Vinyl forever

After Russ Solomon’s death and changes at Dimple Records, it’s the end of an era

When Russ Solomon died last month, it felt like the official end of an era, the passing of the record store. That heyday faded more than a decade ago, of course, when Solomon and his Tower Record cohorts filed for bankruptcy and liquidated the company’s record, book and video store empire.

Tower is long gone, as are the other behemoth chains—Borders Books & Music, Wherehouse Records, Sam Goody, et al. Even so, the record store somehow persists, in physical presence and in spirit. In the age of streaming, it’s a relic, sure, but one whose dusty heart still beats.

Locally, Dimple Records has expanded to fill the void left by Tower. With six stores in the region, the franchise offers shoppers a wealth of goods, including new and used CDs and vinyl.

More importantly, it offers shoppers an experience: the pleasure of browsing, of picking up a record to check out its album art; pulling out the vinyl to examine for scratches and carrying it to the counter to chat with the clerk about which was better, the band’s first album or its last? (Hint: When talking to record store clerks, it’s almost always the first record).

Dimple, long owned by Dilyn and Andrew Radakovitz and occupying one of the original Tower Record locations, plans to sell a significant stake in its company to an outside investor, but not because the franchise is struggling.

“We want to grow,” Dilyn Radakovitz says.

The time is right, she adds, pointing to a March 22 report from the Recording Industry Association of America. For the first time time since 2011, according to the RIAA, Americans spent more on CDs and vinyl than digital downloads.

“It’s exciting news,” Radakovitz says.

If the sale goes through, she adds, the couple intends to retain a day-to-day role in Dimple’s operations, which in addition to music, include books, film and video games.

Going forward, she says, they hope to signal boost Dimple’s online presence.

“If [the sale] works out, we would have the opportunity to do more,” she says.

Whatever the outcome, Sacramento needs Dimple Records and its like. Old school brick-and-mortar stores give us a place to find ourselves, sonically speaking.

Once, when I was 16, I wandered into the Tower on K Street and listened as the unmistakable nasal twang of Michael Stipe’s voice gave way to the unmistakable nasal squeak of Madonna’s. The guy behind the counter must’ve noticed my excitement over hearing the as-yet-released “Papa Don’t Preach” single because he motioned me over, waving a copy of the record.

“Do you want this?” he asked, holding up True Blue. “It’s a promo, I can’t sell it.”

At the time, I had no idea what a promo record was. I just knew I’d struck musical gold. A free record. Before any of my friends had heard it. Magical.

There were other destinations: the Beat—both in its original H Street shop (albums purchased: The Pixies’ Surfer Rosa, Billy Bragg’s Talking with the Taxman about Poetry), its second spot on Folsom Boulevard (The Cocteau Twins’ Heaven or Las Vegas, Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville) and its final resting place on J Street (Throwing Muses’ University).

These and all the other stores make up the chapters of my life, a story chronicled in songs and album covers, listening booths and, always, asking the person behind the counter, “What’s good?”