Best Of Chicago

Best Record Shops In Chicago

December 5, 2011 2:00 PM

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If you’re really going to get into music, eventually one finds the limits of online music players and stores. Where’s the hidden gems, the dusty diamonds in the rough, the good stuff? Just as your tastes start to dig a little deeper, you’ll also need to find a place that has long-lost finds, or maybe an exceptionally curated collection of so-new-it-hurts local tunes. Maybe you just like the feel of vinyl, the ritual of pulling out that big disc encoded with beautiful music data, and holding it over your head like Tron. Or maybe you want to show that jerk DJing the bar last night how to really work a turntable. Whatever your reason, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best local record shops to satisfy your music tooth.

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Permanent Records

1914 W. Chicago Ave.
Chicago, Il
(773) 278-1744

A little space with a lot of heart, Permanent packs as much as they can into two narrow aisles. What they can fit is exceptionally curated – CDs, vinyl, and a small collection of DVDs. The glass case at the front has some of the real gems – local label Plustapes shows off their releases on cassette tape only (with digital download for those of you whose nostalgia runs directly to the 80’s). And the giant Nixon-masked mannequin is as good a shopping buddy as you can ever ask for (actually he creeps us out a little, but gotta love their sense of decor).

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5045 N. Clark
Chicago, Il
(773) 880-7420

One of the cooler concepts in the record store world, Transistor is a little bit of everything. While they carry CDs and records, they also keep a stock of books, artwork, and even electronics. Amps, turntables, and even micorphones are available to perfect your audiophile listening experience.

Reckless Records

3126 N. Broadway
Chicago, Il
(773) 404-5080

With three locations in Chicago, (the second is in Wicker Park, the third downtown) Reckless is the heavy hitter of the indie record world in Chicago. Don’t for a moment think that this makes them anything like a chain music store – they’ve just done the indie record store so nice, they decided to do it thrice. The shop adds hand-written descriptions to a large number of their new CD and vinyl releases, and keeps the tone playful. The shop also employs plenty of clerks with vinyl grading experience, so those looking to unload their classic collections can sell them back with confidence. And that same fact means their used stock is chock-full of gems old and new.

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Dusty Groove

1120 N. Ashland Ave.
Chicago, Il
(773) 342-5800

There’s plenty of places to find records from the latest indie darling, but where do you go when you want the stuff that’s old as dirt? If you’re looking for jazz, funk, or soul, you could do much worse than Dusty Groove. Specializing in the aforementioned fields, the shop will only go modern for neo-soul, odd foreign compilations, and very left-field hip-hop. Otherwise, get ready to head back at least two decades, to any number of picture-perfect dance parties.

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Val's Halla Records

239 W. Harrison
Oak Park, Il
(708) 524-1004

The best find at Val’s Halla might just be Val herself. Having been in the industry for longer than most of her shoppers have been born, she definitely knows the stock, and can talk as easily about long-lost soul singers as she can French synth-pop. Just off the Blue Line in Oak Park, Val’s deep collection is worth making the trip for – less city traffic means more rare finds for you.

Jazz Record Mart

27 E. Illinois St.
Chicago, Il
(312) 222-1467

The end-all, be-all for jazz and blues in Chicago. Directly connected to the legendary Delmark Records, Jazz Record Mart not only carries all of their releases, but has tens of thousands of records piled high in their shop. Surprisingly located downtown in the loop, Bob Koester bought the shop in 1959, shortly after starting Delmark Records. Releasing such hits as Buddy Guy and Junior Wells’ “Hoodoo Man Blues”, the Delmark label is a treasure in its own right – when you add that to the several lifetimes of rare and classic blues and jazz records they carry from other labels, Jazz Record Mart is a must-visit for any record shopper.

Dan Morgridge is a writer in Chicago’s Ukrainian Village. He enjoys eating and drinking above his means, finding new music, and socially conscious hedonism.
View Comments
  • scoperadio

    how can you do this article and not include Gramaphone Records on Clark?

  • james

    I agree with scoperadio, Gramaphone is the only store that has listening stations (Nine of them – I think) You can listen to the record before you buy it there!

    • Mike

      You can do that at Reckless too, but I agree about Gramaphone. How the hell can you leave it off this list?

  • Darren Hillock

    Val’s Halla was my favorite record store back when all you mostly could buy was records. Sometimes I told my parents I was going to the library, but I really drove up from Berwyn to go to Val’s.

  • m50

    Gramaphone, Kstarke

  • Yo

    Where’s Gramaphone!?

  • yo2

    Gramaphone !!! One of the greatest in the world, let alone Chicago. Nothing less than hallowed ground for many electronic musicians.

  • Jon Dent

    whoa whoa whoa where is Gramaphone at? I’m from St. Louis and even I know they’re one of the best record shops in Chicago.

  • Cordell Johnson

    People from outside of the states go to Mr. peabody’s Records before they go to any of the stores mention above.
    Grammaphone is the only store that specialize in current dance music..
    This article is not accurate at all.


    No Gramaphone records? IDIOT.

  • djbvax

    How the HELL is Gramaphone NOT on this list? Is this person from Chicago. I’m a DJ and I’m sorry Permeant is not that great. They don’t even carry much Soul/Jazz/HipHop. Really?? No Gram? Fail.

  • djedninechicago

    Why is gramaphone records NOT in this article? what about kstarke? peabody?

  • CharlesHanna

    Where’s Gramaphone Records?! Dan Morgridge must not be from Chicago – BIG MISTAKE!

  • DJ Wrek

    No gramaphone records? Why were they left out? They’re great and one of my favorite…

  • scoperadio

    2843 N. Clark Street. It is in Lakeview not far from Lincoln Park so you would think CBS would be all over it

  • David Lee Kim

    Yeah, Gramaphone is too important to have left out. In fact, it’s a major part of Chicago history!

  • Monique

    I bet Kristen Hartman wrote this article!…these reviews are a reflection of her butt…..FLAT!..;)

  • William Dunn

    Obviously this IDIOT is not from Chicago. Bet you he’s from a Suburb claiming Chicago when he goes out of town. Once again someone has a job because of WHO THEY KNOW rather than WHAT THEY KNOW. No Gramaphone or Peabody. Bet this guy never knew DR. WAX even existed.

  • Mike

    Leaving Gramaphone off this list is absolutely ridiculous and doltish. Other places on the list are nice (I’m a huge fan of Reckless, for example), but honestly, massive fail. For leaving that place off, I guarantee this article won’t be as trusted by people.

  • joe dale

    Where is the Gramaphone? Going strong for almost 43 years! They let you listen to anything in their shop!

  • dancomono

    Dave’s, Laurie’s, 2nd Hand Tunes, Record Breakers…there’s a lot of places in the city to buy a record, and some will be more beloved than others. This article is a mix of old and new, big and small – the comments are certainly the place to fill in the gaps! Surely there’s other record shoppers out there in Chicago who want to trumpet their own stores?

  • Shaka Zeke

    How could you not mention Beverly Records on the Southside? They have been Chicago’s top hard to find record store since they started in 1966!! WHAT AN OVERSIGHT!!!

  • Jay

    Cyklopx in Forrest Park blows all of these stores away.

  • dennis

    I’m just curious if the author or his employers even noticed the response to this article & its lack of research? 1st year journalism student? Give me a paycheck CBS i can rite good artiklez on stuffs too! LOL

    • Mason Johnson

      We read and cherish every response, Dennis.

      Thanks for the comment!

      Mason Johnson

  • EP

    Hmmmmm the only real place to dig at is: Out of the Past Records. Hmmm, guess there isn’t enough hipsters there.

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