WESTMONT – Bryan Zehar stood in a corner of Blue Village Vinyl, flipping through a neatly alphabetized stack of records. He already had picked out a few albums by the legendary Rolling Stones and the Beach Boys. Now, he was on the hunt for a Lou Reed album.
Zehar spotted Reed’s 1974 “Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal,” his eyes fixated on the album’s dark and gloomy artwork. Very slowly, he pulled the black record from its casing, closely examining its condition.
Zehar of Lyons wanted a “clean copy” but quickly pointed out that he didn’t mind the “wear and tear” around the cover’s edges. A feature like that gives the entire package a bit of character, a badge of honor detailing its past.
Over in the CD aisle, Cathy Peceny, a Westmont native, looked frustrated. Putting her purse on the floor, she crouched down to scan the bottom shelves of a tall white bookcase. She’s looking for a Michael Jackson album, one that features all of his greatest hits.
It’s Record Store Day, a nationwide event held every April since 2008 that celebrates brick-and-mortar stores such as Blue Village Vinyl in Westmont. On April 13, Zehar and Peceny were just two of many customers from the Chicago suburbs who walked into the old shop in search of a good find.
For owners Rick Derer and his son, Andy, their store is a flagship for new discoveries and fond memories. There is about a 30-year age gap between Rick and Andy, which means they both experienced the art of music differently. Rick has been a Beatles fan ever since he saw them perform on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Andy, on the other hand, is from the generation in which MTV actually played music videos.
The record store is where the father-son duo meet in the middle as they fill in the gaps and trace back music’s long history with each other.
Rick joked that when it comes to rock and punk, one aspect still remains: “The louder and the wilder, the better.”
In the golden age of streaming services in which major players such as Spotify, Tidal and Apple Music dominate, Andy shared that he sees teens frequent Blue Village and scrounge through racks of oldies. They come for Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and The Who.
“You feel more connected to music when you have an album in your hands,” said Michael McInerney, a Blue Village Vinyl customer who performed an acoustic set during Record Store Day. McInerney, a college student from La Grange, shared that LPs, CDs and other tangible formats hold a “mystical quality” that just don’t compare with online features.
“You find yourself in a unique niche,” Rick said about Blue Village Vinyl, formerly known as Record Utopia and Remember When. Since 1983, Rick shopped at those stores. He even brought Andy in with him as a child. “He was in his stroller,” Rick said as he laughed.
Andy, too, had his share of memories. He used to work at Record Utopia when he was in college.
“It was way different,” he said of Utopia’s layout. “About 15 years ago, the whole upstairs was CDs and collectibles, but the basement was where the vinyl was. The vinyl was more of a niche in the early 2000s, and now the CDs are the niche and the vinyl is what everybody’s more interested in.”
Last year, Rick and Andy purchased the record store from its previous owner and decided to change its name to Blue Village in honor of Westmont’s teen nightclub, which reigned during the 1960s.
The club, which originally opened in Lombard and eventually moved to Westmont on Cass Avenue, drew in teens from nearby towns and a cultural testament that hosted local bands such as The Flock, The Mauds, H.P. Lovecraft and more.
Rick pointed to a fuzzy black and white picture of Blue Village, which lay flat on his counter top. It’s the only photo he has as the club seems to only exist through rumors and hazy stories. Rick, a Hinsdale native, said his brother dragged him to Blue Village once, but he doesn’t remember anything else aside from the fact that it was crowded.
Blue Village Vinyl also sells comic books, magazines, used instruments and knick-knacks, as well as cassette tapes and collectible 8-tracks – a couple of formats that Rick said he doesn’t foresee making a big comeback.
But that’s the thing about working at a record store: you never know who’s looking for what. Andy said he’s noticed that those who buy 8-tracks are muscle car enthusiasts. So, there is something for everyone, and Rick and Andy’s job is all about understanding specialties and being well-versed, knowledgeable about the music industry.
“I learn stuff almost every day from customers,” said Andy, who sometimes relies on the internet as a guided source.
“They’re looking for specific things,” Rick added. “Sometimes, we feel sorry for them because they were looking for such specific things that they may spend the rest of their life searching for this item.”
If you go
What: Blue Village Vinyl
Where: 309 Ogden Ave., Westmont
Hours: Open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays