Influenced by the “hyper-curated, hidden vinyl shops of Tokyo, Japan,” Miyagi Records‘ goal is to “become your ‘secret spot.'” Originally founded by Nigel Ridgeway and Marco Jacobo as a pop up shop during the pandemic (and located in a storage unit), Miyagi Records is celebrating a year at their proper brick-and-mortar shop located at 307 E. Garfield in Hyde Park, Chicago, having moved on from just selling vinyl to creating a vibrant community space with both a cafe and multiple artist events.

One year into their business, I was curious to see how they had been coming along.

MIyagi Records
MIyagi Records

So it’s been a year since your record store opened…. congratulations! What were your original goals in opening it aside from selling vinyl?

Thank you! It has been a wild year. As we grow, the mission remains the same – essentially, this is bringing back the community aspect of record stores. Both online shopping and streaming remove important facets of “digging.” Not only the tangible experience of buying something you can touch and feel but also the intangible experiences of connecting, questioning, and learning with others.

Record stores are an interesting business. It’s not only about sales. I mean, it can be, say with Discogs or Amazon for example. But big numbers don’t equate to community. Otherwise, we’d probably all be singing Jeff Bezos songs around the campfire.

In reality, what we’re finding is that to truly flourish as a record store you need strong community support. Because it may be a business to us but to those whom it serves, it’s culture. We don’t take any part of this lightly.

In the past year, tell us some of your observations about the community that has supported you.

It has been as diverse as Chicago itself honestly. We get a few folks venturing from up north or the suburbs, but the core community supporting the shop tends to be southside creatives of all ages, as well as U of C students. Being located on the University’s Arts Block — and literally right off the Green line — it’s a convenient space for folks to gather around. Professional musicians, DJs of all sorts, dancers, painters, singers, artists, makers, and so on have all walked through our doors. Our dream is for Obama to come through one day. His house is a few blocks away and his Presidential Library is being built nearby.

As we grow, the mission remains the same – essentially, this is bringing back the community aspect of record stores.

It’s encouraging to see a brick-and-mortar record shop opening considering everyone is so used to online shopping! Were there any trepidations before launching?

Not so much. We began the shop as a pop-up in a storage unit during pandemic. One person at a time, digging for two hours, with me standing there chatting up everyone as much as they wanted. Online shopping has its perks but what we saw in those early days is that people yearn for a tangible digging experience. And not only when it’s pandemic. If anyone reading this is a record lover, you know the feeling. You wake up one day and just know it’s a day for digging. It’s a very real yearning that must be paid attention to. But I believe that most importantly, we learned during this process just how crucial a music community is, and how crucial music is to that community.

Tell us about the cafe you’ve added to the shop.

Along the Garfield Blvd corridor, once a burgeoning commercial strip, is now a shadow of its former glory. As we attempted to effect change in that regard, we’ve also noticed a lack of community workspaces and cafe gathering spaces in this area. With the number of artists, creatives, and students who frequent the Arts Block, we hope to provide them a place to flesh out ideas, catch up on emails, have awkward Zoom meetings, or just caffeinate while listening to us play records. Open during our normal shop hours, it’s all self-serve with a simple menu for now. We were lucky enough to have Dark Matter Coffee show us some love though, so the plan is to grow the cafe offerings as the community commands.

MIyagi Records
MIyagi Records

I saw recently you were making a call for artists to submit their work?

We were and we still are! Soon after first announcing we realized the outreach mission would be on-ongoing. This city is teeming with talent, especially here on the Southside. But from this call, we were introduced to scores of creatives that we plan to work into our events calendar throughout the year. For example, the collage artist Jalen Taylor came to us from the call and we’ll be hosting a gallery installation with their work all March. It’s a dream come true for us honestly, to be able to offer space like this.

Any upcoming events that you’d like for us to know about?

Jalen’s show for sure. But the next big thing we’re looking towards is our 1st Anniversary (4/13) and EXPO, which happen to be the same week. We’ve got a full schedule of events planned Thursday through Sunday. All the announcements will be happening shortly but folks can expect a bit of fashion, art, design, and of course music. We’ve partnered with a handful of solid artist organizations and curators as presenters. It’s all exciting stuff but to be very honest we’re just happy we made it to this point.


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