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LPS presents: Vintage Vinyl

We take a look at one of the most iconic and local record stores in the Lou..


On May 19th I went to Vintage Vinyl to figure out what kind of episode this would be. I knew I wanted to showcase how cool the record store is but I also wanted to give another perspective of this Loop staple. Find something to say that hasn’t been said before.

My director Ben and I met up with Jim Utz and as we stood in the back next to the Tommy Dorsey and Frank Sinatra records, I started to remember how cool it was the first time I ever stepped foot in here. It’s 1pm on a Tuesday and there’s a searching haze of customers — old and young, sifting through countless albums across the store; something all of us have done at some point in our lives.

My specific memory of parking in the free lot behind Starbucks and making my first pit stop in the Loop at Vintage Vinyl is something I have done hundreds of times. Aside from the record selections, I would be enthralled with their posters and random items strewn throughout the store. Ever since being introduced, I wanted to work there or date someone who worked there. Neither one of these things happened but it really was a place to make you feel like the coolest person in the world just by being in there. Oh, and don’t forget to take a free pulsar-pink sticker to tell everyone where you’ve been.

After a short meeting, I find myself in the back-office-dwellings of Vintage Vinyl that look like the purgatory-office in Beetlejuice (only everyone has their heads normal-size and everyone’s legs are attached to their bodies). The back office is awesome – full of posters, flyers, and music paraphernalia from over the years. You can hear the insulation of the piled-high-history from the wreckage of music-seekers out front; this back office area probably hasn’t been cleaned since the mid-90s – or ever.

So I sit down at a big table with stacks of random things and Utz tells me I can go through a box of compiled RFT clippings, photos and industry-written articles and reviews from over the years. There are VHS tapes, autographed posters from any in-store appearances by bands ranging from Rob Zombie to Vintage Trouble and homemade drawings from sons and daughters. It’s cozy and full of possibilities – much like the record store itself.

Definitely one thing I found while sifting through so many years is that this record store appreciates the business success they have had. They still get excited about the re-releases of records. They listen to full albums instead of just singles and at any given moment, you can ask about an album and find out more than you questioned in the first place. A record store like this is like reading a book, written by many different authors with a plot that can go anywhere. Endless possibilities.

But where did this St Louis gem come from?

The history of Vintage Vinyl is very much the quintessential, “AMERICAN DREAM-sounding” when you just read about it, but the gist of it is: Two guys named Lew Prince and Papa Ray really loved music decided that all of the record stores from their generation sucked and they decided that they could do it better. And they did.

What started as a small idea – at the Soulard Market would later turn into a 7,000 square foot landmark full of every great song you’ve ever heard in your life and then hundreds-of-thousands you will probably never get time to actually listen to.

I am a thankful patron of Vintage Vinyl that two friends – Lew Prince and Papa Ray – had an idea that kept new and old music in every St. Louisian’s cars, living rooms, house parties and ears all of these years.

With that: Here is VINTAGE VINYL:

It is also with a bittersweet moment in time during this interview that we got the news that co-owner, Lew Prince would be giving up his share of Vintage Vinyl on June 15th, 2015. He told us this would be his last on-camera interview as owner. I am really happy we decided to cover the store when we did. We wish you the World’s Best, Lew! (Oh, and thanks again for the chicken salad sandwich…) xo, Lern

If you want to read more about Lew leaving, check it out here.