Friday, May 14, 2010

Retro Ron's spreads word of vinyl revival

By Jacob Bohrod
Special to The Free Press

MANKATO — Where North Broad Street and Madison Avenue collide, a building sits frozen in time — a time before laptops and hybrid cars, plasma TVs and high-definition.

Retro Ron’s brings to mind childhood memories for some. For those who can barely remember life without Twitter, it provides a much-needed history lesson.

Operated by Mankato’s Ron Nord, Retro Ron’s is a vintage music store that prides itself on transporting customers back to the heyday of music and American culture with seemingly endless amounts of vinyl records, cassettes and even 8-tracks.

“Buy, sell, trade — whatever works,” Nord said.

After opening shop Feb. 2, Nord has been diligently spreading the word about the revival of vinyl. Dealing in parts, pieces, players, needles and all things vinyl, Nord’s business reflects a return to vintage music and the means to play it. The unfortunate bit, and what he can’t stress enough, is that unlike digital music, records easily succumb to wear-and-tear, crippling the value of the majority of albums he sees.

“It’s like anything else in the antiques and collectibles market: condition is the utmost importance,” he said. “(There are) very, very few collectible records.”

Nord said a record’s worth is decided by condition, artist and number produced, and in that order. The varying degree with which people treat their albums is a shame, he said, but it does result in the 50-cent and $1 bins that line Retro Ron’s.

“One scratch will drop a $100 record down to $2,” said Stafford Taillon, a personal contractor and Minnesota State University student who retools record players and the like from a small work station in the back of the store.

Nord reiterated: “Ninety-five percent of records are worth 50 cents to $3; that’s their resale value. We have to pay wholesale.”

For collectors, finding the diamond in the rough is what makes collecting so interesting, so addicting, and Nord would be the first to agree. Retro Ron’s is out to promote the fun in discovering old things in a new way, not to give the customer a bad deal, he said.

Nord said in a previous shop he operated, just after Michael Jackson died last summer, a few fans wondered how much Nord would “soak ’em” for a vinyl copy of “Thriller” or “Bad.” They’re $3 each, he told them.

Nord said he requests every entering patron’s taste in music so he knows what to play while he/she browses the store. A listening station, “the chair of sound” as Nord calls it, allows customers to try out albums before purchasing them as well.

A self-proclaimed “born promoter,” Nord promises to call on the connections he has made over years of dabbling in the music industry to play both announced and unannounced sets in the store. This, on top of plans to adorn the tiny interior with black lights, tube lights, lava lamps and beaded doorways, will surely redefine (or, perhaps, re-redefine) music fans’ ideas of a shopping experience, he said.

In a way, Retro Ron’s is Nord’s way of complementing and putting on display what he feels is a city rife with musical talent and musical history.

“Oh, it’s a hotbed for music,” he said. “There are so many good bands and music around.”

Of course, ask the business owner, disc jokey and “singing auctioneer” yourself, and he might give you a different answer, and few stories to go along with it.

“This is so fun because every day is totally different.”

Retro Ron’s is open noon to

6 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The store also has an eBay online store at

The Free Press, Mankato, MN 418 South Second Street Mankato, MN 56001

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