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When Bel Air residents Sean Lanahan and Mark Santoro started hanging out jointly though attending Calvert Corridor College or university Substantial College, they bonded about songs, primarily ’80s classics and ’90s different. Their shared really like of music, and their friendship, endured.
“Music by no means took a backseat for us,” says Lanahan, 48.
In the course of their teenagers and 20s, they explored report outlets. As they flipped by means of the albums, they often identified new data or artists they hadn’t heard: Def Leppard’s Pyromania, R.E.M.’s Doc, and Surfer Rosa by the Pixies. But there was extra to it than that.
When attending Towson College, Lanahan would repeated the now-defunct Record & Tape Traders positioned close by. “You received to know the people there,” he states. “It was just generally definitely type of a amazing community.”
Right after graduating from school, each Lanahan and Santoro, 50, acquired employment, bought married, and experienced kids—the standard grownup path. And whilst they moved on to getting cassettes, CDs, and even MP3s, they by no means forgot about their initially really like: vinyl.
About 12 years ago, Santoro commenced frequenting Coda Data, the past document shop still holding out in city, located on Major Avenue in Bel Air. “That was ahead of the huge wave experienced come for documents,” he clarifies.
Santoro was hooked on acquiring information all more than again. But Lanahan admits it took him a little extended to return to his youthful interest. The initial rumblings happened when his mother and father dropped off a bunch of aged records from when he was a kid. But what really obtained him gathering again was a concert.
“In order to get in on pre-sale for concert tickets to a U2 concert, I joined their lover club. They despatched you a reward, and it was all these 45s, and I didn’t have anything at all to engage in them on,” points out Lanahan. “So my wife purchased me a affordable turntable for Xmas that yr.”
Before long just after, Santoro took him to a report clearly show. “Two hundred bucks and a huge stack of documents later on,” Lanahan states, he was a collector once again. “Next thing you know, I’m fully upgrading my stereo program. I just dove again into it.”
By that time, Coda Records had closed and the buddies necessary to travel to get their vinyl resolve. They went to Protean Books & Data in Baltimore City and to the monthly Arbutus Document Show, even now held currently at the Arbutus Volunteer Fireplace Department. They also expended tons of time in Ramm On Documents, in the North Issue Plaza Flea Market place.
But in 2018, the good friends noticed a Facebook submit asserting that Ramm On Data was closing. Lanahan instantly known as Santoro and questioned him, “What do you imagine it would get to purchase all their stock?”
Unusually plenty of, they both equally experienced the identical variety in mind. And it turns out, their guess was on the nose: When Lanahan went to see the operator, she explained to him that the value was the precise exact quantity they have been organized to offer. Although they won’t say how much they compensated, they will say that their purchase involved about 18,000 information, DVDs, CDs, and much more.
Both of those Santoro and Lanahan had invested their whole professions in retail: Santoro for more than 30 several years as a manager at Kohl’s, Barnes & Noble, and Focus on Lanahan as a district manager at Sherwin Williams. Could they use their knowledge to start off selling documents? They knew it was meant to be, they just weren’t confident was it was.
With a U-Haul, they put in two months moving the Ramm On cache to a climate-managed storage device. In the meantime, they established up racks in Lanahan’s basement, a lot like a mini document retail store. Then, they started grading, cleansing, sleeving, and pricing their wares.
“Used information do the job off of a grading procedure related to what you would see with baseball playing cards, stamps, comics, etcetera. So, it ranges from lousy up to mint—mint being unplayed,” explains Lanahan, including that there’s a little wiggle room, “when it is something truly unusual and useful.”
Santoro and Lanahan commenced by offering information on the internet by means of Discogs.com. (The site also taught them how to price tag their information.) They known as their enterprise REB Documents, which is named just after their young children: Lanahan’s daughter, Riley, Santoro’s daughter, Elizabeth, and Lanahan’s son, Brendan. Whilst the two had constantly talked about opening a report shop, that was a major stage, one they weren’t totally absolutely sure they preferred to get. But on the internet orders have been slow going.
“It would have taken us 100 years to promote all the things,” quips Santoro.
“USED Information Operate OFF A GRADING Method Related TO WHAT YOU WOULD SEE WITH BASEBALL Playing cards, STAMPS, COMICS, ETC…”
Lanahan’s spouse, Nora, noticed an opening with the Armory Market, a plan operated by the town of Bel Air that supplies incubator area for new corporations. With minimized rent, it permits corporations to become extra founded with no the tension of having to pay business rental fees for space. It appeared the fantastic way to amount up their vinyl sport.
Santoro however remembers obtaining the cellphone get in touch with although he was at the barber indicating they’d effectively navigated the software method and REB Data was in. “I think the up coming phrases out of my mouth have been, ‘Oh shit. What are we likely to do?’”
“We both equally experienced that ‘oh shit’ second, like this just obtained real truly rapid,” recalls Lanahan with a snicker.
In 2019, they signed a six-thirty day period lease as portion of the system. Immediately after that, they could go thirty day period-to-thirty day period, with a restrict of three decades. If your business hasn’t succeeded by then, it’s time, at the very least with this program, to go on.
When they initially opened, their hours were Friday nights and Saturdays and Sundays. Just after working all 7 days at their whole-time work, they would work at REB Data. Matters took off fairly swiftly and they have been even equipped to hire Jason Chaillou, their very first parttime staff. By Xmas of that year, business enterprise was heading so nicely that they started imagining about bringing on a further employee. Then COVID strike.
Through the shutdown, they attempted marketing information on Facebook. Whilst that worked, they couldn’t do curbside pickup due to the fact a document shop was not regarded an vital business enterprise, so Santoro and Lanahan commenced offering data to customers’ properties.
“It was sort of prehistoric,” states Santoro. But the pandemic was also, ironically, a boon for business. The level of popularity of vinyl soared during lockdown. According to Lanahan, revenue elevated 29 % in 2020, soaring to much more than 50 p.c in 2021. Final 12 months was the 17th consecutive yr of expanding vinyl product sales.
“People were being house and bored and listening to songs,” says Santoro. Vinyl was already hugely popular, and folks commenced putting tons of orders with REB Documents to have them shipped. “It was sort of insane.”
Right after the main shutdowns, they employed a 2nd employee, then-school student Edward Benner, who now operates as an English and film instructor at Baltimore City Higher education Significant University. “Ed was a huge component of our good results. He helped us with growing our supplying,” suggests Lanahan. They took his recommendations and brought in different artists’ documents.
He introduced them to Phoebe Bridgers, Mitski, Beach front Bunny, Loss of life Grips, Porridge Radio, Snail Mail, Soccer Mommy, Bon Iver, and other artists that would charm to Gen Z. “That was when we really saw a change in our customer foundation as considerably as the age demographics go,” claims Lanahan.
In 2021, REB Documents moved to its existing place at 4 North Principal Avenue in Bel Air. The initial explosion of revenue, indicating they had been accomplishing the suitable factor, occurred just before relocating.
As an impartial history retail store, they ended up able to participate in Document Retail store Working day, a national celebration held each April, through which only accredited unbiased document suppliers can sell special vinyl releases, printed just for that day. They could be just one-of-a-sorts or exclusives, these as Hail Satin, a constrained-version disco album place out by a aspect project of the Foo Fighters identified as the Dee Gees. (This calendar year, Document Retailer Working day is April 22.) But for the duration of COVID, in 2021, the working day was break up into two days—one in June and just one in July.
Santoro and Lanahan confess they were being apprehensive that to start with History Shop Working day. They weren’t confident if they requested sufficient or far too a lot of the special gross sales of the working day. They purchased a lot, hoped for the very best, and showed up in the morning. What they saw astounded them: Customers have been outside the house the shop in sleeping luggage and on air mattresses. Driving them, the line of people prepared to invest in looked unlimited.
“It was like a excess weight lifted off our shoulders,” claims Lanahan. That day, it took people today up to 3 hours waiting around in line to look at out. And wait they did. “That June was so profitable, and we obtained a ton of new buyers who experienced in no way been to our retail store right before,” says Santoro.
The men expended the subsequent pair of times moving the relaxation of their inventory to their new storefront on Key Street. By August of that calendar year, enterprise was so terrific in the retail store that they knew someone necessary to go away his entire-time position to perform there. Lanahan was the to start with to choose the leap. “I still left my career of 25 years, and I was terrified of it,” he says. But a few months later on, the achievements continued, and in December, Santoro still left his complete-time position as nicely.
Currently, Lanahan and Santoro do all the things, like stock management, buying, having to pay expenses, social media, building house phone calls to invest in collections from folks, and even jogging the register when required.
The premier non-public selection they’ve procured was 4,000 documents. Their keep has about 20,000 information now, both equally outdated and new. As for their clientele, they estimate that 50 p.c are Gen Z and less than the age of 30 and the other 50 percent are normally Gen X and more mature.
As to why more youthful customers—even teens—have embraced the vinyl development, Lanahan has some views.
“I think they are receiving into some of what we received into when we had been young ones and purchased a file. You want to get the sleeve out. You want to look at the liner notes. You want to see the lyrics or what musicians performed on it,” he suggests. “Album artwork has turn into a massive matter now. They show the albums on their walls. And the tactile nature of it. They grew up with absolutely nothing like this. Really, staying ready to bodily hold one thing is kind of interesting once again.”
“I LOVE…JUST THE Physical MEDIUM ITSELF—BEING Capable TO Maintain THE File, Appear AT THE Report, Read through THE INSIDES.”
Mary Beth Taylor, 18, from Parkville has been gathering vinyl given that mid-2020 and owns about 40 albums. She 1st noticed folks on TikTok and YouTube listening to records and exhibiting the covers. Her sister, Lindsey, received her a history player for Christmas and gave Taylor her initial record—Guardians of the Galaxy. The initial a single she purchased for herself was Whipped Cream & Other Delights by Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass. After listening to the track “Ladyfingers” on Spotify, she liked it and needed the history.
Like many more youthful clients at REB, Taylor will hear to audio on Spotify and then look for for the album. “I like listening to just one album all the way via,” she suggests. Vinyl has grow to be hip for her generation due to the fact, “I feel like portion of it is that it’s regarded classic, so individuals like the aesthetic of it.”
Dan Gittings, 44, is a customer from the other close of the spectrum. A Gen Xer from Havre de Grace, Gittings acquired back into vinyl about 10 many years back, following his mother and father gave him their old records. “I appreciate the seem, and just the physical medium itself—being able to hold the history, glimpse at the report, go through the insides. Some of them nonetheless have lyrics in them. The sound quality—if you get your self a superior adequate turntable system—it just blows you absent,” he suggests.
He was captivated to REB Documents mainly because of their purchaser support. “The fellas are incredibly helpful. Their prices are good,” Gittings states. “I won’t go any where else.”
In addition, the shop will look for unique documents for customers. In Gittings’ case, he’s often looking for the Grateful Lifeless. Lanahan and Santoro try to remember that thrill. Rising up in the 1980s and ’90s, they bought psyched when they’d come across a to start with push of ’90s alternate vinyl. In simple fact, one of the rarest data they have on sale is U2’s Achtung Toddler, which is an original 1991 press that is sealed. “We’d never ever noticed one right before we observed that,” claims Santoro.
Even though that goes for $250, it is not the most high priced record in the retail store. That honor goes to a to start with push of Led Zeppelin Two, mastered by Robert Ludwig. What tends to make it specific is that the bass was mastered so significant in the original push that when played on cheap 1969 turntables, it would skip. So people retained returning it. They experienced to remaster it, and pulled the other individuals that hadn’t sold. The unique had one run.
“It’s exceptional. It is in very good problem. It is a 4- or 5-hundred-greenback document,” describes Lanahan. (His statement was prophetic the document bought shortly right before push time for $400.)
What’s their holy grail? Not surprisingly, for the buddies, it is the exact album: The Beatles Yesterday and Today, with the notorious “butcher deal with.” The original picture on the cover showed The Beatles dressed like butchers covered in blood, holding meat and pieces of infant dolls.
“Everybody freaked out above it,” states Lanahan. “An primary butcher address in very good situation is an exceptionally uncommon and pricey report and would expense about $10,000. My spouse is supportive. But she would not be fantastic with my shopping for that.”
But which is the factor about Lanahan and Santoro. They’re followers first—and company proprietors second. They really don’t just fully grasp their customers—they are their buyers.
“One of the genuinely neat items about what we do is connecting people today with the new music they really like,” claims Lanahan. “I can hear to a tune from a different position in time and it’s often like a minor slideshow of a thing likely on with my lifestyle. You try to remember what you have been accomplishing and who you were being with.”