by Jennifer Lavallee
Morinville News Correspondent
As you walk through the front door of Smith Music, expect to be greeted by a whirl of activity and sound. If you haven’t been there in a while, you’ll likely notice the place has changed, a lot.
What was once a singular, large open room is now a building split up into three unique identities. There’s a new massage therapy business there. And, of course, there’s Smith Music with its immense stage and new (not to mention, impressive) recording studio.
And, there’s Ron’s Collectibles.
Behind the counter at Ron’s Collectibles you’ll find, well, Ron (Cust). He’s there nearly every day keeping busy, navigating through the newly resurged world of vinyl records.
On any given day, you may find him—magnifying glass in hand—inspecting a newly acquired LP or, perhaps, researching the value of a few records someone has come in to consign. His turntable is undoubtedly spinning since he listens to every piece of vinyl that makes its way onto his shelves (to assess sound quality).
He sells mostly original records but has reproductions too. “By far, our most popular vinyl is stuff by Elvis, the Beetles, Rolling Stones. Even KISS and Metallica,” said Cust in an interview on a busy Wednesday night.
He had just put away a rare 1969 Janis Joplin LP when I showed up.
There are about 1,000 records for sale at Ron’s Collectibles today. “I get in records that are very rare all the way to the easier-to-find ones. But, lots of those easy-to-find records are still really popular with people today,” he explained.
One of his most rare find to date was a 1940s Artie Shaw LP; it was snatched up right away. The Eagles Greatest Hits, are always coming in, laughed Cust, but they do seem to sell just as quickly.
To determine the price of his records, Cust puts each piece of vinyl through a rating system. Every LP is assessed for scratches and is visually inspected for imperfections, such as warping. Sound quality is graded on a scale of one-to-five.
The ratings are right there [on a sticker] on the record’s plastic casing, so there’s no guessing at the quality of vinyl you are purchasing when you buy an LP here, remarked Cust.
Cust said he has three outlets in which he uses to research a record’s value and he aims to price his vinyl at about 25 percent below market value. “We’re sometimes as much as fifty-to-sixty percent lower than online, because, obviously, we don’t charge any shipping.”
Cust grew up in a time when people drove things called Boogie Vans, and polyester leisure suits were, like, totally far out. He witnessed the golden age of rock first-hand. Of course, he loves vinyl—it’s a big part of his generational identity. You could imagine my surprise, then, when Cust paused our interview to answer a phone call, and I noticed a young-looking person helping folks out at the Ron’s Collectible counter, talking about vinyl with ease and enthusiasm.
That young-looking person is named Jacob Lienau, and he is 18-years-old. I think maybe he likes vinyl just as much as Cust. “I have probably [as many as 140 records] at home,” explained Lienau, who said he fell in love with LPs as a kid because of his dad, who is a musician.
“I think the resurgence of vinyl has a lot to do with the sound,” he said. “I think hipsters have helped bring [LPs] back; they were buying music in that way because it was cool. But then, people started noticing how good records actually sound.”
At that moment, Ron finished up his call and switched the record playing on his turntable. He returned and mused, saying he is surprised, but at the same time, is not surprised, with the number of people who are, in 2017, coming through the door in search of vinyl records.
Ron’s Collectibles is open five-days-a-week, and by appointment on the weekends. From April 1 to 2, you can find Ron at the Wild Rose Antique Collectible Show at the Edmonton Expo Centre.