GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A record shop opening in Grand Rapids’ Eastown promises a place to sit, relax and enjoy music.
Kevin Romanyk is opening Vinyl Alchemy next to Yesterdog on Wealthy Street near Lake Drive following an almost 30-year career as a pharmacist. His background in chemistry inspired the name of the shop, as alchemy “was a medieval precursor to chemistry,” he said.
Just like alchemy tried to turn base metals into gold, Romanyk said artists use base elements of music, their thoughts and passions to “figuratively make gold,” or even to get a gold record.
Along with vinyl records, the shop will also offer CDs, memorabilia, pop culture collectibles, T-shirts, signed concert posters and more. There will be a listening station and Romanyk said people will be able to come in and relax while enjoying music and Eastown.
“I’ve always liked Eastown,” he said. “It felt like a place where people would go to spend quality time hanging out doing what’s important to them, discovering maybe new things.”
“…What better place to open a record shop down here next to an icon, Yesterdog,” he said, adding that when the space came available, it was like a “sign from the universe.”
Romanyk is opening the shop as vinyl records see a revival in popularity. According to RIAA, a trade organization that represents hundreds of record labels, physical music formats saw a “remarkable resurgence” in 2021.
In 2022, 71% of physical format revenues came from vinyl, RIAA said in its 2022 revenue report. Revenue from vinyl sales have grown 16 years in a row, growing 17% in 2022 to $1.2 billion.
“Vinyl sales also remained strong increasing 22%, building on the format’s eye-popping growth last year and cementing its role as a fixture of the modern music marketplace,” RIAA Chairman and CEO Mitch Glazier wrote in a commentary on the numbers. “Music lovers clearly can’t get enough of the high-quality sound and tangible connection to artists vinyl delivers and labels have squarely met that demand with a steady stream of exclusives, special reissues, and beautifully crafted packages and discs.”
Digital was still the biggest format, with streaming bringing in 84% of the revenue in 2022.
Romanyk said streaming is good because it’s convenient, but he said it’s not the same experience — listeners can hold the record in their hand, thumb through the liner notes and lyrics, and look at the pictures.
“I think in a world that is digital, there is a very much an appetite for stuff that is real,” Romanyk said.
He credits the renewed interest in vinyl in part to the pandemic.
“I hate to bring up the pandemic. But when things have been taken away for you for so many years, and for many younger kids at a pivotal point in their life — some of them are just getting into high school, some of them are trying to graduate high school, some of them are trying to get off to college or establish their careers — and to have that taken away … nothing felt real,” he said. But with vinyl, “it was very surreal to have something that’s real again in your hand that you can connect with emotionally and with the artist, and then … share that amongst friends.”
Artists have also been supporting that interest, he said, with releases that include extra tracks and special-colored vinyl.
Romanyk said music has always been a big part of his life. While working as a pharmacist, he said he never lost that passion. Having grown up in the 1980s and ’90s, he said he likes the “old classic alternative stuff.” His favorite artists include the Cure and New Order, and if he had to pick a favorite — “that is impossible,” he joked when asked — he’d pick R.E.M.
At Vinyl Alchemy, he’s going to try to carry as many genres as possible, from the classics to new music.
“Please come down, check out the shop and just come visit and say hi to me, and let’s talk music,” he said.
He said music has a way of connecting people, and he looks forward to sharing that connection and passion with the community.
“What good is something if you can’t share it with people? He said. “Sitting in my basement listening to music, that can be nice, that can be pleasant, but at a certain point in time are you going to be fulfilled if you’re not sharing a passion with other people that have the same passion? … Honestly, if you don’t have people, and you don’t have community, you really don’t have much. And so I want to be part of the vibrancy that’s going on down here.”
Vinyl Alchemy is set to open on Friday, May 26. Starting out, its hours will be from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., though Romanyk said that could change.
“I’m sure I’ll be hanging out later on these beautiful evenings down here in Eastown,” he said.
He’s putting the finishing touches on the shop, from bringing in more inventory to hanging up pop culture posters.
“There’s just a million things I wanted to do. And so I need to take a step back sometimes and say, ‘Listen, it’ll get there, it’ll get there, just start and then let it evolve naturally and organically,'” he said.
He said several people have stopped by to ask when it will open, and as he gets things ready he’s seen people cupping their hands on the window to see what’s going on.
“I’m really excited to be here. I can’t wait to get open in a couple of weeks and just get this going,” he said.
For more information, go to Vinyl Alchemy’s Facebook page.