VINYL GURU RECORDS
Lionel Richie would totally be the guru of vinyl if ever there was one, so it comes as no surprise that he is the mascot on merch and in spirit at Newport's funkiest record shop, Vinyl Guru. What this humble store lacks in square footage, it makes up for in groovy tunes and musical ambiance, offering thousands of records from every genre. Even more charming than the 45s hanging in the window or retro knick-knacks lining the shelves, is the vast musical knowledge imparted by its owners Kyle and Jess. The couple opened the shop in June of 2014 and have been slinging their selection of new and used records ever since. Vinyl Guru has become a mainstay attraction in Newport for both local and visiting music lovers to buy, sell, and trade records.
How did you decide to bite the bullet and open your own record shop? Finding a space, getting funding... I can't imagine any of that was easy.
Well we both love records and had been collectors. Kyle was buying and selling records independently for a couple of years... going to flea market yard sales and record shops; He started to sell his records at his mother's consignment shop in Bristol. It was a great way for him to hear so much stuff and then sell what he didn't need. He got really into the selling of the records! He would list them on eBay or Amazon... cleaning them up, bagging them, shipping them - all of it! He even had to build a big record bin with the help of a friend to better display his stock at the consignment store.
When we started living together there were records everywhere. We combined our collections and kept accumulating more. One day Kyle told me he'd driven by a little space on Broadway and had the idea that it'd be perfect for a small record shop. I was confident we could do it because Kyle already had momentum and I had worked at a record store for 5 years, learning from the best. So we went to look at the space and met with the landlords. We wrote up a business plan, and they loved it, so Kyle signed the lease!
Was it an important factor that the shop be in Newport?
Yes! We've both always loved Newport but were disappointed that it hadn't had an independent record store in so many years. So we knew people would appreciate it simply because we did, too.
How have you seen the Newport creative scene evolve since you've been here?
The music scene has changed a lot. I wouldn't say it's "evolved" ... but we appreciate the vibe here in Newport. There's a real sense of community centered around music and the arts (that even Providence doesn't have). Everybody encourages and supports eachother no matter how different they are.
Are you involved in the local creative community in other ways?
We're lucky to have made connections with great people who own and book venues like Hope, Jimmy's, The Parlor. We've DJ'd, played shows, done raffles, and once had a table at The Annex's Psychic Fair. We recently started doing a radio show for 87.9 Newport's awesome pirate radio station.
Where do you get your records?
90% of the records come from local people selling us their collections. 9% are ordered from distributors or acquired online. 1% magic.
What's the weirdest thing somebody has bought in the shop?
We do have a lot of odd stuff here, but probably a singing Satchmo (Louis Armstrong) doll that was still in its original packaging.
Do you listen to vinyl at home? How about online resources like Pandora or Spotify?
We listen to mainly vinyl at home. We have Pandora and Spotify on our phones, tapes in Kyle's truck, an iPod in the other car, and CDs in the bath.
Have any celebrities ever come into the shop?
The locals of Newport and other record enthusiasts are our favorite celebrities.
If you could go on tour with any band, who would it be?
Probably Parliament Funkadelic.
Newport's vibrant scene seems to be ever-changing and growing. There are young and enthusiastic people looking to get involved and make things happen in so many ways. What are your thoughts on the creative community here?
We really love the energy of everyone we've met. Everybody is different... there are artists, musicians, musicians who make art, artists who make music ... everybody respects and supports eachother. We love being a part of that.
All of the businesses downtown are great, too! Community programs and events are organized by passionate people. If you venture away from the touristy or ritzy parts, you'll see that.
Luckily we know a lot of smart people here who realize that if they don't support the local arts now, the city will become stale and generic. It's this next wave that will make this city great.
Photos by Benjamin Kiracofe