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When they opened their store in the same building that housed Bemidji's last real record shop — with a three-decade gap in between — brothers Peter and Bill McKenzie had to convince some of the locals that the resurgence of vinyl is real.

"Especially the old-timers around here still think it's some kind of fad," Sundown Records co-proprietor Peter McKenzie said.

However, the new shop owners rightly figured the demand for physical music (including CDs and cassettes) is high in their community — and not just because there are plenty of collectors and music lovers in their city of 16,000 residents almost four hours north of the Twin Cities.

"We have problems with cell towers and internet around here," Peter noted, "so some people can't stream music as easily as they can in the Cities and need the physical product."

Opened last Halloween — and gearing up for Bemidji's first Record Store Day events on Saturday — Sundown is one of several new record stores that have popped up in greater Minnesota, proving just how far-reaching the vinyl boom has become in the 21st century.

Sundown wasn't the only new store born with a tinge of desperation. River City Records & Books also opened last fall to fill the void left by the closing of the Electric Fetus' northern outpost in Duluth in 2021.

Housed in Duluth's hip and prospering Lincoln Park district southwest of downtown near the Bent Paddle Brewery Co., the new store instantly met the demand that owner Todd Hanson knew was there. That's because he would often greet Twin Ports area residents who drove 70-plus miles to his other record store, Hole in the Wall Books and Records in Hayward, Wis. (now closed).

"The response has been so great," said Hanson, who played in the '70s Twin Ports area rock band Reason.

"Duluth is a great music and arts town, so it deserves to have a good record store, too."

In the lakefront town of Buffalo, 45 miles northwest of Minneapolis, 25-year-old record shop proprietor Aleah Tucker was not looking to fill any void. She just thought her all-vinyl store, Indie Earth — which doubles as a plant shop — would fit in amid Buffalo's many other small businesses, which attract antique/vintage seekers and other shoppers from the Twin Cities.

"The community is very friendly to small businesses, but it didn't have a small business like this," said Tucker, who studied audio engineering before becoming a store owner like her parents. "I sort of combined all my loves and interests here."

All these new store owners said the sense of community is probably greater at their stores than it is at record shops in the Twin Cities.

Sundown plans to begin hosting open mic nights to support Bemidji area music makers. Tucker noted that Indie Earth will host a listening party for Taylor Swift's new album on Friday — no doubt the only place in Buffalo doing so.

"Especially for younger people around here, it's nice just for them to have a place to come and hang out," she said.

There are disadvantages to being in a smaller city. McKenzie said Sundown had a hard time finding used inventory from local residents "beyond the same classic rock albums everyone already owns." But he's starting to attract sellers with deeper catalogs.

Also, it's challenging for these stores to get much attention from bands and record labels that might offer promotional materials, signed copies or in-store appearances.

Mankato's lone record store, Tune Town, has been dealing with these challenges for 30 years — long enough to have faced competition from big-box retailers like Best Buy to seeing album sales plummet as digital streaming and downloading arrived in the early '00s. Owner Carl Nordmeier said the store is "now in a new heyday."

"If it weren't for the rebirth of vinyl, this store definitely wouldn't still be here," said Nordmeier, who lamented the idea of Mankato not having its own record shop.

"I like being the place where people in town come first to get a new record, or come just to talk about music. That's something I think is appreciated even more now after COVID."


Here are five record stores in greater Minnesota recommended for shopping on Record Store Day — or any day.

Sundown Records

209 Beltrami Av. NW., Bemidji.

Just a block away from Bemidji's famed Paul Bunyan and Babe statues, this downtown shop might be Minnesota's first Native American-owned record shop. Originally from the Red Lake Indian Reservation, the McKenzie brothers are collectors themselves who essentially sell it all in their small but packed shop: vinyl, CDs and cassettes, including a large stash of used items.

Indie Earth

15 Division St. E., Buffalo.

And this is now one of Minnesota's first female-owned record stores. Proprietor Aleah Tucker sells only new vinyl, including a cool selection of current pop and rock favorites. For example: I found a Lana Del Rey LP for my daughter there that I couldn't find in the Cities. The plant side of the shop is a nice bonus, too — especially for couples who only have one record nerd in the relationship.

River City Records & Books

1814 W. Superior St., Duluth.

The store was a great addition to what's now a strollable stretch of the Lincoln Park district. It's a good find for collectors from all over, too, with ample used LPs, CDs and 45s, plus a sizable stash of live albums that may or may not be authorized. The book selection goes pretty deep, too.

Tune Town

630 N. Riverfront Drive, Mankato.

Housed in the Old Town district amid other stores, restaurants and bars, this enduring indie shop recently expanded a quarter more in size to 4,000 square feet. It boasts a large selection of used and new vinyl to match, plus ample rows of CDs.

Rochester Records

2130 Broadway Av. S., Rochester.

The oldest of three stores in Rochester selling vinyl (along with Hidden World Vinyl Records and Treedome), it's not the hippest or prettiest but has the biggest collection. Metal-loving owner Hussein "Huss" Esmailzadeh opened the store in 2016 behind a small strip mall and keeps it well stocked with used and new vinyl and CDs.