the selection, so I think that’s a great sign.”

Smith has also noticed an increase in sales since school started and since Black Dots officially started identifying itself as a music haven.

“We have a sign now, and I’ve noticed a lot of young people wandering down from the café, which is great,” Smith said.

Bifaro thinks people are losing something tangible when they just download music. According to him, when you do that, you’re not getting the full sized artwork or the flow from song to song that only listening to a record can give you.

“You’re missing the actual act of sitting down, putting the record on the turntable and putting the needle on the record,” Bifaro said. “I think when people listen to the stuff they download they really take it for granted. They go through the motions and click on something and they forget about it.

“When you listen to a record, you really have to sit down and pay attention to what you’re doing, and that becomes the activity more often than not. I think that’s one of the best things about it.”

Elizabeth Whitacre has been a customer of Black Dots for months now. She loves the atmosphere, the people, and most importantly, the records.

“I like going there because of the selection and I always run into friends,” Whitacre said. “Records are awesome to collect. Owning is best because you have the artwork. Colored vinyl rules.”

Smith likes working with people that he knows and putting out records of bands that he really likes, especially for reasonable prices. He says he loves his job and can’t imagine doing anything else.

“Being around music and getting to do something I love instead of just working a nine to five job is the best part,” Smith said. “I’m not rich by any means, I struggle to make ends meet, but I get to do exactly what I want to do instead of working for someone else.”

The store is open Monday-Sunday, 12 p.m.-8 p.m.

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