You may read articles touting the continued success of the vinyl revival, but Chicagoans never stopped buying records (the kind with grooves). DJs from around the world have come to our city for decades, digging through vintage jazz, blues and house treasure in search of some rare wax to drop at the dance club. Thankfully, there are still plenty of obscure records to score, if you know where to look.
Chicago's best record stores stock used LPs, new releases CDs and cassettes—and many put new arrivals on their shelves every day. If you're a fan of jazz, underground garage rock or house music, you'll find stores that cater directly to your tastes. If you like a little bit of everything, neighborhoods like Logan Square and Wicker Park boast multiple shops where you can hunt for old favorites and fresh new finds. Add to your collection with the help of our guide to Chicago's best record stores.
Best record stores in Chicago
With locations in the Loop, Lakeview and Wicker Park, Reckless is the biggest record retailer in town. That means you shouldn't have any problem tracking down the latest new release (on vinyl or CD) and there are always stacks of used rock, jazz, metal and experimental LPs to flip through. The Wicker Park shop is home to the vastest selection of music and sometimes hosts in-store performances, signings and other special events.
The funny thing about Dusty Groove is just how pleasantly bright and clean it is. It looks like an interior design store or artisanal coffee shop. Of course, the "dusty grooves" refer to the obscure and wondrous global rhythms found in the smartly curated bins, sorted into Tropicalia, Afrobeat, reggae, vintage soul, French pop, blues, jazz, etc. It's the kind of place you'd have to hit if you were soundtracking a Quentin Tarantino film.
Nineties nostalgists, this is your classic indie record shop, the place to hit when you Shazam a nifty new band on NPR, an Apple ad or college radio (still a thing, promise!) and want to own the physical product. Apart from the usual records and CDs, Laurie's sells pop-culture items such as Johnny Cash action figures, Alf stuffed animals and even a little Social Distortion skeleton guy.
On a crowded, zig-zaggy stretch of Clark Street, a seven-inch record with a piece of paper taped across it hangs in a shop's front window. It makes owner Dave Crain's position quite clear. It reads: "NO CD'S NEVER HAD 'EM!!! NEVER WILL!!!" Lest you think this is some modern vinyl revival, keep in mind that Crain has been selling wax here for years and years, ranging from new releases to used jazz, rare garage and so much more.
Located directly across the street from Thalia Hall, Dusek's and Punch House, Pilsen's latest record store focuses on vinyl from small, international labels like Blackest Ever Black (London) and Exiles (Buenos Aires) as well as albums released by local favorites like Thrill Jockey and Numero Group. Stop by the sleek space to catch a DJ set or browse the selection of turntables, slipmats and other record supplies.
Stepping into Bric-A-Brac's brightly colored storefront is like entering the bedroom of every ’80s kid’s dreams. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figures line the walls, with a VHS copy of Blade Runner nearby. All of this supplements a highly curated selection of punk and garage rock records, including a healthy number of releases from local bands. Stop by to bask in the overwhelming sense of nostalgia and don’t forget to say hi to Dandelo, the store’s resident corgi.
This small vinyl shop has long been a hub for professional and amateur electronic experts. It's like stepping into the bottomless record bag of a cool Berlin DJ. Gramaphone stocks loads of bleeding-edge 12-inches from microlabels across the pond, repping disco, bass, dubstep, house, techno, trance… and whatever else producers are dreaming up in Ableton. If owner Michael Serafini is behind the counter, you may even get a preview of his weekly set at Smart Bar's Queen party.
Once located on the second floor of South Loop music venue Reggies, Record Breakers is now slinging vinyl on the hipster highway of Milwaukee Avenue. The Avondale shop is stocked with a wide selection of new and used vinyl, in addition to T-shirts, turntables, posters and everything else a music lover might want to horde. While you're there, be sure to peep the shop's mascot, a pet turtle named Humphrey.
Want to see what Chicago record stores used to look like, long before Spotify came along? After more than four decades in business, not much has changed at this South Side shop. Head here for new and vintage vinyl of all genres, or to get your fix of old-school cassette tapes. Make sure to take in the faded, decades-old promotional materials that line the shops walls, including standees for Donna Summer, Blues Brothers and Ricky Martin LPs.
Bob Koester didn’t stay retired long after closing River North fixture Jazz Record Mart. Koester, who also owns local label Delmark Records, opened a new storefront in Irving Park in October 2016; it may have a somewhat smaller stock than his old place, but Koester is there six days a week ready to share his encyclopedic knowledge of his favorite genres with other music lovers.
Retaining the location (and much of the stock) of former Chicago institution Reckless Records, collectors Jesa Espinoza and Rosemary Villaseñor run this West Town shop. Inside, you'll find a wall covered in rare records—including psych, punk, garage, krautrock and private press LPs—and shelves filled with used albums, which make up about three-quarters of Joyride's offerings. Swing by to browse the new arrivals and, if you're lucky, you may see some local garage rockers or a DJ performing live.
Just steps away from the 18th Street Pink Line station, Pinwheel Records was the first record store to debut in Pilsen. The interior of the shop looks a bit like the living room of your dreams, boasting a couch, coffee table and an arcade cabinet. Of course, there are plenty of records (and turntables to listen to them on) neatly arranged throughout the brightly colored space. Stop in for some listening material while you digest those carnitas.
After three years of searching for the perfect neighborhood space, Adam "DJ Shuga Rose" Rosen opened Shuga in Wicker Park, not far from Reckless Records and Dusty Groove. The store houses close to 20,000 records exclusively available at the shop, plus turntables, vintage posters and hundreds of thousands more titles online. If you're searching for an obscure album, chances are you'll find it here. The shop also offers local delivery for orders over $100.
Located in the former home of KStarke Records, Wild Prairie takes its name from a song by Chicago hip-hop producer trio Molemen. The shop carries vintage clothing in addition to a concise but deep collection of obscure house, jazz, soul, reggae and Italo disco LPs. Co-owners Natasha Rac and Alex Gonzales often host parties soundtracked by local DJs at the store—plus, the pair owns a Shiba Inu that can sometimes be found hanging around the mannequins and shelves.
Opened in 2010, Bucket O’ Blood Books and Records hawks low-priced books in the varieties of horror, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, popular science, creative nonfiction and biographies, as well as rock, punk and metal vinyl alongside used science fiction and horror DVDs. Its new location is just down the street from Kuma's Corner, which means you can finally eat a Slayer burger and then go buy a copy of Reign in Blood.