There are things a person can do without—Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, the ability to take panoramic photographs with your phone—but regular trips to record stores are not one of them. With the market for vinyl rising, it’s becoming increasingly likely that your favorite new album can be played on a turntable. There are many reasons to love vinyl, and for those of us who do, the local record store is Mecca (for those of you who are wondering, what’s the big deal? Read this great piece on why one writer listens to vinyl). Unsatisfied with knowing that people out there might not know they have a treasure trove of music right in their backyard, I traveled across the state and found the seven best independent music stores in Michigan.
1. UHF Music512 S Washington
“It’s so clean,” my companion said after walking out of UHF. It’s true, the shop is immaculate—not a common trait in record stores, places usually devoted to items rescued from attics and basements of old people. From the hardwood floors to its bright lighting, UHF is a bit of an anomaly: a modern looking record store. It’s not just the décor that makes it a great record store; the shop boasts a great selection of vinyl. Sections for genres like country and jazz contain more records than you might have guessed given the store’s perceived hipness, and there is even a section featuring local acts. The overstock bins—filled with newer records with their price marked down because they ordered too much—are a surefire way to separate a shopper from their money. A board behind the cash register displays upcoming shows in the area, and you can buy tickets for local shows and forgo the annoying “convenience” charges you get from ordering online. This is the record store I stay up nights thinking about.
2. Dearborn Music22000 Michigan Avenue
One of the biggest record stores I visited, in terms of square footage, Dearborn Music brings to mind a Virgin Megastore with its walls stuffed with a wide variety of music-related merchandise, from posters and mugs to music DVDs and T-shirts. The vinyl selection is great, with large sections for new vinyl, used rock, and an entire room dedicated to jazz. The staff was friendly, calling out regular shoppers by name when they entered, like a record store version of the TV show “Cheers.” Future visitors be mindful, though, a sign in the window warns that the store will be moving soon after over 53 years at the same location. Check their Facebook page for updates on the new address, and be sure to visit them at their new location!
3. Vertigo129 Division Ave S
In Grand Rapids, there is no better place to go for new vinyl than Vertigo. Located in the Heartside district, Vertigo always reminds me of the record store in High Fidelity, but I can’t put a finger on why. Perhaps it’s because much like the movie’s main character, Rob, (who is the focal point of his store), Vertigo owner, Herm Baker, has a constant presence that makes his shop a must-visit. Friendly and knowledgeable, Herm and his staff are always a pleasure to converse with—even eavesdropping on their conversations with other customers can lead to solid entertainment. The store itself has a very large vinyl section, and the new vinyl section holds some hard-to-find gems. The soul, jazz, hip-hop, and metal sections are also more than an afterthought. A trip downtown is never complete without a visit to this Grand Rapids mainstay.
4. Underground Sounds255 E. LIBERTY ST. suite 249
For a small town, Ann Arbor has quite a few record stores. Of course, what else would you expect from the quirky, college town? Underground Sounds sticks out for its obsessive-compulsive like attention to detail and cleanliness. If you are looking for a specific artist, there has never been an easier place to find it quickly as every artist is labeled with tags, a task that must have taken no small amount of time. Underground Sounds certainly looks to be the newest record store in town, and the environment makes for a pleasant shopping experience. The store’s focus is on new vinyl, and the indie music selection is impressive. I also found some popular rap albums I had not seen elsewhere at very reasonable prices. The used vinyl on hand was in excellent shape. Out of all the stores in Ann Arbor, Underground Sounds was far and away the biggest threat to my already overstretched vinyl budget. Check out their Facebook!
5. Flat Black and Circular541 E Grand River
Besides having the best name of any shop on the list, Flat Black and Circular is also another member in a long line of record stores not easily found. True, it’s located on Grand River, a major artery through East Lansing, but to get to the store you actually have to walk up some stairs and do a double take to figure out which door is the right one. The extra effort put forth to make it inside the store is rewarded with a wide variety of records, DVDs, and CDs, as well as a feeling of being removed from the crowds of State college students moving like cattle down the sidewalks. Here, you are able to move freely amongst the records spanning many genres, notable for their specificity (check out the world music for the best example). New and used records are all in the same place, so you may have to do a little more browsing than in other stores, but it’s well worth it. As an added bonus, when I bought an album, the man behind the counter pointed to a small pile of 7” and let me choose one for free. Try getting that at FYE.
6. The Corner Record Shop3562 Chicago Drive Southwest
The first thing I noticed at The Corner Record Shop was the abundance of old gear; turntables, amps, you name it, visible through the windows as soon as you pull up to the store. It looks pretty cool, and if you’re like me and have an old turntable, it’s good to know they have someone there who can fix old electronics. Whenever I’m having turntable problems, I head over and the guys at the Corner
Record Shop have me fixed up in no time. While I’m waiting, I take my time to browse their large vinyl collection, which skews heavily towards used stuff, although their new vinyl is well selected.
7. Rumor Has It216 East Main St.
The only record store on the list I have not visited, Rumor Has It makes it here for a few solid reasons:
1.) We had multiple suggestions to put this on the list from trusted colleagues.
2.) There is a record store in Niles.
3.) They put this on their Facebook page.
4.) There is a record store in Niles.
Have a problem with the list? Share your favorite place to shop for records or let us know your favorite experience in a record store in the comments!
 Keep in mind, there are many different types of music lovers, and many different types of record stores. For this article’s purpose, I aimed to feature record stores with the most character and the best, most varietal selection of vinyl. In my search, I came across a lot of cool record stores that deserve attention, but were more like a niche market—i.e., they specialized in a genre that is not highly popular or the content of their stores were mostly rare, collector-type finds. I’m all for stores that sell “deleted Smiths singles and original, not re-released (underlined) Frank Zappa albums,” but I’m also well aware the general public does not care about such things. Such is life…
Jake Cagle is hoping that writing an article about record stores in a little-known online publication scores him at least +10 Hipster Points.