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The Record Store Owner: Jim Eigo

The Record Store Owner: Jim Eigo

Courtesy Pam Eigo

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I'm an old-time record guy and at 76 I just keep spinning, albeit at 16 RPM
—Jim Eigo
The last couple decades have brought a revolution in every aspect of the music-making process. Technology has transformed the creation of music, the promotion of music, and of course the distribution of music. At the very end of this delivery pipeline there has been a variety of formats that includes bulky vinyl records and clunky CDs, both of which were predicted to be dead once the immediacy and ease of streaming arrived. Curiously, while streaming is both immediate and easy, there is a trend that is moving back to the earlier days. There is, once again, a desire for those older technologies, albeit with a modern twist.

I was really interested to speak with someone on the front lines of music retail to find out how legit this "comeback" is. Is it just hype or is it the real thing? Is it only older consumers seeking a bit of nostalgia or is it truly a cross-generational movement? I found a record store owner in Jim Eigo who owns Original Vinyl Records in Warwick New York. But, to call him just a record store owner would be an injustice. Jim has worked in the jazz industry for many decades in many capacities and continues to be at the heart of the business.

About Jim Eigo

A New York native and lifelong jazz aficionado, Jim Eigo began his music business career managing the jazz department of Happy Tunes Records, the legendary Greenwich Village music shop. There, he befriended a number of notable musicians and writers including Ornette Coleman, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Sam Rivers, David Murray, Gary Giddins, and Stanley Crouch.

In addition to founding Daybreak Express Records, an all-jazz mail order company, Eigo also worked as a sales manager for the New Music Distribution Service, a sales rep for Rounder Records and a store manager for both the Soho Music Gallery and J&R Music World.

On the label side, Eigo has served as the sales and marketing manager for German-based Intuition Records and label manager for Paris-based Dreyfus Records overseeing the sales, marketing, and promotional efforts for recordings by Roy Haynes, the Mingus Big Band, Richard Galliano and Michel Petrucciani.

In 1998 Eigo worked closely with the Knit Media company, launching a new label, Knit Classics, where he supervised the release of thirty historical masters from the Douglas Label. He also served as Senior Producer for the 1999 Jazz Awards show at New York's South Street Seaport.

In 2000 Eigo launched his Jazz Promo services company providing live music and record label publicity campaigns. His clients include The Iridium Jazz Club in New York City; The Cornelia Street Cafe in Greenwich Village; Highlights in Jazz; and The National Jazz Museum in Harlem. Eigo also handles all the publicity for many labels and artists. A complete list can be found on the Jazz Promo Services website.

In 2018 he opened Original Vinyl Records specializing in new and used vinyl.

Eigo resides in Warwick, NY with his wife, two kids, three dogs, two cats and a rabbit. His affiliations include membership in NARAS (voting member), Jazz Journalists Association, and as an Associate Board Member with the Jazz Foundation of America.

All About Jazz: You opened up shop only a few years ago at a time when everyone was talking about the death of CDs and vinyl due to streaming. What made you want to get into the record store business?

Jim Eigo: We started very humbly back in 2018. My wife was on my case to do something with all the vinyl I had accumulated over the years. What precipitated this was my son graduating from college and landing a new job. We have a renovated outbuilding on our property that was filled with records, books, and all my stuff, kind of like a combo attic, basement all-purpose storage space. We wanted to give him a leg up while he settled into his new job and help him chip away at his student loan so we set him up in that space. So it was this that motivated me to move the albums, but to where?

I saw a "for rent" sign literally one minute from where we live in a nice little strip mall. I called the number and had a look-see. I was blown away by the space. It had 1100 square feet with high ceilings and plenty of light ,good for record browsing. So, I signed the lease. In the beginning it was just folding tables and cardboard boxes.

We are primarily a used record store with thousands of titles in every conceivable genre: rock; jazz; blues; r&b; soul; country; folk; 12' dance; oddball; lounge; space-age bachelor pad; '60s psyche; nostalgia; comedy; world music; and kids in every conceivable format: 45s; 78s; CDs; Cassettes; 8-tracks; DVDs; laser discs; along with books, memorabilia, and vintage and contemporary audio equipment.

We also stock a nice selection of new vinyl releases like Adele, Olivia Rodrigo, Billy Strings, Steve Earle, Blue Note Tone Poet Series, and many of the 180-gram reissues of classic titles from The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, and Fleetwood Mac to name a few. In 2021 we became an official Record Store Day credentialed store so we now stock most of what's released for Record Store Day.

AAJ: What's your take on this so-called return of vinyl? Is it legitimately coming back and, if so, is it only within a specific demographic?

JE: Vinyl is definitely back and in a big way. I always knew there was a ton of used vinyl out there, but not until I opened the store and started buying from the major music vendors did I find out how much new vinyl is being released. A day doesn't go by that I don't receive a notice for a new vinyl release in every conceivable genre coming out many in multi-colored vinyl 180-gram vinyl pressings. And, it's a broad group of people who are buying these.

AAJ: How about CDs? Does there seem to be any change of popularity there as well?

JE: We have a nice selection of used CDs in the store ranging in price from twenty five cents to a dollar and up. You would think that because of streaming and car manufacturers no longer putting CD players in their new cars that the labels would cut back on issuing new CDs. This is not the case. There's still a steady stream of new CDs coming out everyday. And for that matter, cassettes too. Believe it or not there's one company releasing limited edition 8-track tapes.

AAJ: What do you attribute this revival to?

JE: There's a new generation of kids discovering the joys of vinyl who are buying Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus and their favorite artists on LP. And there's the baby boomers too who unloaded their vinyl collections and replaced them with CDs getting back into vinyl again.

AAJ: Have any famous musicians ever come into your store?

JE: Joe Lovano and Judi Silvano, Dave Stryker, Frank Vignola, Adam Nussbaum, and Jason Miles come to mind. Yesterday the guitarist Rolf Sturm came in. He told me great stories about touring with country legend Eddy Arnold.

AAJ: Have you had any particularly rare albums come through the store?

JE: Occasionally we get lucky and something rare does come in like the Sonny Criss LP on Imperial Go Man. I'm ever hopeful that the next collection will have original Blue Note Records, Prestige Records and Riverside Records and maybe even The Beatles' original famous Butcher Block cover album.

AAJ: Earlier, you mentioned Record Store Day. Do you do anything special for that?

JE: Yes, since we're an official Record Store Day Pledge Store we stock many of the exclusive limited edition Record Store Day releases. This is a fun day where we open early and stay late. We offer free refreshments and vinyl surprises too.

AAJ: What's your short list of favorite records?

JE: Off the top of my head here's some of my favs: Duke Ellington & John Coltrane (Impulse! Records); Mingus Mingus Mingus, Mingus Mingus (Impulse!); The In Between by Booker Ervin (Blue Note); and Demon's Dance by Jackie McLean (Blue Note).

AAJ: You actually have a long history in the jazz business as a publicist and promoter. Is there any crossover between that world and your record store?

JE: I started in the early '70s in retail working for Cox Records on Flatbush and 7th Avenue. I learned how to wait on customers as well as their likes and dislikes. Later, I was at the legendary Happy Tunes Records on 8th St in the Village. They were located across from Electric Ladyland Studios. This was the beginning of the end of the old Village as we knew it.

The loft scene was just beginning to take off: Ornette Coleman's Artist House on Prince St; Sam Rivers Studio Rivbea on Bond St; John Fisher's Environ; The Ladies Fort; Ali's Alley; and The Brook to name a few. Rahsaan Roland Kirk was a regular. I was in my early 20s and would work at the store all day and then hang out in the lofts all night. All the artists would come in to drop off their flyers, posters and new records which I took on consignment. These were great times with a lot of great music.

I met Don Frese at Happy Tunes and, when Happy Tunes closed, we founded Daybreak Express which was an all jazz mail order company. I worked for Carla Bley and Mike Mantler as sales and marketing manager for The Jazz Composer's Orchestra and New Music Distribution Service. I also carried a bag as a sales rep for Rounder Records.

So, all of these experiences contributed to where I'm at today. I've worn many hats over the years: retail; wholesale; label manager (Dreyfus Jazz); producer (KnitMedia). So, to answer your question, "Is there any crossover between that world and your record store?" Yes, I've learned to have a thick skin and roll with the punches.

AAJ: What's your outlook on the future of music retail stores like your own?

JE: The biggest challenge for mom-and-pop record shops is to hang in during the lean times. I don't see record retail as we used to know it in the heyday with the big national chains like Tower, Borders, and Virgin coming back anytime soon. According to the folks at Record Store Day there's something like 1300-plus independent record stores internationally. The future will be these stores carving out their niche in their markets. There's lots of opportunities out there. You just need the vision and the passion. I can tell you from colleagues I've known in the business for many years this is what keeps us going. I'm an old-time record guy and at 76 I just keep spinning, albeit at 16 RPM.

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