The vinyl still runs at Hear Again Records

At 12, Ethan Funk entered Hear Again Records for the first time.

He remembers hearing the record “Broadway and 52nd” by Us3, a band known for mixing jazz and hip hop, playing through the sound system as he browsed the store.

Funk asked to buy the record and Andrew Schaer, the store owner, offered a free CD copy of the band’s album “Hand On the Torch”.

Eight years later, Funk remained a loyal customer, only taking a break from routine travel when he found himself spending too much money.

“(Schaer) is there for the culture and for the scene too, besides just taking the money because the records are trending,” Funk said. “I can tell he really puts his heart and soul behind what he does.”

As local DJ and bassist for punk band The Real You, Funk is intimately connected to two intrinsically opposite sides of the Gainesville music scene. Without the constraints of a specific genre or mood, Hear Again works the same way.

Opened in 1994 as a CD and DVD store on West University Avenue, the store has changed location and ownership. The independent business not only became Gainesville’s first record store, but also a hub of musical culture downtown.

Schaer, 45, started working in the store long before moving primarily to vinyl storage. In 1995, while a student at Gainesville High School, Schaer got a job at Hear Again. He wore it throughout – and well beyond – his student years at the University of Florida.

When Perry Johnson, the store’s first owner, retired in 2009, Schaer inherited the business with a vision. Selling CDs was no longer a viable business; illegal downloading of music was on the rise, he said.

The public’s desire to own music on a physical medium persisted, however, and soon records were all the rage.

“[Records] were more appealing,” Schaer said. “The sound quality was better as long as they took care of it, and it’s just more of an engaging listening experience.”

Schaer purchased and moved Hear Again to its current location at 201 SE First St. in 2009.

Marcus Armband lived in Gainesville from 2015 to 2019 while studying Philosophy and English at UF. Armband, 25, had friends who lived in Arlington Square Apartments, a short walk from the Hippodrome Theater – Hear Again’s neighbor for 13 years in the heart of downtown.

Her love for music grew during her college experience and frequent trips to Hear Again helped her grow. During Armband’s second visit to Schaer, a certain record caught his eye.

A copy of the Arctic Monkeys’ 2009 album “Humbug” became the first record in his collection. Now three years into his time in Gainesville and currently living in Tuscaloosa, Alabama for law school, Armband estimates he has over 80 records, five of which are from Hear Again.

Armband’s Friends of Armband residence around the corner meant parking was never an issue for him, but in recent months – just after the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic – the city has begun to push for the conversion of the downtown two-hour free parking lot. in paid spaces.

A trial period in January led to a significant decline in restaurants, bars and shops whose customers benefit from parking a few steps from the doors of businesses, including Hear Again.

“What we saw over a three-plus-week test period was just empty parking spaces all day long,” Schaer said. “My income has been cut in half. It was painful and horrible.

Hear Again Records offers vinyl selections of all genres, including new and used titles. (Joseph Henry/WUFT News)

Vocalization from business owners and community members prompted the Gainesville City Commission to postpone any further decisions regarding parking until June 1. Schaer plans to oppose the change again and still has a petition at the Hear Again checkout counter.

Even with business challenges ahead and in the past, Schaer perseveres because he knows the importance of vinyl. Thousands of records populate the store, waiting to return home and join a unique new collection that can be shared or traded with its owner’s record-crazed comrades.

Schaer understands the social dynamics that arise from document ownership. The renewed interest in the medium isn’t just a trend, he said, it’s a real hobby — one that younger generations are taking up.

When it comes to helping preserve the longevity of record stores, Schaer said the younger the customers, the better.

Schaer recognizes the advantages of college demographics and the youthful energy they bring to the store. He takes note of the types of music they enjoy and how they lean more towards current titles than classics.

It appeals to the college and high school crowd by operating an updated and lively social media presence. New release checkout checkouts in the store attract customers who were looking for a specific title.

“I started [posting on social media] when I realized everyone was looking at their phone probably as much as they were looking anywhere else,” Schaer said.

Accounts on Instagram and Facebook also let Gainesville’s record-loving community know when the store is hosting special events, like the annual Record Store Day, or when Schaer calls for additional support.

Record collectors and those who want to see local businesses thrive are everywhere in Gainesville. They have supported Hear Again through the best and worst of times with a passion for vinyl music serving as a common thread.

“It’s about metrics for what people want versus what might otherwise be cramped in your throat, like a digital format,” Schaer said. “People say, ‘No, we want records,’ and they show up for them in droves. »

Jack L. Goldstein