Solid State co-owners Phil and Hannah Borreson (all Solid State photos by Heather M. Swanson)
Like music and the people who buy it, record stores have personality. There are the nerdy ones, the trendy ones, and yes, the snobs. Some glory in clutter, while others read more Type A. Poring over local lists, you might wonder what record stores would suit your wants and needs — where can you shop for greeting cards alongside vinyl? Who has that rare jazz 12″? Depending on what you’re looking for, here are three unique, under-the-radar Twin Cities stores that might just be a perfect fit.
I walked into Solid State (4022 E 46th Street, Minneapolis) on one of the warmest days of the summer, so of course the sidewalk chalkboard referenced “Hot in Herre.” When I asked about it inside, the store owners laughed, saying they try to update it according to current events or in-store happenings. A few minutes later, a teen hurried in and asked, “Do you guys actually have that tape?” He left with Nellyville in his bag.
Even before opening Solid State in Dec. 2016, owners Phil and Hannah Borreson were no strangers to sales. Hannah, an artist and accessories designer, has been selling her work in local boutiques for years. Phil has the music covered, having maintained a vinyl collection since his DJ days at Radio K. So when a friend suggested the Borresons turn the old Pink Closet space into a record store, they realized it just might work. “For a while, I had been planning to open a [more boutique-like] store,” Hannah says. “I had a business plan and a nest egg. We were ready for something — we just didn’t know it was going to be a record store.”
Solid State shares turf with vintage stores on the Minnehaha Mile, a seven-block stretch of Minnehaha Avenue flecked with businesses like Junket and Time Bomb Vintage. They see some overlap with Mile shoppers; Hannah Borreson says, “We liked the neighborhood because of all the vintage shops. Being that records are a secondhand, vintage sort of thing […] it worked out quite well.”
As a woman, I’m amazed to feel so comfortable talking with the Borresons. My gender doesn’t lead to any assumptions about my music taste or savvy. No awkward comments put me on my guard. “Being female, shopping in record stores is daunting,” Hannah says, and I don’t have to be told twice. But Solid State has been designed as a place where anyone can hang comfortably.
What’s unique: Boutique goods, live music, and affordable new releases
Caydence Records and Coffee
When you walk into Caydence (900 Payne Avenue, St. Paul), you see records on your right and coffee straight ahead. Across from the cashier station, several tables allow for conversations, contemplation, or laptop sessions (with bountiful Wi-Fi). In the back, there’s a performance space for live music and other events.
Caydence owners Gregg Schmitt, Mat Graske, and Chad Medellin describe themselves as “three business partners, three friends,” having known each other for years and years. They’re now three roommates, living above the store they opened in 2016. While Schmitt handles tech and website management, Medellin has mechanical issues covered, and Graske brings the food service know-how.
According to Caydence sales reports, the store mainly traffics in caffeine. “It’s definitely obvious that coffee has been lacking over here,” Schmitt says, sitting in the East St. Paul space. “We kind of hit a home run.” But music is so important to them and their customers that they invest ample time and floor space to it. Between private sellers and other sources, they find a diverse stock of records and CDs. “People will buy a drink while they shop [for] records,” Schmitt continues. “There’ll be an overlap here and there.”
The Eastside neighborhood is a hike from Minneapolis, but Caydence is worth going out of the way.
What’s unique: Caffeine and live music
Agharta Records is certainly the largest of the three stores spotlighted here, but it wasn’t always that way. After a burst pipe forced him out of a little spot near Mortimer’s on Lyndale, owner Dylan Adams moved to 2512 University Avenue in St. Paul in 2014. A few years later, he knocked out the wall between Agharta and its adjacent unit. By now, he’s got one of the richest inventories in the whole Twin Cities.
Adams grew up listening to hardcore music, so his store goes deep on punk and metal — but other genres (plus books and record players) get plenty of room. When I visited Agharta, I noticed the number of soundtracks near the front of the store; Master of None season two was on display, as was Ghost in the Shell and Baby Driver. I saw vinyl in the local bins even I hadn’t heard of, and of course, rock, pop, jazz, and rap were well-represented, too.
Adams is a great small-talker, curious about customers’ music tastes and stories. When I asked about the $45 Coloring Book vinyl, he chatted with me about imported records and customs fees; it turns out the Chance record traveled over the ocean from Europe. Later on, we talked about the newest album from Queens of the Stone, Villains, which played overhead. Like many of his customers, Adams visits First Avenue, the Turf Club, and other local venues on the regular.
Make a record-shopping day of it — Agharta is a six-minute walk to Barely Brothers Records along the Green Line/University corridor.
What’s unique: Breadth and depth of metal selection, local selection, soundtracks
— AghartaRecords (@AghartaRecords) November 20, 2017