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By day, longtime Brookline resident Jonathan Sandler is a real estate agent and broker, a gig he’s had for nearly 20 years. But Sandler has been collecting records for far longer (27 years), and this fall, he’s finally sharing his lifelong passion and expertise with the world.
The owner of the area’s newest record shop, Village Vinyl & Hi-Fi, recently turned to entrepreneurship when it came time to clean out his record and stereo collection, but it’s more accurate to say that the store has been decades in the making. “I worked in record stores many years ago and I’ve always been a record shopper and collector,” Sandler says. “This is my idea of what a store should be.”
Village Vinyl & Hi-Fi, located at 58A Harvard Street, opened its doors to the public on October 14 and has quickly become what Sandler a calls a “destination” for shopping in Brookline. Open from noon to 7 p.m. every day except Mondays, the store attracts everyone from Lou-Reed-loving clergymen to area kids getting their punk fix.
“Initially, I did not think I would get a good deal of foot traffic from the neighborhood, but the response has been exceptional,” he says. “It has exceeded expectations at least tenfold. It’s been overwhelming.”
Every record store in the Boston area has its own niche: Armaggedon Shop in Harvard Square boasts a killer metal and hardcore selection; Tres Gatos in Jamaica Plain offers an intimate hybrid of tapas, records, and books; and Somerville Grooves of Union Square offers scores of cheap 45s. What Village Vinyl & Hi-Fi brings to the table, in addition to the records, is a massive haul of vintage stereo equipment, ranging from old turntables and receivers to speakers, cassette decks, CD players, and other electronics and recording gear.
As Sandler puts it, think of items like your dad’s awesome stereo system from the 1970s, but refurbished.
As for the record portion of the store, the selection is about one-third Sandler’s old collection and two-thirds albums that he procured specifically for opening the shop. While there are some sealed items floating around the racks, the store mainly offers used albums, most of which are priced lower than what they’d usually sell for online.
“There are certain things a record store needs — you need a well-stocked punk section, a well-stocked metal section, jazz, and you need Captain Beefheart records and a well-stocked Zappa section,” Sandler adds.
He says his own personal collection — now on sale in the shop — started with Devo’s 1980 album Freedom of Choice, and things snowballed from there. Starting Village Vinyl, however, meant also giving up all those years of amassing vinyl goodies for the sake of a better selection, making it all the more drool-worthy for wandering Brookline travelers and local audiophiles. (It’s okay though, Sandler says he saved his “sick” CD collection for himself).
“I decided I was going to part with just about everything because I wanted to open strong,” he says. “If I was going to do this, I was going to do it full-on with an excellent selection, so I sacrificed my own selection for the common good.”
In the words of Sandler himself, “It’s like a candy store for adults.”