Walking into Haffa’s at 15 W. Union Street presents an ironic twist to anyone listening intently to the music being played. Surrounded by such a large selection of vinyl from artists new and old, visitors who wander into the store might not expect an iPod to be supplying the sounds flowing out of the speakers. Andrew Lampella, the store’s co-owner, acknowledges this irony.
“I used to be a snob, but now I just want to listen to music,” Lampella says.
The platforms people use to listen to music have changed dramatically over the past 150 years, ranging from the phonograph to cassettes, CDs and music streaming services such as Spotify. Despite a recent comeback in vinyl sales among younger generations, Haffa’s will officially close its doors in late September after opening 42 years ago in the basement of the current store.
The gramophone record, or vinyl record has been around since the early 20th century and hasn’t quite disappeared as a tool for listening to music, but Lampella recognizes their limitations.
“When I am at home I’ll throw records on, but you can’t do that on a walk,” Lampella says.
The positive trends in vinyl sales have not helped their business with endeavors that affect record stores around the world. Despite being surrounded by the diverse community of a college town, Haffa’s sales have declined due to a number of factors.
“There is no one grand reason, just a lot of things adding up over time,” he says. “Streaming is a huge one; and the economy in general.”
NBC News cites the Recording Industry Association of America in a 2015 article which says that vinyl long-playing albums, or LPs, haven’t seen this much popularity since 1989. CD sales took off a year later in 1990.
Lampella, who has co-owned the store with Eric Gunn for more than a decade, conveyed how much he enjoys owning and working at Haffa’s Records. He described his satisfaction with seeing people “geek out” while listening and looking through the store’s selection.
Sophomores Cailin Brabb and Emily Barbus have been collecting and using vinyl for multiple years before coming to Ohio University. Brabb received her record player 2 years ago for Christmas while Barbus got her’s 4 years ago, also as a Christmas gift. Both described their collection of vinyl as “too many to count.”
“I have just always really loved music and records because you can hear all the pops and scratches, and [the music] sounds more alive because it’s not some electronic recording that you are just listening to,” says Brabb.
Barbus has collected albums from artists new and old such as The Beatles, Elvis, Fleetwood Mac, Bright Eyes and Mumford and Sons. Her interest in vinyl plays to both the aesthetic of the album covers as well as the quality of sound that vinyl produces.
“For some reason, listening to music in vinyl seems more real. Digital music can feel more stripped and flat. There’s something about listening to a digital track that doesn’t seem as authentic,” she says.
Barbus had not previously known that Haffa’s was closing and when she had heard the news she expressed her dismay.
Brabb had heard earlier on about the store closing down and expressed sorrow at not being able to look around Haffa’s anymore after September.
With Haffa’s closing, students like Barbus and Brabb will have to search elsewhere to broaden their collections. While thrift shops around town such as Athens Underground and The Random House have a smaller collection of used vinyl laying around, the nearest record store is Spoonful Records, located in Columbus, Ohio.