By: Sam Fatula | A&E Editor
The vehicle of music media has the tendency to change with the times. As it progresses, immediacy and portability elevate in factors of importance, while quality of the product has arguably diminished.
Just in the past 25 years, consumers have witnessed the evolution of placing a needle on a 12-inch disc to ultimately transferring an intangible MP3 file to an iPod for listening pleasure.
In the wake of this extremity, how is it that stores that exclusively sell vinyl records and CDs continue to not only survive,but progressively–thrive?
For over 30 years now, Fred Bohn Sr. and son, Fred Jr. have collectively run Attic Records, one of the most tenured record stores in the greater Pittsburgh area.
Located at 513 Grant Ave in Millvale, the Attic encompasses every square inch of the store with bookshelves of new and used vinyl, alongside countless loads of CDs and a small section of DVDs.
Although Bohn Jr. didn’t get into the family business as a full-time employee until 1990, he knows the entire backstory of how his father opened the Attic.
“At the time my father opened up the record store, he was working at the Iron City Brewery,” Bohn said. “He would work at the brewery during the day, come home and then open up the store for about five or six hours.”
According to Bohn, his father came up with the name of the Attic due to the original stock of merchandise the store sold when it first opened. During the first few months of the store’s existence, Bohn Sr. would sell anything from “baseball cards, beer cans and of course, records,” Bohn Jr. said. The premise being was that these were all items that one would find stowed away in their parent’s attic.
Since the early days of Attic’s existence, the store has migrated a block away and expanded the storefront to hold the ever-increasing amount of music. Customers are now welcomed by the façade of the Attic’s murals, which feature the faces of members of The Beatles, Hendrix and every other legendary act in between.
Inside the store you are welcomed by the ambience of classic rock music, a collection of old photgraphs of blues artists and seven inch records. As you ease your way towards the back of the Attic, you have the choice of making your way towards the new and used section of vinyl, or the equally immense shelves of CDs. Even with the additional space to fill the store with merchandise, you can still expect to see stacks of product laying on the floors, expecting to eventually be displayed in for all to see.
Recently, Bohn Jr. admitted to the sudden influx and increasing interest in buying vinyl once again.
“I don’t think the resurgence of vinyl is a weird thing. It’s more of a massive undertaking,” Bohn said. “I’ve seen people come in here from ages 12-35 looking for records. And I also think that people don’t really realize how much music there really is. There are thousands of songs and albums coming out every week, and some people only hear one of them. It’s crazy how all that works.”
Despite the new additions to accommodate the space needed, you can still expect to find two constants upon walking in: both Bohns are actively in the shop either at the register or filing records, and vinyl is always playing.
“I’ve never owned a CD player or MP3 player in my entire life,” Bohn Jr. said as he dropped the needle to play the live album of Nirvana’s Nevermind. “I collect records. Always have, always will.”
There is almost a sense of irony in relation to Attic Records and its proximity to downtown Pittsburgh. It is a sheltered off location, hidden away in the rustbelt town that is Millvale. For a small business store that has lasted the past 34 years, it can be referred to as an artifact that has been stowed away for some time, recently dug up by vinyl revivalists.
The further drive to get there is worth the wait. Not only do you absorb elements of musical knowledge and eventual merchandise, but the experience and character of the store is the most valuable thing.
It is an attic. It is The Attic.