Tucked between Vanity Affair One Stop Glam Shop and 1 Touch Barbershop, Retrofit Records remains Tallahassee’s beloved record store that’s home to both classic and modern records. Sharod Bines, the sole owner of Retrofit Records, noted that Black musicians like Sun Ra, Nina Simone, Lee Morgan, Fela Kuti, Madlib, MF DOOM, and J Dilla inspired the store’s ambiance and musical philosophy.
Located on Gaines Street, Bines’ store is one of the country’s few Black-owned record stores. Last year, IBIS World recorded over 2,500 record stores in the US, although a small fraction of those are owned by a Black person. Considering that the ’60s and 70s had a vast amount of Black-owned vinyl shops, especially in the South, the current number of Black-owned record stores is reflective of the white-washed industry. Subsequently, a Google Sheets list was created to keep tabs on the other Black-owned record stores in the country.
Occupying a brick-and-mortar location for over a decade, Bines mentioned that the store’s origin story began with minimal conversations with friends.
“I opened the shop in 2011,” Bines said. “I always wanted to open some type of business or music venue or something here in the city.”
Tallahassee has seen various record stores come and go, including Vinyl Fever, which was described as a “down-to-earth” shop that closed its doors in 2010. Without the presence of independently-owned record stores, Tallahassee residents were left with corporations like Urban Outfitters and Walmart for record shopping.
“I figured there might be a market for a small independent vinyl record store here in the city that can fill that gap,” he said.
Experimental rap, avant-garde jazz, neo-soul, and other sub-genres of well-known categories are sprinkled throughout Bines’ collection of records, so it’s clear that there’s something for every listener at Retrofit Records.
“I try to have the shop reflect [our demographic of customers] as well,” he said. “So if you’re familiar with the shop and what we carry, you’ll see there’s a pretty diverse selection of genres, artists, sub-genres—it’s because there’s so many different people that come to the shop. Personally, I listen to everything, so I want that reflected in the shop as well, but more so, the shop is a reflection on the people that [visit] versus anything I might personally be into.”
Although the pandemic has somewhat halted in-person events at Retrofit Records, I had a chance to sit down with Bines ahead of the store’s annual event, Record Store Day. For Record Store Day last year, Vans created a short docuseries to highlight Black-owned vinyl stores, including Retrofit Records. This year, the shop will be open for business while having a DJ, serving free food and alcohol, and giving away Record Store Day merchandise. Created in 2007, the highlight of the vinyl-themed day is to celebrate the culture of record stores and pay homage to why the independently-owned stores benefit the music community. The best part about this day –exclusive vinyls are created solely for this event. This year’s list includes “Kauai” by Childish Gambino, “Sorry 4 The Wait” by Lil Wayne, and Donna Summer’s “40th Anniversary Picture Disc.”
However, locals and regulars aren’t subjected to waiting a year for an event at Retrofit, since the shop has a history of hosting listening parties and concerts, including artists like Beach Fossils, Chelsea Wolfe, and Jacuzzi Boys. Interactive events like last fall’s in-store listening party for the BADBADNOTGOOD album is a fraction of what makes Bines’ shop a memorable business. Between hosting events like Record Store Day and live performances, the store’s Instagram account frequently highlights shoppers who are interested in sharing their top five records from their collection.
While proposing this interview, Bines requested that I share my top five records for the Instagram series, and I immediately asked if Solange’s “A Seat at the Table” was in stock. After choosing her album, Tame Impala’s favorable “Currents,” Lianne La Havas’ self-titled album, Arlo Parks’ critically-acclaimed “Collapsed in Sunbeams,” and Blood Orange’s funk-filled “Negro Swan” held the spot for my top picks.
As I interviewed Bines, I easily understood why the record store was so appealing to customers. A vintage copy of a signed Destiny’s Child vinyl was located directly under the cash register, and it accompanied the many other collector’s items found throughout the store. Although Bines has a strict no-photo policy in place throughout the business, it makes the beauty of the store feel even more exclusive to the customer’s eye while thwarting those that visit the store for a photoshoot. Tallahassee has a collection of gems located throughout the city, and Retrofit Records is absolutely one of them.
For those interested in pursuing a collection of records or purchasing a record player–Bines believes that purchasing records directly from the artist or an independent record shop greatly benefits the artist. He’s pro-accessibility for streaming music via digital services like Spotify, YouTube Red, and Apple Music, but he affirms that the consumer will also appreciate their choice to purchase a vinyl.
To visit the shop, check it out at 429 W. Gaines Street from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Mondays to Fridays, 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturdays, and 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Sundays. and find more information on their website at retrofitrecs.com.