When Record Store Day rolls around next April, there will be a new player in town. Permanent Records, which has been a staple of Chicago’s Ukrainian Village neighborhood since 2006, has gone west, as all young record stores should do. Although the Windy City branch remains open for business, owners Lance Barresi and Liz Tooley have relocated to Eagle Rock, where their satellite Permanent Records Los Angeles will stage its grand opening this Saturday.
The music-loving pair, who met at a show for Kansas indie band the Anniversary in 2001, held down record store jobs in Columbia, Mo., before heeding the call of self-employment. In an age of declining music sales and cheap downloads, opening an independent brick-and-mortar shop was a risky proposition, but Barresi and Tooley were running on enthusiasm and vision rather than spreadsheets and market research.
“We didn’t really approach it in a very businesslike manner,” said Barresi, taking a beer break from bin-building and record pricing at the pub a block away from his new shop. “More like, ‘We’re young and we have the energy for this right now, so we’re going to try it.’ And actually we were surprised at how well it went. We worked our butts off to carve a niche out for ourselves. We realized that as long as we picked stuff that we liked personally, even if other people weren’t sure what it was, or if it wasn’t being touted by the blogosphere or music magazines, it didn’t really seem to make a difference, as long as we could tell people what it was about.”
Relying on word of mouth and returning customers rather than advertising, they grew their business to the point where they could stop working seven days a week, hire employees, begin their own label (which boasts 27 releases to date) and launch a successful mail-order branch. By then Chicago’s winters had taken their toll, and they began casting a wandering eye at more temperate climes. A recent visit to Los Angeles led to an Eagle Rock excursion. “We went to go to dinner at Fatty’s but it was closed,” said Barresi. “So we took a little walk up the block and we stumbled across the store.”