Matthew Ingrassia wasn’t born yet when vinyl records were hugely popular. Yet the 22-year-old Colorado Springs resident is nuts about the anachronistic technology.
While his friends are obsessed with digital iPod music, Ingrassia is buying vinyl at Independent Records on Platte Avenue, favoring titles by the Doors, Creedence Clearwater Revival and the rat-pack crooner Dean Martin.
“I like the warmth of the sound,” Ingrassia said, “and it’s fun to keep the records in good condition.”
Independent Records is one of the biggest area sellers of vinyl, which makes up 4 percent of its sales. But its real bread and butter is in new and used CDs and DVDs and smoking accessories.
Together, these make up nearly 70 percent of sales.
Independent Records continues to prosper despite tough economic times and a fractured music industry by tweaking its inventory, diversifying its sales and being open to change.
The beauty of the independent company, said co-owner Orville Lambert, is that “we can respond very quickly to the marketplace.”
Though the company laid off a handful of employees in 2008 and 2009 due to the recession, it started hiring again this year and currently has 87 part-time and full-time workers, Lambert said.
Independent Records was founded in 1978 by the brothers Orville and Lewis Lambert with the opening of the Platte Avenue store.
By the early 1980s, with co-owner Judith Negley on board, the company opened stores on Bijou Avenue and in Pueblo. Several years later, stores in Falcon, west Colorado Springs and Denver opened. It’s largest stores, measuring 10,000 square feet, are in Denver and on Platte Avenue.
Independent Records has not been without its ups and downs.
Orville Lambert said the company’s big adjustments came in the early 1990s, when record companies cut back on issuing singles, and in the early 2000s with the rise of Internet music downloading.
The company reacted by building up its used CD and DVD market and diversifying sales through the Internet, Lambert said. Seven percent of company sales are through Amazon.com and ebay.
Independent Records has also remained a strong niche seller.
For customers wanting a hard-to-find rap CD, a limited-edition vinyl record, or a rock rarity, such as Johnny Winter live in 1970 at the Fillmore East in New York, Independent Records is one of the best places in town.
In recent months, with the opening of scores of medical marijuana dispensaries, the company has enjoyed a 1 percent to 2 percent increase every couple months in smoking-accessory sales, said Dennis Plamondon, Independent buyer of smoking accessories.
Smoking accessories now make up a quarter of all sales.
While clerks at alternative music stores can sometimes have poor people skills, co-owner Negley said that’s not the case at Independent.
“We have never sacrificed quality customer service,” she said. “We want people to leave the store happy.”
Independent Records area locations
• 123 E. Bijou Street
• 3030 E. Platte Avenue
• 3040 W. Colorado Ave.
• 5680 Highway 85/87