PHOTO/DAVID ROBERT: Kat, Eric Jacobson and Mike Ward share a laugh at the former Midtown location of Recycled Records, shortly before the move.

Recycled Records is a Reno institution. As Reno’s stewards of the analog era in the digital age, the shop with used records, CDs, DVDs and cassettes has occupied seven different locations over almost 50 years, witnessing the rise and fall (and rise again) of various musical genres and mediums alike.

On May 19, Recycled Records officially opened at its new location at 4048 Kietzke Lane, having left its iconic space in the heart of Midtown after 11 years.

“I’ve been sitting with scrap paper for months figuring out where to put everything and make it as spacious as I could,” said co-owner Eric Jacobson. “The last thing I wanted was it to be crammed like the last place.”

Over the past few decades, Jacobson has made the transition from patron of Recycled Records, to manager for 28 years, to current part-owner. An avid collector and self-described “music nut,” Jacobson decided to take up the mantle alongside fellow employees Kyle Howell and Mike McDonald when longtime owner Paul Doege retired in 2019.

“When I was 5, I was already collecting records,” Jacobson said. “I was already insanely obsessed with music. When I was 13, my grandparents lived a few blocks from the old store on Wells Avenue—that was the original store—and I met Paul. When I was 18, I started working for Musicland corporation, and then I started doing part-time with Paul on Friday nights, which was a conflict of interest. And I have zero regrets.”

In 2012, Recycled Records moved from a space where it had been for 24 years to a location on Virginia Street in Midtown. It soon became a fixture of the burgeoning small-business scene, and Jacobson said they reveled in the foot traffic that the area provided, as well as a counterculture element that made the community feel inclusive and genuine.

Over the years, however, they witnessed changes to the neighborhood—like the widening of the sidewalks in 2020, for example, which Jacobson said he loved as a business owner. However, the wider sidewalks were coupled with a new traffic median, meaning the lanes became much narrower, which Jacobson felt increased the potential danger to both pedestrians and parked cars.

“I mean, there used to be parking, and it’s just become more and more restrictive,” said Joe Wilson, a staff member at Recycled Records for the past five years. “So what used to just be free street parking nearby became one-hour, two-hour parking.”

Another big challenge, said Jacobson, was a notable increase in homeless citizens causing disturbances and damaging property.

“I have nothing but empathy for people who are out in the streets and having a rough time and are mentally ill, and we need to really help them as a society—but you get really burned out on dealing with it every day,” Jacobson said.

The final blow came when the building they were renting came under new management. Jacobson said the investment firm which acquired the space attempted to raise their rent by almost double—a story Jacobson said is becoming more common as “money” moves into Midtown.

“We really had a lot of good years there,” Jacobson said. “It’s been good to us. I don’t want to come off like I hate Midtown or anything; we’re just kind of kind of burned out on it. I feel like after 12 years, I’m ready to roll.”

The ultimate decision to move came when the owners set foot in their new space on Kietzke Lane, which has higher ceilings, more floor space and better parking than the Midtown sot.

Realistically, Recycled Records could probably operate out of the back of a van and lose little business. For 45 years now, no matter where the shop has been located, its legions of dedicated patrons inevitably seek it out.

“It’s been good to us. I don’t want to come off like I hate Midtown or anything; we’re just kind of kind of burned out on it. I feel like after 12 years, I’m ready to roll.” Recycled Records co-owner Eric Jacobson

“We have a huge clientele that is super-dedicated to us,” Jacobson said. “Our customers are the best. I can’t make that any clearer. We expect to take a small hit, but, man, it’s crazy how many thousands of people come in here on a regular basis.”

Recycled Records has defied the promise of the digital age—where the availability of music online would inevitably make physical media obsolete—largely because it operates in a unique confluence of specialty business practice and evolving music culture. Fans of analog music range from hardliners who never bought into Spotify, to serious collectors who spend their off hours crate-digging for a rare pressing, to casual buyers only just learning that music doesn’t need to be in MP3 format.

Jacobson caters to everyone, both offering a fair price on used records and investing in vinyls pressed by more contemporary artists—a practice that’s become more and more common in recent years. In fact, we exist in a kind of record-buying renaissance, with sales of vinyl records steadily growing from 6.1 million units in 2013 to more than 41 million units in 2021—a trend largely driven by teenagers and young adults, according to a 2021 study by MRC Data.

Jacobson credits the cultural staying power of previous generations of music, as well as the undeniable bump in audio quality for the continued relevance of analog music.

“When we were kids, we would buy our records and go home and sit on our bed and study the gatefold and throw it on and just learn everything about it and just totally indulge in it,” he said. “I think once you hear a record, and you’ve been listening to, like, a bunch of digital downloads that are compressed and stuff, you’re like, ‘Oh my god; that’s what music’s supposed to sound like.’”

To John Snelgrove, a 21-year-old patron who attended the “soft opening” of the new location on May 18, analog music is a recent passion.

“My collection is all CDs pretty much right now,” Snelgrove said. “I’ve yet to get into vinyl. CDs are pretty compact. … I have a small studio apartment, so it’s definitely what works. I think I’m up to, like, 200.”

Snelgrove’s generation remembers VHS and CDs from childhood, even if the heyday of vinyl was before his time. As opposed to the passive consumption that comes from simply pressing play on his phone, physical albums feel like more of a “ritual” that allows him to engage more deeply with the music.

“Let’s say you listen to Fishbone on your phone: Great. I liked it,” Snelgrove said. “But then when you’re able to hold this and look at the album, or while you’re listening to it, reading everything, opening it up, it’s just a whole other experience. It could be nostalgia, but I think there is something about just being present in the experience, for sure.”

As much as listening to a physical album is part of the larger musical experience, so is the act of visiting a record store. Snelgrove splits his musical interests between the classics of his parents’ generation (he credits his dad for passing on his music taste) and contemporary artists who are investing in the physical experience. Recycled Records, he said, satisfies both parts of the equation.

With a steady supply of generational support, a brand-new space and more music to explore every day, Jacobson and Recycled Records plan to keep the hits coming for the foreseeable future.

“I have zero plans to (stop),” he said. “I’m too hyperactive to retire. I can’t sit around.”

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