30 Years and Still Kicking: The Ongoing Plight of Used Kids Records
Three decades later, and the records keep spinning. Used Kids Records celebrate its 30th anniversary.
“I’d like to think even though we’re thirty years old, we’re not over the hill. Fifty is the new over the hill, right?” asks Greg Hall, who has been the owner of local vinyl shop Used Kids Records since he took it over in 2014.
Hall’s involvement with the store actually started in 1979 at School Kids Records. Used Kids Records was introduced in 1986 as the used records supplement to School Kids.
Over the next 30 years, there would be plenty of changes for the store, willingly and forcibly. Various trials have threatened to close the store multiple times, but those changes are precisely what Hall attributed its success to.
“The big thing about the music business is, things change, and you’ve got to be ready and willing to change,” Hall said. “That’s the only way that you’ll survive. Any business person will tell you that.”
Times of trial
In 2001, Used Kids caught fire. Tom Shannon, the store’s longest-running employee, says he wasn’t sure that the store could go on after that, but coincidentally, the record store upstairs had gone out of business and Used Kids was able to take over the space at 1980 N. High St.
Around the same time, the CD market dipped, causing many music stores to go out of business. The million dollar years of the CD boom were over, and it all happened very quickly according to Bela Koe-Krompecher, who co-owned the store from 1993-2007.
Shannon — the current head buyer who started at the store in 1997 and still works there today — stuck around to see things come full circle, back to predominantly vinyl inventory. The dedication to vinyl is what saved them, he says.
“We had always kept that tradition of wanting vinyl in the store, so we were in a better position than a lot (of other stores). A lot of stores completely dumped their vinyl,” Shannon says.
The vinyl resurgence and smartphone effects
Hall says the vinyl resurgence isn’t something he fully understands, but he’s happy to be a part of it.
“I almost wonder if it’s just instinctual that people get to a point where having all things come to them through (a smartphone) it’s not tactile enough, it’s not interpersonal enough, it’s not real enough,” he says.
Shannon says the biggest challenge of a record store is getting good vinyl in stock. A large percentage of what is brought in to the store isn’t sellable for more than a dollar — like 50s pop records, he says. Used Kids strikes a balance between the rare and collectible original vinyl, reissues, and the more expensive new vinyl.
“The vinyl revival is a bit of hype, it’s a bit of illusion, it’s a bit of a media story, because it only pertains to a very, very small percentage of vinyl out there,” Shannon says.
Besides the changes in desired music mediums, both Shannon and Koe-Krompecher brought up the changes in the role of the store itself as a social hub.
“When you would go to the record store, basically the people at the record store would tell you what should be the soundtrack of your life,” Koe-Krompecher says. “People don’t do that now. We have phones. We just listen to it.”
Shannon added, “People who were really into music went to record stores because they knew that they could learn more about it. Now, obviously there’s a lot of ways they can learn about it. That was one of our roles that’s changed a little bit over the years.”
Used Kids makes an effort to counteract that change by hosting in-store events, especially live shows, periodically.
Koe-Krompecher says his fondest memory of his time at Used Kids is simply a feeling, that of a sense of total belonging and being part of a family.
“The store was this great magnet for very creative people, High Street was,” he says. “It was pretty amazing, looking back at it. When you’re in it, you don’t think about that. In hindsight, you say ‘oh it was really special’.”
Breathing new life
After working at School Kids in the late 70s, Hall spent time in Detroit and Chicago before coming back to Columbus in 2009 and working at Used Kids. He took a risk when buying the store in 2014.
“I bought it when it was really struggling,” Hall said. To me it was like a sleeping giant. The store had been here for a really long time, it was really well known. Why not breathe new life into it?”
Part of revitalizing the store included a new location at 2500 Summit Street. The new location is larger, has ample parking, and is safer from High Street redevelopment.
“It was a big gamble but it — 100 percent — was the best business decision the store ever made,” Hall says.
If its future goes anything like its past, Used Kids will surely have to continue to evolve or risk closing, but Hall says he’s ready for it.
“Like any small business person, you’re always running a tight line,” Hall says. “You work your butt off, good things will happen. The store’s been here for 30 years, and previously to me owning it, other people were working their butts off to make it work. I fully intend to see it continue for another 30 years.”
To celebrate Used Kids 30th anniversary, bands will begin playing at 12 p.m. and continue past the usual closing time of 8 p.m. on Saturday. Ten percent off all items will be offered, as well as giveaways.
For more information, visit www.usedkidsrecords.com.
All photos by Hannah Herner.