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 chain's Wicker Park shop is home to the most vast 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. The shop's name refers to the obscure and eclectic global rhythms found in the smartly curated bins, sorted into sections devoted to Tropicalia, Afrobeat, reggae, vintage soul, French pop, blues and jazz. 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 visit when you Shazam a nifty new band on NPR, during a DJ set or on 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 like action figures, board games and music-related tchotchkes.
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 bright, colorful 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 house 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.
Owned and operated by David Beltran and Diana Bowden (who also run local record and apparel label Feeltrip) this unassuming Irving Park storefront is the home base for the the pair's various projects, as well as a store that sells records, handmade T-shirts and zines. Among the racks, you'll find Feeltrip releases (including albums from local artists like Paul Cherry and Pixel Grip) alongside sections filled with used records, including house, techno, and Italo disco LPs. No Requests also sells Feeltrip apparel, so you can pick up a Drippy Bulls shirt and blend into the crowd at any local indie rock show.
After shutting down Logan Square record store Logan Hardware, owner John Ciba took some of his remaining inventory to Rogers Park and opened this verdant, unconventional shop. True to its name, Electric Jungle is packed with potted plants, but the way that records are presented to customers is the shop’s most noteworthy trait. A rotating selection of used vinyl is loaded into several rolling laundry carts each day, making it easy to encounter an entirely different array of LPs upon repeat visits. Don't come expecting to snap a photo—the use of cellphones and cameras is banned inside of Electric Jungle so that you can focus on shopping for music.
The latest iteration of a neighborhood record store that has been selling vinyl since the ’70s, Hyde Park Records keeps turntables spinning on Chicago's South Side. While new releases are stocked each week, local crate diggers know that the store's selections of R&B, soul, blues and hip-hop records (marked by signs made from old issues of Jet magazine) are usually filled with treasures. The shop is a favorite of local musicians and traveling DJs, so keep an eye out for familiar faces (and the occasional in-store DJ set) as you flip through titles.
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 thousands more titles online. If you're searching for an obscure album, chances are you'll find it here among the well-organized racks.
Opened in 2010, Bucket O’ Blood Books and Records hawks low-priced tomes 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 sci-fi and horror DVDs. Its current location (emblazoned with a trippy sign painted by local artist Mac Blackout) 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.
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 a ultra-cool living room, boasting vibrant green walls, framed artwork and an arcade cabinet. Of course, there are plenty of records (and turntables to listen to them on) neatly arranged throughout the space. Stop in for some listening material while you digest your meal of tacos or carnitas.
Set amid a stretch of Clark Street that's home to a Brown Elephant thrift shop and the retro Replay arcade bar, Rattleback Records is a fittingly old-school addition to Andersonville's crop of small businesses. The no-frills record shop isn't very large, but it offers a mighty selection of new and used LPs, including plenty of rock, blues and jazz albums and some new releases. Customers can also pull up a stool to browse more LPs and 45s arranged under the main shelves or sit down on the store's couch to flip through some of the music-centric books and publications it carries.
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 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.
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 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.
A cross between a record store, a gallery and a gift shop, there's no shortage of items to browse at Transistor. While the selection of records is relatively small, you'll usually find a smattering of new releases tucked into crates that are stocked with classic rock LPs and popular contemporary albums. Transistor also carries a small but well-curated selection of audio equipment, if you're in the market for a turntable and decent set of powered speakers. The shop's walls are lined with photos and prints created by local artists, and aspiring musicians and podcasters can rent a small recording studio in the basement for an hourly rate.