Dimple Records battles the internet with comic books, toys

In an era where music can be downloaded from the internet with the click of a button, locally owned Dimple Records is managing to keep vinyl alive.

The Sacramento record store chain has seven locations across the region. As records gave way to cassettes, CDs, iPods and then to web-based streaming, owner Dilyn Radakovitz reinvented the Dimple brand as a purveyor of all things entertainment, where customers can find the latest games, old-school comic books and even polka-dot socks.

Owner Dilyn Radakovitz stands amid CDs and vinyl displayed at Dimple Records on April 5 in Sacramento.

Owner Dilyn Radakovitz stands amid CDs and vinyl displayed at Dimple Records on April 5 in Sacramento.

Paul Kitagaki Jr

pkitagaki@sacbee.com

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“We are constantly trying to adjust to keep the profit margins up – whatever we can sell to pay our rent,” said Radakovitz, 70, whose husband, John, founded the company with a single store in Roseville more than four decades ago. Dilyn Radakovitz and the couple’s two sons have run the business ever since her husband fell ill a few years ago.

Next month, Dimple’s book empire is expanding with a 4,700-square-foot bookstore at 1129 Broadway, replacing the Avid Reader, which moved down the street.

While they sell music online through third-party websites like Amazon.com, the majority of Dimple’s revenues still come from physical retail sales. With hundreds of thousands of items, the company’s 110-strong staff must navigate multiple databases to price, market and ring up each product. As traditional bookstores went out of business, Dimple bucked the trend and opened its first stand-alone bookstore in 2012 next door to its 36,000-square-foot flagship location at 2433 Arden Way.

Next month, Dimple’s book empire is expanding with a 4,700-square-foot bookstore at 1129 Broadway, replacing the Avid Reader which moved down the street. Dimple’s move to diversify its revenue streams is in line with a national trend for independent record store owners who are looking at all options to stay profitable.

There are so many options for people. You can’t expect that you’re going to be all things to everybody anymore

Dimple owner Dilyn Radakovitz

“A record store today doesn’t look anything like it did 10 years ago,” said Michael Kurtz, president of The Department of Record Stores, a New York-based industry trade group. “You could find a bakery shop, barber shop or even a bar inside.”

The trade group came up with “Record Store Day” a decade ago to reignite the passion of music fans, in light of the Tower bankruptcy in 2006, after nearly half a century in business. Dimple will celebrate the day, which takes place Saturday with an outdoor record swap at its Arden Way store, while other locations will have bands playing live music.

Even with sales of vinyl albums hitting a 28-year high in 2016, independent record stores locally continue to battle for survival. Records, a Sacramento institution for used vinyl, went silent in December following a rent hike.

The demise of Tower Records was widely perceived as a wake-up call for music store owners that the internet had arrived. Dimple today occupies the former Tower store at 16th Street and Broadway.

“If you weren’t on top of it, you could really lose your shirt,” Kurtz said.

Radakovitz acknowledges that record stores “lost the kid that went digital,” referring to millennials who shifted their music habits to the internet at the turn of the century. Dimple pulled out of the Davis market in 2012 and will shut down its Elk Grove location this year due to a rent hike, according to Radakovitz.

“Digital was just going up, and our sales in the physical store were going down,” she said.

Dimple is making a small comeback. A growing part of its business is the trading and selling of secondhand media – CDs, DVDs, vinyl records, books and comics. Radakovitz hopes customers will buy something else with the money they receive from trading in used items.

Jordan Vela, 21, streams music on YouTube. Yet he still frequents the racks at Dimple on Arden Way, since it is within walking distance from his house. Combing through the shelves is much easier than browsing titles online, he said.

“The used stuff is pretty cheap,” Vela said. “It keeps you coming back.”

Behind the scenes at the Arden Way store, workers sort the wide range of products. They have spent countless hours shelving books on racks that will be carted off to the new Broadway bookstore. The staffers are also the guardians of history, when they use a machine to buff away errors on hard copy media like CDs and DVDs.

“Ninety-eight percent of them turn out perfect,” Radakovitz said, adding that the store often performs the service for customers at $2.50 a pop. “They do it because they can’t get it anymore. You can fix that sucker and it will be perfect for a long time.”

Dimple’s customers generally skew older. They are the ones who reminisce about retro video game systems, listen to music on vinyl and watch old movies. But Radakovitz hopes these patrons will bring in the whole family and has stocked up on coloring books, toys, candy bars and other novelties that may appeal to young children.

Dimple no longer just competes with Amazon.com or other local outfits, Radakovitz said. The store is in competition with the myriad of entertainment devices at people’s disposal, including smartphones and other electronic gadgets.

“That’s the problem,” she said. “There are so many options for people. You can’t expect that you’re going to be all things to everybody anymore.”

Richard Chang: 916-321-1018, @RichardYChang

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