CHEYENNE, Wyo.– At first glance, Don McKee’s decision to almost completely revamp the way he has made his living for the past 16 years seems risky.
But pay attention to consumer trends during this time, and his recent choice to rename his shop in Cheyenne from Phoenix Books & Music to Downtown Vinyl becomes much easier to understand.
McKee, the sole owner and employee of his business at 1612 Capitol Ave. downtown, held a soft opening of Downtown Vinyl on Monday to much fanfare, calling it one of the best sales days he’s had in 16 years. Influenced by the so-called “vinyl revival” – a resurgence of interest over the past decade in vinyl records, resulting in a format overtaking CDs in physical sales last year — and its effect on why customers went and bought things from his store, his shop gradually shifted from selling used books to one specializing in selling vinyl.
After pondering the idea of going (almost) solely to selling music for a few years, McKee had one definite thought in mind when he began renovating his shop at the start of the new year: “Let’s go thoroughly”.
“I brought my vinyl bins upstairs, put them right in front, and kept removing shelves and adding more vinyl bins,” McKee said. “It’s something progressive. And right in the middle of the pandemic I realized I just needed to go all vinyl [with] a small amount of books in the back.
“Vinyl has been the majority of my sales here for several years, so it’s just me making that decision…it’s really what has sustained the store for many, many years.”
At the store’s capacity, McKee said the store could hold approximately 10,000 records, with 7,000 currently in store but “more to be released” remaining in his collection. Options for many different eras and genres of music can be found in the store, from Bruce Springsteen to Merle Haggard and the Rolling Stones to the Red Hot Chili Peppers on 7-12 inch vinyl plus CDs.
McKee said a large portion of his customers were from an older generation who had grown up with vinyl, as well as younger people who had an interest in vinyl collecting. It left what he called a “doughnut hole” of a generation in between that grew up listening to CDs and cassettes, a void that was filled over time as children and teenagers brought the parents into the picture.
“Going back about 15 years ago, I think a lot of 15 to 30 year olds were getting into vinyl, maybe because they were anti-digital,” McKee said. “They wanted to be different from the Spotify/iTunes friends they had. They probably saw some vinyl in their parent’s and/or grandparent’s collections and thought it was pretty cool. … And all the other customers, it seems he, come in and say, “I got this [record]. I had this. I had this. … It stimulates memories, for sure.
For those who come to the McKee store for the books, some copies are still in the store, but clearly aren’t as important as the music on display. With year after year record sales exceeding books, McKee said “it’s just not going to change much in that regard”.
This week’s soft opening showed off the many cosmetic changes to the location – such as more speakers, artwork and merchandise – but Saturday’s Downtown Vinyl Day is where the fun really begins. . McKee plans to have live music at the store all day to celebrate the location’s first weekend under the new name, with giveaways of t-shirts and gift certificates (plus a $1 record sale). $) to start.
It will be the culmination of much work and thought by McKee that has gone into the project over the years. On the contrary, this weekend will be an opportunity to relax and go out with the music that now engulfs his life.
“It’s not that I don’t like books, I like books,” McKee said. “I read all the time. That’s why I kept a little of the classic literature there and kept the music biographies. … But as a business, you just go where the customers kind of tell you to go. ‘go.