When Amjad Doumani closed his record store at the end of 1994 and began taking orders online and by mail, he always hoped he'd again find himself selling LPs and music memorabilia from behind the counter.
Seventeen years later, he is.
In late January, Mr. Doumani reopened B-Bop Records at 137 N. Michigan St. in downtown Toledo. He likes to say his music store is both the oldest and newest in Toledo.
Though the business has been successful in its online form, it wasn't quite the same.
"For me, the thing I missed the most about having a storefront were the relationships I cultivated with my clientele. That's what's great about independent businesses and businesses like B-Bop Records," he said. "When someone comes in here, you know what they like, what they don't like, and you can turn them on to [new music]."
Mr. Doumani opened B-Bop Records in an 800-square-foot space in 1987 and rapidly grew, moving into a 4,000-square-foot store on Dorr Street near the University of Toledo's campus in 1990. Unfortunately for him, the industry was about to spin in a much different direction. Big retailers moved in, underground groups such as Nirvana went mainstream, and digital mediums began replacing analog. By 1994, Mr. Doumani was paying more to buy CDs wholesale than stores such as Best Buy were selling them for retail.
So what has allowed Mr. Doumani to come back? Two things, he said between sips of coffee last week at his store.
For one, vinyl has seen a resurgence.
According to the Recording Industry Association of America, sales of vinyl records grew to 4 million units in 2010, up 25 percent from 2009. The value of those sales jumped to $87 million, a 44 percent increase from 2009 and the highest level since 1990. The trade group hasn't yet released 2011 year-end numbers. "[Vinyl] is still a very small part of the music industry as a whole," association spokesman Liz Kennedy said. "But you do see a strong increase."
Right now, Mr. Doumani sells preowned records and CDs, though he expects to begin carrying new vinyl as well soon. The store stocks 45s, 33s, and even some old 78s.
"Vinyl does sound better," he said. "It's an analog medium; it's basically like us. We're not digital beings, we're analog beings. We can relate to the sound of analog media."
Also, there are some things that just can't be found on CD. He gestured toward a colorfully illustrated album of Brazilian music to make his point.
The other reason is the type of community-centric store Mr. Doumani is trying to build.
Before B-Bop opened, the space it occupies was the fall election headquarters for the Lucas County Green Party, of which Mr. Doumani was fund-raising coordinator. When the election was over, those who had been involved in the campaign wanted to keep their space. They did so by creating what they call "Third Space," made up of B-Bop Records, a small Green Party office, and the Media Decompression Collective, which screens and analyzes independent documentaries. There's also free coffee and a Wi-Fi lounge.
Mr. Doumani said the hope is the combination will build community activism through the arts. Of course, he also wants to run a successful store. "B-Bop is here to do good business," he said. "We want to survive, we want to get traffic, and we believe in the revitalization of downtown through small businesses opening up, and that's why we chose downtown. We could have gone somewhere else, where there's more foot traffic, but we think downtown is a good place and the Davis Building is a good fit for us."
There's weeks worth of grand opening events, including live music, starting Monday. The store is also offering 20 percent off all sales.
Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6134.