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Local record shops will need to up their game to weather the substanceless future of music

Photo: Photos by Adam Villela Coronado, License: N/A

Photos by Adam Villela Coronado

Last of the independents — Imagine Books’ Don Hurd is San Antonio’s latest stand for vinyl.

Photo: , License: N/A

Javier Gutiérrez, part owner of Del Bravo Record Shop on Old Highway 90.

Why am I dogging our esteemed, but dying shops? It’s because of Don Hurd, a 50-year-old former English teacher who just opened Imagine Books and Records on Culebra near Timberview. He worked at a variety of record/bookstores in the ’90s, including two years managing the defunct Apple Records (not related to the Beatles’ label of the same name). Hurd’s enthusiasm makes a Spurs cheerleader seem like a pallbearer. He said he sunk his life savings into Imagine because he’s still charmed by “the experience you get from holding something in your hands” and the needle dropping into a groove producing vibrations that become music. Recently, a teen girl thrilled at buying Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in his shop. It felt right. “I have two sons and it’s important to me that they see their parents had dreams in their life and didn’t just... ” His eyes well up.

But Hurd has no illusions about the challenge ahead and is prepared to go whole-hog promoting. New material is endangered, so he’ll sell used. Social media is integral, so he’ll promote. Events bring people, so he’s planning spoken word and songwriter nights. An online department will build capital and may become the crux of his business, so he’s selling and shipping through an AbeBooks account. He can’t afford advertising, so he’s flyer-campaigning his neighborhoods.

Try to imagine Hogwild clerks canvassing neighborhoods. Or Del Bravo converting to an online, primarily used warehouse with a miniature storefront. Or Janie’s studying social media’s best practices. If sales continue to drop, this may be the future of each. Or attempts at change may come too late, and San Antonio will be impoverished by one more store’s closure.

Hurd’s efforts — though they may fail miserably — is a reminder that our stores are not emulating successful strategies effectively, particularly because they are all ignoring online sales but also because they’re not getting the most out of the “new word of mouth”: social media. Nor are they luring in a dedicated base that leaves the city to indulge themselves elsewhere.

In October, Chris Houchens, Kentucky-based marketing speaker and author of Brand Zeitgeist, told me that everyone supports a community record store in theory, but reveal their true colors once they sit in front of a computer.

My question for SA’s store owners and shoppers both present and past: Is he right? •

* Hogwild does, in fact, offer online ordering through both eBay and Discog. We regret the error and thank online commenter DJ Dogbone for bringing it to our attention.

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