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Sweat too has reaped the benefits of vinyl's return to hipness. In recent years, Lauren "Lolo" Reskin says she's condensed her CD section and expanded her vinyl offerings. In addition to spending some of a 2009 Knight Art Challenge Grant of $50,000 to bring in No Age for Record Store Day, Reskin has invested in new, custom-built racks, most of which will be used for vinyl.
With her fuchsia- and raven-streaked hair and multitiered involvement on the local music scene, Reskin, 27, has been South Florida's poster child for the indie record biz. She was featured on a CBS Nightly Business Report segment about the resurgence of vinyl at the business she started with former partner Sara Yousuf (now a Miami public defender) in 2005. When Hurricane Wilma trashed the shop, Reskin salvaged what inventory she could and relocated to the heart of Little Haiti. Sweat's new surroundings now include noise bands, dope fiends, stray dogs, and Churchill's Pub.
Like Ramirez, Reskin has expanded the role of the indie store to include movie screenings, in-store performances, standup comedy, and yes, origami workshops. As a promoter, she hosts a weekly Friday-night party at the Vagabond and hypes shows at the Fillmore, for which she also serves as a consultant. Reskin's business partner, Jason Jiminez, runs Sweat's café, which serves fresh-brewed espresso, vegan cupcakes, and biscotti.
Also like Ramirez, Reskin's obsession with collecting began in childhood. Growing up in Miami, she maintained CaseLogic binders full of CDs and scoured thrift stores for vinyl treasure. Her dad, a classical musician, fueled her interest in a wide range of music, often playing Beatles or Steely Dan tapes in the car.
"I remember buying my first cassettes and asking only for Spec's gift cards for my birthday when I was like 10," she recalls. "I was always a music nerd, so it was kind of destiny."
While a generation of consumers has grown accustomed to downloading music, legally and otherwise, the transaction is entirely impersonal. Listeners might not fetishize their record collections to the degree of earlier generations, but there's still a hunger for something more tangible than 1's and 0's.
That's not to say that Radio-Active and Sweat don't sell records online; they do, and to buyers as far away as Finland and Sri Lanka, who pay plenty for premium collector's items. And yet, at a certain point, customers a bit closer to the stores are lured by the analog pleasures of walking into a bricks-and-mortar shop and actually flipping through record bins.
"You get a lot of people who don't want to sit in front of their computer all day," Ramirez affirms. "They want to go out, and they want to look at a physical product."
The record jacket's 12-by-12-inch canvas has always been a stronger selling point than a CD jewel-case liner. Whether it's a smoke-enshrouded portrait of John Coltrane, Frank Zappa's grinning mug, or even the intricate artwork gracing Joanna Newsom's new three-LP box set, the larger format just looks cooler.
"I think people are going back to that, kind of rebelling against the digital thing," Reskin posits. "A lot more people are interested not just in the mainstream but in the indie music scene. People have a lot more appreciation for the artist, for the artwork that goes with the albums, and that gets lost when you're just seeing a little tiny box in your iTunes of what the cover is."
Record Store Day will take place 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday at Radio-Active Records, 1930-B E. Sunrise Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-792-9488, or visit myspace.com/radio_active_records.
Sweatstock will take place 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday at Sweat Records, 5505 NE Second Ave. in Miami. Call 786-693-9309, or visit sweatrecordsmiami.com.