With the breakup of his '70s Youngstown powerpop band, The Todd, in 1975, Ron Hrehovcik (aka Sonny) discovered a newfound love for collecting and selling vinyl records.
Independent record chains in the tri-county area were closing down, and Hrehovcik wanted to continue the trend of independent record stores. He cultivated the business Underdog's Music Mania and Recording Studio.
Located at 6181 Youngstown- Hubbard Road in Hubbard, Underdog's Music Mania has been carrying vinyl for 35 years.
Ron Hrehovcik, owner of Underdog’s Music Mania in Hubbard, also has a recording studio space inside the store for local bands and artists. Here, he holds the self-titled album of the band Small Faces.
From The Human Beinz to The Stooges to Lady Gaga, Hrehovcik carries a broad collection of new and used vinyl.
"I go to record dealers, stores and music expos to purchase records that are in clean condition. I just don't go to garage sales and purchase a stack of records just to sell," Hrehovcik said.
Hrehovcik started the business with Eddy Rupeka, who was the soundman for Hrehovcik's band. The original location of the business was located on South Avenue in Boardman. The band sold most of their equipment so that Hrehovcik could start his business.
Hrehovcik said that the name "Underdog Records" did not come from the 1960s cartoon hero "Underdog," but from the idea that Hrehovcik and Rupeka had only $2,000 in the beginning to start a record shop.
Located at the Boardman location of 6961 Market St., Indie Wax Record carries a vast inventory of newly-released vinyl, as well as used finds. Indie Wax primarily specializes in new indie releases and classic punk rarities. Indie Wax is owned by Heather Cannon and Jeff Perry.
As Heather Cannon carefully sifts through new vinyl shipments, she speaks about the popular record gems at her store.
"The most popular new vinyl releases in our store are Arcade Fire's new release, 'The Suburbs' and Best Coast's 'Crazy For You.' Customers mostly come here to look for rare collectible vinyl, such as Limited Edition Indie Only Record Store Day albums," Cannon said.
Aside from vinyl rarities, Indie Wax carries a wide range of classic reissues. The top-selling reissued records at Indie Wax include the entire Family Approved special editions of the Jimi Hendrix record catalog. The Family Approved Jimi Hendrix issues come with a vinyl and a CD version as well as a DVD.
"New vinyl releases on major or more established indie labels are packaging CD versions with the vinyl versions," Cannon said.
Cannon pointed out that most new vinyl and some new CD releases come with download codes, so collectors can download high quality mp3 versions of the CD or album. The codes will direct listeners to the artist's or label's webpage to download the mp3 versions.
Josh Hopkins, customer and drummer for the Rogers metal band, ALBUM, is pleased with Indie Wax's contribution to the community.
"Indie Wax is the first record store I have gone to since Purple Frog Records in North Lima closed down five years ago. Indie Wax also carries first original copies of records such as Lynyrd Skynyrd's 'Street Survivors.' Usually outlets carry remastered versions," Hopkins said.
Jeff Burke, owner of the Record Connection, located at 32 Youngstown-Warren Road in Niles, said that vinyl sales have risen steadily three years in a row. The Record Connection carries new and used vinyl and CDs in addition to music DVDs and cassette tapes.
"At our shop we lost about 10 to 20 percent in our CD sales. Last year has been a lousy year for CD sales. In the 1990s when CD sales were up, I would purchase boxes containing 30 CDs, having 300 CDs on sale at the store. Today, I only purchase about 10 CDs for the shop," Burke said.
Burke has had Record Connection open since October 1980 and was the first independent music distributor in the Trumbull/Mahoning County area to carry CDs during their assembly-line birth in the early 1980s.
"In the early 1980s, we had 60 titles in stock for CDs. Some of the CDs I had in the shop were imported from Japan. I started the business when 8-tracks were still the big thing. Its amazing how technology has increased," Burke said.
Avid collectors also come to Record Connection to have their records transferred to CD. This is done with turntables that have USB connections to hook up to the computer.
"A lot of people have out-of-print edition LPs that no longer exist transferred to CD. To have this transfer done, it usually costs $15.99, the standard price of a CD. For example, I had a customer who had a vinyl of Native American music that is no longer available. I transferred his music to CD. A lot of collectors with rare jazz records come to me to get their music transferred to CD," Burke said.
George Case (aka Geo), local musician of the funk group Geo C. and Tha Storm, has been running the business Geo's Music since 1996. Case recently relocated Geo's Music to 228 W. Boardman St. in Youngstown where he has more room to display his vinyl inventory.
From Peter Gabriel's "Scratch My Back" to Erykah Badu's "New America Part Two: Return of The Ankh," Case has been bringing in huge amounts of new vinyl releases. Case also carries classic used rhythm and blues and 1950s experimental jazz rare vinyl finds.
"Usually people who buy records are the art and music lovers. Vinyl is the true hard copy of music," Case said.
While looking to treat herself to an analog treasure on a Saturday afternoon, Heide Weisel, a longtime customer of Geo's Music, said she was pleased with the new location of Geo's Music.
"There is a lot of space here and more visualization of Case's records and products. He has tons of vinyl, and I was always able to find what I was looking for at Geo's Music," Weisel said.