Josey Records takes a big plunge into KC’s vinyl culture

Written by Timothy Finn for The Kansas City Star, June 18th, 2015

JOSEY PRE 20150605 KAM 0049

Five years ago, Christian LaBeau couldn’t imagine working in a place like Josey Records Kansas City.

“A store this size?” he said. “No. No way.”

LaBeau had spent 14 years working for Streetside Records in Kansas City and St. Louis when the Streetside store at 4128 Broadway closed its doors for good. Streetside was the last of the big music stores in Kansas City to close, victim of the rapid decline in CD sales and the switch to digital music.

He found work in another record store when Vinyl Renaissance & Audio opened on 39th Street in March 2011, then at Mills Record Co. in Westport in 2013. Both are smaller than Streetside, but both were evidence of the rising popularity of vinyl, now the lifeblood of record stores.

Then through a fellow record collector, LaBeau got word that the owners of a 16,000-square-foot record store in Dallas wanted to open a store in Kansas City.

“We started talking, I went to Dallas, and they asked me if I wanted to manage the store,” LaBeau said. “I said sure.”

He is standing at the front of the 6,500-square-foot building near 18th and Oak streets, helping other workers price and stock a shipment of 1,500 new vinyl records that had arrived that day. Another large order was due the next day. Vinyl, new and used, will constitute the large majority of an inventory that will exceed 60,000 items. CDs and cassettes will also be available.

Saturday, Josey Records will throw a grand opening. On hand will be the owners of Josey Records and Music in Dallas, who brought Josey Records to Kansas City.

“We really liked Kansas City when we would come up here,” said Waric Cameron. “We liked the vibe, the people we ran into and the deep music history of Kansas City.”

Cameron is one of the three owners, all of whom are DJs who visited Kansas City regularly during the early 2000s. The other two are Luke Sardello, LaBeau’s record-collecting friend, and J.T. Donaldson.

“We all used to come up to Kansas City to DJ for the guys who owned Deep Fix Records,” Cameron said, referring to a now-defunct store on West 39th Street. “And we’d go shopping.”

One record store in particular became a favorite.

“We’d go to the Music Exchange,” Sardello said. “We fell in love with that place. We’d make road trips just to go to that store.”

“I took a road trip up here in 2007, not knowing it had closed,” Donaldson said. “Pretty depressing. A seven-hour drive each way.”

Donaldson said the trio’s background as DJs and in record collecting made opening a record store a natural move, given the rise in popularity of vinyl.

“When we were younger, the record store was the place where we’d meet up before the weekend started,” he said. “We really didn’t have that in Dallas.”

They opened the first Josey Records in October. A couple of months later, they started talking about opening a second store out of town, deciding pretty quickly on Kansas City. They secured the building at 1814 Oak St. in early April.

“We got lucky,” Sardello said. “It was an event space, the Promise. But they needed a bigger space, so we snapped it up.” Its locale in the burgeoning East Crossroads district was an attraction.

“Friends here pointed us in this direction,” Cameron said. “We spent some time here and really liked it. Kind of what’s happening here is on the forefront of what’s around the corner in Kansas City.”

The Kansas City store will feature live music regularly, from bands and DJs.

“Kansas City for sure is a big live-music town,” Cameron said. “We are going to embrace that.”

There’s plenty of room for live music in the large space, which, Donaldson said, is meant to revive the glory days when stores stocked thousands of records, CDs and/or cassettes.

For LaBeau, that means a lot more inventory to manage and stock, but he’s fine with that.

“No, I didn’t really see this coming again,” he said. “But I think it’s great.”

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