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Echo Park's Mono Records: Used vinyl sneaks onto Glendale Blvd.

October 17, 2011 |  3:04 pm

Last week, Echo Park’s newest destination for used vinyl, Mono Records turned 1 month old. For any small storefront, it’s a tender age. But especially in the equally fragile record store business.

Driving by its location on the corner of Glendale Boulevard, just before the 2 Freeway onramp, don't blink or you might miss it. The shop owned and run by John Roller is about the size of a small family room, with most of the comforts of one. Bookended by warm lamp light and old record players (er, “listening stations”) homemade wooden shelves are stuffed with a catalogued trove of used jazz, punk, reggae, dub, psych rock, blues and various shards of aural odds and ends.

During the weekday hours of 3-8 p.m., you’ll likely find Roller, 27, behind the counter poring over a book, ordering inventory on his laptop or flipping the record of whatever is blaring in the shop from one side to the other. He sits on a stool in the last few minutes before he closes for the night.

The first-time business owner is a bit wornout, but there’s a smile on his face.

“This has really become my life,” said Roller, who is the sole employee. “But it’s fun. You never know what you’re gonna find, what kind of customers you’re gonna meet. So that part has really been exciting. That was something I didn’t necessarily expect.”

The store trades almost exclusively in used vinyl and cassettes. Roller says keeping short hours inside his L.A. storefront allows him time to haunt tons of record swaps, swap meets and wholesalers in L.A., Long Beach, Orange County and Riverside.

Despite advertising only by word of mouth for the first month, he’s been having a tougher time than expected keeping up with demand from locals. He says on any given day vinyl scavengers from the community will come through and basically try to clean the store out.

“That was something I never really expected for a new shop like this. But it helps me keep fresh stuff in here.”

On the wall catty-corner to a large glass window, LPs and 45s of local bands like Dante Vs Zombies and Jail Weddings loom on the consignment shelves below stacks of old metal and goth punk wax. As a former lead singer of throttling Long Beach punk band Gestapo Khazi, Roller said his transition from rocker to record store owner is one that he’d been thinking about for several years before deciding to open Mono on Sept. 13. He says the key to his small store's survival so far has been to make his inventory as eclectic as possible. That goes for both style and price.

“Maybe somebody comes in here and wants to get something pricey; other people don’t want to spend more than a buck,” Roller said. “That was something I didn’t really expect. I expected to open the shop like a couple other shops that I’d seen or that I knew. Then I realized that I needed to make it more diverse and not so elitist.”


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-- Nate Jackson

Mono Records, 1805 Glendale Blvd., Echo Park. Hours: 3-8 p.m. Mon.-Fri.; 1-8 p.m. Sat. and Sun.

Photo: Mono Records. Credit: John Roller