Vinyl has been making a steady comeback since 2015 when Billboard magazine reported a 53 percent increase in physical album sales during the first quarter of that year. And, in the first six months of 2021 alone, 17 million vinyl records were sold in the US, showing the trend has no signs of slowing. As fans seek to show their loyalty to their favorite musicians and want something tangible to connect with the artists and their music, the local record store has returned as a place to shop and share music culture. Whether you’re a serious collector or you just like exploring unique spaces, you can’t go wrong with an hour or two at an independent record store . Not only are you likely to find a cool and quirky space with tons of memorabilia and artwork, but there’s also the great music — current favorites, special rarities, and new artists — to fall in love with. Take a look at 11 of the coolest record stores in America.
1. Amoeba Records — Berkeley, CA
The Amoeba Records chain is probably the most well-known independent record store group in California and one of the coolest record stores in America. With locations in three major cities — Berkeley, Los Angeles, and San Francisco — Amoeba has become an institution when it comes to vinyl. The flagship store is in Berkeley in a building originally known as the Forum Coffee House, where young poets would come read their work for patrons. All three stores have amazing collections of new and used vinyl, as well as tons of great posters and other merchandise. Each store also hosts live performances featuring well-known and up-and-coming bands. “I distinctly remember an event with Sonic Youth there where me and my friends waited in a line to meet the band. I remember thinking they were so cool that I got very nervous and had the shakes. They signed my boyfriend’s book for me, as he was their biggest fan,” recalls one fan in a Yelp review. If you can’t visit in person yet, check out the “What’s in My Bag” web series featuring famous people shopping at Amoeba.
Address: 2455 Telegraph Ave., Berkeley, CA 94704, USA
Hours: Wednesday to Sunday 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM
Address: 1855 Haight St., San Francisco, CA 94117, USA
Hours: Monday to Sunday 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM
Address: 6200 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90028, USA
Hours: Monday to Thursday 11:00 AM to 8:00 PM; Friday to Sunday 11:00 AM to 9:00 PM
2. Waterloo Records — Austin, TX
In 1982, long before Austin was the hip city it is today, Waterloo Records opened its doors as a place for music lovers to build a community. Owner John Kunz co-founded the record store with the belief that “if [Waterloo Records] was the place that people would find the music they were looking for, or discover music they didn’t know they were looking for, we would find kindred spirits.” That mission seems to be accomplished since the Austin Chronicle Readers’ Poll has named Waterloo the Best Record Store in Austin every single year since its inception. With a DIY aesthetic and a collection of vinyl, CDs, music magazines, T-shirts, posters, and local memorabilia filling the space, it’s a place where you can easily spend a few hours. The store also offers grassroots support for local bands, and is one of the most popular venues for SXSW performances, having hosted the likes of Nirvana, Animal Collective, and St Vincent through the years. Stop by here and you’ll be stepping right into the heart and guts of the local music scene.
Address: 600A N. Lamar, Austin, TX 78703, USA
Hours: Monday to Sunday 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM
3. Electric Fetus — Minneapolis, MN
With a name that earned it the title “worst name for a business” from National Lampoon magazine, and the honor of being the last record store Prince visited days before he died, Electric Fetus may be the coolest store you can visit anywhere. Not only is this the place to go for music and turntables, but this wild and wacky store also carries stationery, accessories, bath and beauty products, housewares, and all kinds of knick-knacks. Plus, Electric Fetus has been open for more than fifty years, meaning it’s old enough to have a story about the owner getting arrested for putting an altered American flag (the stars were in the shape of a peace sign) in the window. There are also a number of great stories about Prince visiting the store (this was his favorite store growing up), and the infamous Streaker Sale, when shoppers were given an album and cannabis pipe for free as long as they were completely naked. In short, coming here involves expecting the unexpected.
Address: 2000 4th Ave., S Minneapolis, MN 55404, USA
Hours: Tuesday to Saturday 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM; Sunday 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM
4. Reckless Records — Chicago, IL
If you’ve been to London, you might have seen a Reckless Records store on Berwick Street. That store has a sister in Chicago, also called Reckless Records. Actually, the London record store has triplets for siblings since there are now three locations in the Windy City. If the Wicker Park location looks a little familiar, it’s because the shop’s laid-back, music-centric look was the inspiration for the record store in High Fidelity (both the movie with John Cusack and the TV show with Zoe Kravitz). With an endorsement like that, you can definitely expect a well-curated selection of albums and in-store concerts from acts like Jack White and Wild Belle. “We take pride in stocking everything from, say, the new Beyonce CD to a cassette by an up-and-coming local artist, to a reissue of a mostly unknown African psychedelic rock band or an obscure techno 12-inch,″ says Matt Jencik, head music buyer for the stores. Don’t miss the wall of ‘staff-picks’ and the hand-written reviews on new albums.
Address: 1379 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago IL 60622, USA
Hours: Monday to Saturday 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM; Sunday 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM
Address: 929 W Belmont, Chicago IL 60657, USA
Hours: Monday Saturday 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM; Sunday 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM
Address: 26 E Madison, Chicago IL 60602, USA
Hours: Monday to Saturday 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM; Sunday 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM
5. Second Hand Records — New York City, NY
Most people who talk about Second Hand Records in Brooklyn talk about how great and helpful the owner, Federico Rojas-Lavado, AKA Rico, is. The dance music fanatic and former DJ has created a haven of rare and hard-to-find house, funk, soul, techno, and jazz records in a cute and cozy space complete with a comfy couch to just sit and hang out. You can’t miss the store with its brightly colored neon lights in the window, and the vibes are impeccable as folks browse the stacks while Rico spins some tunes. “Whether you go there to buy or sell records, or just listen to what he’s currently playing in his element, grab a cup of coffee and go hang at Second Hand records in Bushwick. I guarantee you will leave refreshed, energized and most of all, musically inspired for whatever your reasons may be,” says one regular of the store in a Google review. And if you feel like you just want to leave with something to commemorate the visit, there is also a $1 crate where you can pick something up that may become a new favorite.
Address: 1165 Myrtle Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11206, USA
Hours: Monday to Saturday 1:00 PM to 8:00 PM; Sunday 1:00 PM to 7:00 PM
6. Jackpot Records — Portland, OR
When you step into this record store on Hawthorne Boulevard, you’re greeted with a bright red, neon-light sign that simply says ‘records.’ And Jackpot Records certainly doesn’t disappoint when it comes to an incredible selection of rarities and one-of-a-kind recordings. Owner Isaac Slusarenko once acquired the largest collection of used vinyl in Portland’s record-buying history, buying more than 125,000 vinyl LPs and 45s. Some of the oddities that came with this giant stack included “The Stars Wars Christmas Album”, a once-only release from a TV special, and a 45-inch single called “Dance the Slurp” released by 7-Eleven. Jackpot Records got its name because of the Las Vegas feel of the record store, but the real win when you go here is getting to experience in-store performances, collectibles, meet and greets, record signings, and browsing through stacks of awesome vinyl.
Address: 3574 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR 97214 , USA
Hours: Monday to Saturday 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM; Sun 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM
7. Sonic Boom Records — Seattle, WA
It’s only natural that a list talking about the coolest places for music lovers includes Seattle. And a pretty good representative for this iconic music city is Sonic Boom Records, which was established in 1997 in a converted house in the Fremont neighborhood. The record store is pretty much an institution in the music scene here, and therefore, has some pretty epic stories in its lore. “MTV’s The Real World shot a season in Seattle for five months in 1998,” remembers former owner and co-founder Nabil Ayers, “and one afternoon the entire cast of early twentysomethings invaded the store escorted by two Seattle police officers, a camera crew, and an entourage wearing satin jackets and barking into headset microphones. We had a brief, awkward, on-camera discussion about Modest Mouse with ‘Nathan’. But he didn’t buy anything, and we didn’t make the edit.” They were asked about Modest Mouse because the band cut its teeth here when they were first starting out, along with Death Cab for Cutie (whose bassist also worked there for a bit). You can’t miss the giant Sonic Boom sign out front and inside, you’ll find an excellent store to discover music from the Pacific Northwest.
Address: 2209 NW Market St, Ballard, Seattle, WA 98107, USA
Hours: Daily 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM
8. Third Man Records — Nashville, TN
You don’t have to be a fan of Jack White or The White Stripes to appreciate the magical wonder that is the Third Man Records store, which was founded by the prolific musician in 2001. In fact, the term ‘record store’ isn’t exactly the right description for this place, because while it is a place where you can buy records, it’s also a novelties lounge, a live music venue (known as The Blue Room), a recording studio, and the headquarters for the Third Man record label. In short, Third Man Records is totally worth a stop if you love music. One of the highlights is the 1947 Voice-O-Graph recording booth where you can record two minutes of sound and leave with a six-inch vinyl of your own. Third Man Records is also the country’s only live-to-acetate venue, where live performances are etched directly on vinyl for one-of-a-kind recordings. Plus, if you’re lucky, you may even see the man himself, as happened to one lucky fan: “Jack White just happened to be there while we were there this time around”, one Google reviewer wrote. There were four guys crammed around the recording booth singing their hearts out cutting a vinyl. Kitschy, cool shop.”
Address: 623 7th Ave S, Nashville, TN 37203, USA
Hours: Daily 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM
9. The Record Parlour — Los Angeles, CA
With a vintage feel and an extensive collection of decently priced vinyl, The Record Parlour is a great place to be browsing after you’ve hit up the Hollywood Farmers Market on a sunny California Saturday. “I haven’t been to a record store with a live DJ in a long time. It gives the place a really cool energy that makes record browsing more fun,” said a recent visitor on Yelp. Touted to have the largest online collection of vinyl in Southern California, the store also contains a crazy collection of restored jukeboxes, music and movie memorabilia, posters, and record covers. Keep an ear out for the annual Free Record Day, when you can score a record for free. The coolest thing about the store may be the rotation of local and international acts that perform live in the fantastic space, and rumor has it they once hosted a private party for Beyonce herself.
Address: 6408 Selma Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90028, USA
Hours: Daily 10:30 AM to 11:30 PM
10. Rooky Ricardo’s Records — San Francisco, CA
San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury neighborhood is a fantastic place for people watching and record-browsing. And, after you visit the SF branch of Amoeba, you should also check out Rooky Ricardo’s Records for a completely unique and yet very San Francisco experience. Run by Dick Vivien, whose passion for collecting soul and RnB 45s overflowed into retail, the store has reached legendary status for those in the know. “Dick is the most helpful record store guy I have ever met, without being snobby or pushy,” says one record lover on Yelp. “He offered me some whiskey on the rocks (omg, yes please!) while I listened to records on one of their many listening stations, and after I picked out a few LPs I couldn’t live without, he threw in some compilation CDs based on what I liked.” Along with the impeccable service, you’ll find insane artwork, including a bright, red light-up sign that says “soul,” and 60s kitsch everywhere you look in the form of posters, toys, bumper cars, and two brightly colored rotary phones.
Address: 419 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117, USA
Hours: Daily 12:00 PM to 6:00 PM
11. Som Records — Washington DC
With bright yellow walls and a low ceiling, Som Records is where you’re likely to find locals browsing for international records they won’t find anywhere else. The basement vinyl store carries a wide variety of new and used records, as well as rare and imported albums in a range of genres, including samba, reggae, blues, salsa, folk, and rock. Owner Neal Becton, a serious collector who spends his time crate digging to find gems for his carefully curated record store, is particularly fond of Brazilian records and travels regularly to hunt for inventory. He’s also one of the founders of the DC Record Fair, which features DJs, drinks, food, and, of course, tons of vinyl. Along with all the great records, the store is a great place to see some cool memorabilia, like James Brown figurines and vintage photos, and walls lined with old flyers, movie posters, and records.
Address: 1843 14th Street NW, Washington DC
Hours: Sunday to Thursday 12:00 PM to 6:00 PM; Friday to Saturday 12:00 PM to 7:00 PM.