Black-Owned Record Store on South Side Riding Vinyl’s Resurgence to Global Sales – CBS Chicago


CHICAGO (CBS) — You may have heard that vinyl albums are making a big comeback, even as we stream music to our phones. An African-American business couple are taking advantage of vinyl’s renewed popularity to sell them around the world from their little shop on the south side of Chicago.

When Cliff Muhammad got his MBA from the University of Chicago, he didn’t plan on owning a small record store.

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“My career after business school was mostly about helping companies make money, getting their ROI,” he said.

Cliff, working with multinational companies, inherited The Record Track, at 87and and Burnham in Chicago’s South End, from his deceased uncle Wister Adriane. Uncle Wister had a hoard of old vinyl records and CDs, and Muhammad planned to get rid of them all.

“The first thing I tried to do was sell the whole business, then after trying to sell the whole business, we said we were selling inventory. Put a big liquidation in the foreground and try to get as much money out of it as quickly as possible,” he said.

But a funny thing happened on the way to liquidation: neighbors expressed their appreciation for the little store.

Every business in the neighborhood was cherished, in a community hurt by divestment.

“My uncle’s customers were coming in. … We’re trying to sell everything, and they’re like, ‘We’re glad you’re still here,'” Muhammad said.

Although the building itself is closed due to the pandemic, Cliff sells online and has customers all over the world as vinyl enjoys a resurgence in popularity.

“I have as many customers, say, outside the United States in other countries as I have in Chicago through online sales,” he said.

Cliff’s wife, Connie Anderson, a finance graduate, is his partner in this unexpected venture. He had to convince her to leave the north side to take over this business on the south side and settle in the community.

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Connie’s first reaction to moving to the South Side?

“No,” she said.

The Arkansas native had heard the negative chatter on the South Side and seen the divestment here. But now she has found a sense of family.

“Honestly, I love the South Side. If I choose to move north, I can’t. I’m blessed to have those choices. I’m not going to. I’m not backing down,” he said. she declared.

Together, Cliff and Connie have big ideas for The Record Track: renovating and reopening the building, and turning it into a community center where music lovers of all ages learn to play instruments.

“Come to a physical location and get your hands on a musical instrument — guitar, keyboards, drums — and learn how to do something with that musical instrument in minutes,” Cliff said.

“We’re going to see a lot of unity,” Connie said. “We’re going to see this old school community.”

Sometimes the best-laid plans lead to a little record store on the south side, thanks to Uncle Wister.

“Everything here is really an archive of Uncle’s stuff over the decades,” Cliff said. “Every time we hear a little creak in the basement, my wife and I joke that he and his partner are kind of still there with us…you know, maybe telling us what to do.”

Cliff and Connie receive a $250,000 grant from the city as part of the Chicago Small Business Recovery Plan.

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Their winning request for the funds included a promise to use other businesses and community labor for work done on The Record Track.


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