It’s back to the future for downtown Sanford’s newest business.
Rabbitfoot Records Coffee Lounge plans to open Friday, March 7, and sell records – the vinyl kind that require a turntable.
“”We’re not selling CDs. This will be an old-fashioned type record store,” says Rob Wallace, co-owner of Rabbitfoot Records.
Maybe the format is old-fashioned, but the business won’t be. In addition to some 3,000 records from nearly every genre, the store will feature — as its name suggests — a full coffee bar, and eventually a limited beer and wine selection.
“First and foremost, we are a record store. We want everyone to feel comfortable coming into the store,” says Wallace. “We want you to come in, let us play some records for you while you drink some coffee.”
The store, located at 309 E. 1st Street, will be the second Rabbitfoot Records location. The company was started in Titusville, and that store will continue to operate. Wallace says Sanford was the idea location for expansion because of the energy the Celery City’s downtown offers.
A vibrant downtown results in better foot traffic, but it also attracts record collectors who, Wallace says, are willing to travel and can spend two or three hours searching through record bins. That means if there are complimentary businesses nearby, it can drive more traffic to Rabbitfoot Records.
“In Titusville we are solely a destination. There is no place to eat in Titusville unless you want to eat at one of our four McDonald’s,” says Wallace. “In Sanford, there are cool restaurants and shops and other things to do. It gives collectors another reason to visit our store.”
Wallace plans to offer live music, and has booked several bands. For example, Joe Koontz of Against All Authority — one of the Sunshine State’s more successful punk rock bands from the 1990s — is scheduled to play at Rabbitfoot Records Coffee Lounge. Wallace says he is open to offer local bands a chance to showcase their talents.
“We want the store to grow organically,” says Wallace. “We have some things we want to do, but we also want our customers to come to us and let us know what they want.”
If customers want vintage records or newly released albums on vinyl, Rabbitfoot Records is the place, Wallace says.
“If you want the new Lady Gaga album on vinyl, we’re probably not going to have it in stock because our customers are more rock and punk oriented, but we can certainly order it for you,” Wallace says. “A lot of musicians, even the mainstream ones, are releasing their music on vinyl.”
In fact, there is growing business for vinyl records.
According to Nielsen SoundScan, while U.S. sales of digital downloads and CDs declined in 2013, vinyl album sales grew 32 percent to 6 million units, up from 4.55 million unit sales in 2012. In 2007 vinyl album sales were 988,000 units.
Interesting fact: While smartphones and mp3 players have become ubiquitous, CDs still account for 57.2 percent of album sales in the U.S., followed by digital albums (40.6 percent), vinyl (2 percent) and cassettes (two-tenths of a percent).
Wallace predicts the vinyl record business will continue to see double-digit growth for at least five years for two reasons. First, Wallace says his prime demographic is not baby boomers, but rather 18- to 35-year-olds — “millennials” — who are connecting with the format.
“They really like the tactile sensation you get from holding a record in your hands, putting it on the turntable and putting the needle on the record,” says Wallace.
That doesn’t mean they have abandoned their iPhones and iPods. Many newly-released records include a download code so buyers can have both music formats.
“People who buy records, usually already have the music in a digital format,” says Wallace. “They’ll listen to their earbuds when they’re on the go, but when they’re hanging out with their friends they want to listen to a record.”
The second reason Wallace expects the industry to grow is a lack of manufacturing capacity.
“I don’t think any new record pressing equipment has been made in 30 years,” Wallace says.
And those who own the pressing equipment are backlogged for months. Wallace says United Record Pressing in Nashville, Tenn., is one of the largest vinyl producers in the world, and the company operates around the clock, seven days a week.
Wallace points to Beck’s “Morning Phase” as an example of the demand. The album was released Feb. 25 in digital download, CD and vinyl formats. The vinyl records sold out by the end of the day.
“If you want that album on vinyl, you’re going to have to wait five or six months,” Wallace says. “Demand for vinyl is huge.”
That’s why Wallace and his partners plan on opening more retail stores, as well as a manufacturing facility in Titusville that will be able to produce 500 to 1,000 vinyl records per day. The pressing plant will be available to make records for local and regional bands, as well as assist major music labels with any new releases.
In addition, Rabbitfoot Records currently has the ability to make a vinyl record out of your favorite CD or digital playlist. A 12-inch record will hold about 12 minutes per side; a 10-inch about 9 minutes per side; and a 7-inch about 4 minutes per side.
“The equipment is in our Titusville store. If you bring your music into the Sanford store, we’re looking at about a three- or four-day turnaround,” Wallace says.
Wallace says he is excited about opening the Sanford location and becoming part of the community.
“This is a great city, and we want to be a part of it,” Wallace says. “It has such a good vibe.”Rabbitfoot Records Coffee Lounge 309 E. 1st Street 321-362-8153 rabbitfootrecords.com Rabbitfoot Records Coffee Lounge on Facebook
— By Dan Ping