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In August 2009, I moved into a three-bedroom on Clark a few blocks north of Fullerton, with no clue about Lincoln Park’s cultural position in Chicago. I had grad-school classes in Evanston and the Loop, so the neighborhood seemed to make sense—it was more or less in between the two. I felt out of place amid the college football fans crammed into sports bars along Clark, the drunk DePaul students stampeding Five Guys and the Wieners Circle after midnight, and the tony white-collar workers in their million-dollar homes. I lived in a cheap, shabby apartment, and I cherished anything subversive that survived in the cracks in the neighborhood’s facade.
That December, I discovered the storefront windows of a nearby record shop. In an eclectic display of Christmas-themed album covers, I spotted a record by King Diamond, who was pictured in his trademark corpsepaint, thumbing his nose, sticking out his tongue, and cozying up to a reindeer with ribbons in its antlers. The disc was a 1985 12-inch called “No Presents for Christmas,” and the shop was Dave’s Records. Nothing else in the neighborhood spoke to me the way it did.
Dave Crain opened his shop at 2604 N. Clark on Labor Day in 2002. Since day one, Crain sold only vinyl, which was never an easy proposition. By the early 2000s the format had been in a decades-long decline, and according to RIAA figures, vinyl sales in 2002 were roughly 0.36 percent of the music industry’s total revenue—a $45.4 million sliver of a $12.6 billion haul. Before Record Store Day helped alert major industry players to the newfound niche value of wax, people buying vinyl were participating in a subculture, whether they thought of it that way or not. Dave’s Records offered those true believers a world to explore.
On election day 2022, when Crain announced he was closing the store, he hadn’t yet chosen a final day. He knew he had to remove all evidence of the shop’s existence from the space by January 1, when his lease would be over. When I first reported on the end of Dave’s Records in mid-November, I asked Crain if the Reader could document the store’s final day, whenever that turned out to be. I wanted to know who would travel from far and wide to pay their respects and who might casually wander in off the street. One thing I love about brick-and-mortar record shops is that you never know who you’ll meet and how they might reshape your world as a listener, even if all they do is recommend a seven-inch you’ll play a few times and then forget. The possibility of those interactions, as much as the vinyl itself, keeps me invested in record shops.
Dave’s Records closed for good Sunday, December 18. I swung by on the Friday before to pick up a few records and chat with Crain, but I couldn’t make it out that last day. Fortunately, photographer and Reader contributor Kathleen Hinkel was free, and she went to Dave’s to capture the scene during its final hours. She emerged with a touching document of the loose community that coalesced around Dave’s Records, where all kinds of folks—young parents, local music legends, former Chicagoans visiting for the holidays—navigated the tight aisles in search of buried treasure. The store is gone, but we still have our records—and Hinkel’s record of its farewell. —Leor Galil
Best of Chicago 2021
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