Music Expo

Derek Mason (left) and Pat McAuley sift through the thousands of record albums for sale at the inaugural Music Expo event. If enough people came to the event, organizers said they’d hopefully bring it back again.

Joelle Pipal
The Free Press

She’s a little more frail, a little grayer. But Maureen Toonkel, sifting through the stack of record albums in the basement of the VFW Sunday morning, probably looked a lot like she did when she was a teenager in New York.

Back then she hit the neighborhood record stores or Lloyd’s just outside of the New York City and thumbed through the stacks for the latest Beatles 45s. She got ’em for 69 cents back then.

Today, she’s still got almost every record she bought — roughly 900 — from back in the day.

“It’s kind of nostalgic,” she said, looking around the room full of vinyl, thinking about 40 years ago.

Toonkel was among the dozens who showed up for the first-ever Music Expo, an event where people can pay a $2 fee to come in, browse, stroll down memory lane or look for something special to add to their record collection.

Vinyl, in case you hadn’t heard, is making a comeback.

More and more artists these days are issuing their newest releases on vinyl as well as compact disc. And the market for used vinyl, especially for records that are in demand, is booming.

Carl Nordmeier, owner of Tune Town on Riverfront Drive in Mankato, said vinyl receipts now make up a fourth of his sales. Even Sunday, when he pulled together a few stacks of records to bring to the expo, he was surprised that a few of the selections he’d planned to bring were no longer available. They’d sold.

Several dealers, Nordmeier included, said the biggest sellers right now are Led  Zeppelin’s first four albums, Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon,” and anything by The Doors. (Nordmeier said that, for every Led Zeppelin compact disc he sells, he’ll sell 10 Zeppelin albums on vinyl.)

“My biggest seller is Led Zeppelin,” dealer Rich Franson said, “and it’s all to junior high kids at the mall.”

He’s not kidding. Young customers, he said, accompany old wherever he sells vinyl.

Sunday’s event was no exception. Wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the logo of a Minneapolis-based rap group called Atmosphere, teenager Derek Mason perused the records and T-shirts before checking out the used CDs.

He said he heard about the sale at Tune Town and wanted to check it out.

“Just looking around a little bit,” he said, “seeing what catches my eye.”

He honed in on some used Neil Young discs and convinced the dealer to play a few before he purchased.

Tim Schloe, one of the Twin Cities-based expo organizers, said the group started doing outstate shows because the metro area seemed saturated with record dealers. But in cities such as Rochester, he said, there are no independent record stores, so residents there who fancy vinyl must try their luck at garage sales or flea markets, or go online with ebay or some other web retailer.

So his group started annual shows in Rochester, St. Cloud and Duluth to tap that untapped market. Now they’re in Mankato, and will decide whether they’re coming back based on the numbers. They’ve also got plans to venture south into Iowa.

“If we can get 125,” he said, “that’s enough to keep the show sustained.”

Jesse Barr came in to help stock his jukebox. He won it last year in a local bar contest, and now’s he’s getting used to vinyl. The renovated machine came stocked with 45s, but he’d like to add some variety. He came looking for Garth Brooks and Bruce Springsteen records.

In his garage along with that jukebox, he’s got a dart machine and TV — kind of like a man-cave, right?

“Sort of,” he said. “My wife hangs out there, too.”

Which is only fair. She helped him win the jukebox.

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