Record Store Review: Vatican City Vinyl

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Florida.

I used to hate Florida. The voting public of Florida are primarily responsible for pretty much every horrible thing that’s happened to America since the turn of the millennium after all. It’s fair to say that they started it.

But I’ve mellowed on my opinion of the sunshine state a very slight bit, thanks in part to my recent visit there, where I discovered a wonderful little record store by the name of Vatican City Vinyl. Located on 404 South Washington Blvd. in the heart of Sarasota, the store opened in 2013 and, as of this writing, remains the only record store in the entire city.

So yeah, no pressure for it to be awesome or anything.

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VCV is a pretty small store, but when I stepped into it I immediately discovered that what it lacked in size it more than made up for in inventory. For a little shop, it sure does pack in the vinyl, and it does so in an easy to browse and exceptionally well-organized manner. The majority of the store is used vinyl, and about half of that is dedicated to rock music. Thankfully, the rock is split up into various sub-categories that make finding what you want a breeze. Classic (pre-80s) rock is lined up along the left wall, while 80s/modern rock take up a good chunk of the center section. The few metal LPs they have in stock are given their own placard at the end of the classic rock section. The rest of the store is dedicated to funk, soul, hip-hop and jazz, and while I didn’t spend as much time browsing those sections, they seemed to be well-stocked.

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The majority of their stock is priced to move, anywhere between a couple of bucks to the low teens. More pricey selections are either lined up for easy display on the wall, or in the “rarities” section in the back of the store. All genres are mixed together there, but as the section is rather small, browsing through it all is still easy. About the only section of the store that was difficult to look through was their limited CD section. Located in the back of the store in a separate room, it wasn’t organized at all, with the CDs seemingly placed rather haphazardly on the rack. I get it, used CDs really don’t move like they used to, but it would go a long way even if the section was cleaned up just a little bit. They also had audio and video tapes back there, if you’re some kind of sadist who hates yourself and are into those kinds of things. Their hardware section certainly is good though, excellent really.  For a tiny store, it sure is stacked with killer gear. I saw turntables abound, they even had a few 1200s in decent condition and priced fairly – something you rarely see in US record stores these days.

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But what really got me about the store was the staff. Small independent record stores can be intimidating at times, largely because the people that run and work them can be snobs or stuck-up pricks who treat their customers like an inconvenience. No worries of that here though. VCV is run by a lovely young couple, and both of them are exceedingly friendly and kind, creating an exceptionally welcome environment for both music geeks and newcomers to vinyl.

Sarasota isn’t exactly a happening town, but with Vatican City Vinyl it does have one hell of a record store. If you’re ever in the area and are looking for some good wax, I highly recommend it.

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