Repurposing, refurbishing and "revinylizing" are John Arnsdorff's passions and the tunes of his new store Audio Archaeology.
Owner Arnsdorff, with friend and Marketing Director Nick Kuttin ( aka Nikutn ), gave what they described as a formerly drab office space new life, spinning it into a vintage record shop where one could get a piece of nostalgia and support the "vinyl lifestyle."
"A lot of it is [that] I want to reintroduce people to another segment of music and really just be a staple of the neighborhood and have fun," said Arnsdorff. "It's a place that's focusing on a classic technology."
Located at 1324 W. Devon Ave., Arnsdorff and Kuttin are enthusiastic about the neighborhood coming to life with the various businesses on the block. Walking through Audio Archeology's door, visitors immediately see the vinyl records, consoles, portable turntables, vintage furniture, bars and bar sets, local artwork and vintage accessories and appliances. The store celebrates their grand opening on March 15 at 8 p.m. with the casual, social vibe they intend to maintain.
"I've been an antique collector pretty much my whole life and I've always had a thing for archaic technology and also for music and really started getting back into vinyl the last few years," said Arnsdorff. "I love the sound, especially of the older systems. The things they're making today, there are some you can find that are high-end audiophile, but most of it's kind of pedestrian. I've enjoyed finding things, fixing them up, refurbishing them."
Arnsdorff fondly remembers collecting records and the portable record player he had as a kid. During his childhood, he also began tinkering with things such as tube radios to see how they worked. Kuttin, however, grew up with CDs, crediting Arnsdorff with introducing him to vinyl records a few years ago as they were setting up for one of Arnsdorff's holiday parties.
"Growing up, everything I've listened to has been digital," said Kuttin, who has been active in the the Chicago LGBT community since he started undergrad in Champaign in 2005. "I have a nice speaker system at home, but it's still that digital quality. When you listen to something on the console for the first time, you can almost feel the sound waves. It's stuff you never experienced listening, even on really nice digital speakers. The analogue sound coming out of it is not reproducible like the digital audio that you can download and stream."
Kuttin especially took a liking to Peggy Lee's Black Coffee, which Arnsdorff initially played for him ( and for Windy City Times ), saying he "can't get enough." The song's lyrics, "…moanin' all the night and in between it's nicotine…" ring out his name.
"I've got an iphone and I'll listen to things on the iphone in the car, but when I get home or get in here, it's something different," said Arnsdorff. "It's like grabbing a burger from McDonald's because you need something fast and then going home and really cooking a gourmet meal when you have the time."
Arnsdorff emphasizes the pieces he carries are made to last and each provides a challenge to get working, cleaned, sounding good, and looking pretty. Some of the pieces are originals, while others he has fun with, customizing with new paint or purpose to give it a new feel. With a range of tastes floating around, customers will be able to make custom orders.
"A lot of it is just digging and looking for things," said Arnsdorff of where he finds the vinyl records he sells. "There's not that much of it out there. It's not like CDs. You have to find the right distributors. It's being tenacious and figuring out where to look and being a little bit more savvy, maybe than the other people in the business and knowing your customers."
Wanting to be interactive, the new business aims to showcase new local art of all kinds and help any local charities. Monthly, different local artists will be featured and distributing their work in the store. The first artist is Sean Welker, who will attend the grand opening to discuss his new pieces. New musical acts are also welcome to perform their music in the space.
"A lot of local artists are putting their stuff out on vinyl and we cannot wait, once we're open, to say 'if you need a place to play it, come play it here,'" said Kuttin. "We're hoping the people that find something that they like, it becomes the conversation piece in their living room."
For more information, visit VintageAudioChicago.com or Facebook.com/AudioArchaeologyChicago .