Growing up on Grand Vista Avenue in Pleasant Ridge, Mike Spitz was a frequent visitor to Everybody’s Records, a neighborhood and town institution for recorded music lovers since 1978.
âI discovered Everybody’s as I walked down Montgomery Road to other stores,â he says. âMy younger brother Paul was really passionate about records and got me hooked – he’s six years older. And my older brother had a lot of Beatles records, so they influenced me. I just started buying a lot of my early records from Everybody’s and my interests grew. I still have most of them today.
Spitz, 50, has lived in Los Angeles since 2000, so remembering the favorite record stores of his youth in Cincinnati – he also has kind words for those who did not survive, like Norwood’s Record Theater and the before. Wizard and Ozarka stations near the university. from Cincinnati – may seem purely an exercise in nostalgia.
But this is not the case. He made a new book out of it, Queen City Records: Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky Record Stores. It debuts this weekend with signings at two stores featured in the book – 2 p.m. Saturday at Everybody’s and 4 p.m. Sunday at Jet Age Records in Newport. Both will also have live music – 1:30 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. Spitz’s initial print is only 250 pounds; he will do more as needed.
A photographer when not busy with his full-time job as a registered social worker / clinical therapist specializing in child and adolescent issues, Spitz’s book portrays the environments of 13 existing record stores (plus a which recently closed) as sometimes funky and cluttered, sometimes chic and art-designed. He worked there while visiting here to see his family.
Stores featured in the book include several long-established stores – Everybody’s, Shake It Records from Northside, CD & Record Exchange from Mole from Clifton Heights, C&D Record Bar from Newport, and Phil’s Records from Latonia. Then there are the most recent – Torn Light Records from Bellevue, Plaid Room Records from Loveland, Hail Dark Aesthetics from Covington, MetaModern Music from Oakley, Jet Age Records from Newport, Black Plastic Records from Northside and Over-the-Rhine. , Herzog Music and Over- downtown. the Shakespearean Rhine named another part of the forest. The book also includes Newport’s Sugarcube Records, which recently closed. Sometimes they only sell used vinyl, but many stores also sell music related CDs, tapes, and ephemera such as turntables, band t-shirts, books and magazines, posters. concerts and even figures of favorite rockers.
Of the 14 stores profiled in Queen’s City Records, nine have opened since 2010 (including Sugarcube). Three featured in the book opened this year and a fourth (Morrow Audio in Florence) opened too late to be included. They have benefited from the vinyl revival, which has increased the popularity and prices of new and used vinyl records.
They also provided change to Spitz’s book. âThere would have been fewer stores to take pictures,â he says. âThere are new businesses as a result of this resurgence. “
This is not Spitz’s first book with record stores. In 2015, he published (via Rare Bird Books) The record store book, including 50 in the LA area. It received national distribution and exposure. But he actually started the Cincinnati project first.
âIn 2011, I had the idea to do some kind of storefront book,â he says. âI had seen a book on the New York storefronts that was very cool. So I thought maybe I would do a book on those in Los Angeles. But it seemed too big, too big. So I thought about how I could narrow it down to something more specific.
âWell, I love record stores and I remembered everyone and I thought, ‘Why don’t I try this? I came home for a visit and went to Shake It, Everybody’s, C&D and Mole’s and took pictures of these four stores.
But he also thought he should do something bigger – if not the record stores of the world, at least Los Angeles. Among other benefits, he could adapt the work to his work as a daytime therapist.
This culminated in the Record Store’s first book, which also included interviews with record store owners by writer Rebecca Villaneda. âThen we started to think, ‘Why don’t we do Seattle, Portland, Chicago, or New York? “Says Spitz. When this idea fell through, he figured he had already started a project in Cincinnati, so why not finish it?”
He ended up taking additional photos of the four stores he photographed in 2011, as well as new ones.
To do interviews and tell the story, Spitz hired writer Cassie Lipp, a 2016 University of Cincinnati graduate and also CityBeat donor. She responded to an ad sent by a UC journalism professor.
âI’ve been going to record stores all the time since 2012, my freshman year in college,â Lipp says. âI was writing an article for my Bob Dylan Rhetoric class at the time and I went to Everybody’s Records and bought some Dylan records. I thought, ‘Hey, that counts as an assignment, doesn’t it?’ After that, I started to explore record stores.
One thing Spitz learned from doing the Los Angeles book was that he couldn’t just showcase storefronts like his original inspiration – Storefront: The Vanishing Face of New York – made. âIt’s what’s inside the store that’s the most interesting,â he says.
For stores that have been around for a while, âthey’ve created that nostalgic vibe for you,â he says. But new stores can be different. âSome of the newer and younger stores are tidy, clean, neat, and only focus on new stuff. They’re trying to establish something different about them, something unique.
So what did he find in Cincinnati record stores? Some examples from the book:
â¢ At the C&D Record Bar, established in 1957, owner Dave Heil stands in front of shelves full of 45 rpm records while holding an old Andy Williams album called lonely street, in which the late crooner Pop is on a sidewalk, leaning against a building in what appears to be an abandoned part of town.
â¢ At the CD and record swap of Mole, who debuted on Short Vine in 1974 and moved to Calhoun Street after Dean Newman bought it in 1989, Newman stands behind the counter, proudly wearing a T- Shirt featuring the late guitar god Tommy Bolin and backing an album by the progressive rock band Spock’s Beard.
â¢ Hail Dark Aesthetics is as much a cabinet of weird curiosities, or quirks, as a second-hand record store – one photo shows a baby doll’s head on top of an animal horn with a stuffed squirrel holding an acorn nearby.
â¢ At Jet Age, which opened this year, the look is clean and retro-modern – there’s a red Formica table and chairs near a coffee bar. The listening station features a record player with a bright red base with a futuristic look.
âHaving done the first book, I know what works and what doesn’t,â says Spitz. âUsually, I don’t know what’s going to be in the store, so I go with a clean slate. But I tend to gravitate towards the same things. With images of people going through files, the person must be interesting. I take pictures of cassettes, records – always second-hand records from rap music. And if I can, I try to take a picture of someone who is not just an old crispy record collector. I really try to break the clichÃ©s of record stores.
He also had an eye for the unusual. âWith Hail Dark Aesthetics, what other store has dead animals on the wall? Spitz asks. âYou can’t ignore it, that’s what’s unique about the store. For Jet Age, I made sure I had the Formica table and a photo of the cafe sign in the back.
âAnd I always want to have a photo of the manager or the owner,â he continues. âYou always get a guy like Dean Newman (from Mole) – the older guy, the store is a little crowded, very good looking but with a hard veneer. And then the new stores have the young hipster guys with the tattoos. And then you also have the cynical guy whose business isn’t going well and he’s pissed off at the world.
There was one like that in LA, Spitz says, and also in Cincinnati.
You might call record stores a labor of brotherly love. No less than three groups of brothers own one locally – Darren and Jim Blase of Shake It, Terry and Robert Cole of Plaid Room, and Kevin, Tom and Mike Schraer of Jet Age. And there are two female owners – Julie Fay of Iris BookCafe, who has kept the other part of the adjacent forest open since the death of its founder and business partner Mike Markiewicz in 2014; and Marilyn Kirby, who has run Everybody’s, with loyal employees, since 1978.
Writer Lipp found his story inspiring. âShe was a single mom raising two young sons when she started her record store,â she says. âShe said that some of her friends and people working in the music business would help her with her store and her family. I felt it was a great story, how everyone came together for it as a community.
Perhaps this is the key lesson from the photos and stories that make up Queen’s City Records. Each independent record store is a community in itself.
Queen’s City Records will soon be available in select record stores and at Joseph-Beth bookstores in the Rookwood Pavilion, as well as from mikespitz.com.