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Millvale music store stays true to its roots, keeps selling vinyl

| Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2016, 9:39 a.m.
Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Attic Records owner Fred Bohn Jr. continues to stock the business with vinyl albums for music fans.
Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
During a break in filming for the TV series 'The Outsiders,' actor Thomas M. Wright, who plays Sheriff Wade Houghton, checks out vinyl albums at Attic Records in Millvale. The TV series is filmed partly in Millvale.

Attic Record Store Inc. in Millvale is a standout in a world gone digital. The popular music store has been selling an array of vinyl records since 1980 when Fred Bohn Sr. opened shop.

Son Fred Bohn Jr. now runs the store and said there's been a growing interest in vinyl in younger generations that has kept them busy.

“A lot of younger kids are getting into it because it's a retro thing,” he said. “Fifteen years ago kids would come in and say, ‘What's a record?' Now there's kids who don't know what CDs are.”

Fred Bohn Jr., 42, said his father opened the store in 1980 to share his extensive vinyl collection with the world. The elder Bohn got his first record when he was 3 years old and from there, his collection grew exponentially.

“When I was a really young kid, our house was totally full of records. My grandparents' house was full too,” the younger Bohn said. “He decided to open up a store because he had so much stuff.”

He said the Attic lasted about six months in its first location before it outgrew the space and moved to where it stands now at 513 Grant Ave. The shop takes up four storefronts and has thousands more albums in storage.

The younger Bohn began working in his father's store part-time as a kid, before going full-time in 1990. He graduated from Shaler Area High School in 1991.

“We used to travel all around the country and buy records,” Bohn Jr. said. “We'd be on vacation in Florida and instead of being on the beach, we'd be in someone's dirty basement with my dad looking at old records.”

When record companies stopped producing vinyl in the 1990s, Attic Records adapted to the times and began selling CDs alongside its vast collection of new and used vinyl records. Albums were pressed into vinyl again around 2005, he said, and now most new albums are also released on vinyl.

Vinyl album sales made up about 6 percent of the overall retail music market in 2015 and revenue from vinyl albums was $416 million in 2015, the highest since 1988, according to the Recording Industry Association of America.

Fred Bohn Jr. attributes the renewed interest in vinyl to the higher quality of the sound over digital recordings, the album artwork, the collectibility of limited edition presses and the experience of hunting for, finding and playing vinyl. He said the biggest growth has been in people ages 10 to 40, but especially high school and college-age kids.

“When you buy an album, that's yours for life,” he said. “You have something tangible.”

The Attic is run primarily by the younger Bohn, although he said his dad stops in. They sell new and used vinyl and CDs with “a nice representation of all types of music” and buy record collections, turntables and CDs from customers.

Max Terasauro, 39, of Millvale, said the Attic's vast collection allows shoppers to go deep into certain genres and discover new music. Terasauro started out as a music lover and customer at the Attic before he started working there about 10 years ago.

“I think vinyl adds value back to music,” Terasauro said. “It makes it more of a whole experience…. There's something about having a collection of vinyl. It's personalized. It means something to you. It's interactive… It just has more value to it aesthetically than a cold mp3.”

The Attic is known worldwide for its collection. Fred Bohn Jr. said the store does business in Germany, Sweden, Italy and Japan with people who want American records that are in demand but not easily accessible. Also, a core group of local customers returns regularly to peruse the racks, talk music and hang out.

“Coming to a store and just browsing, you may see 20 things you didn't even know you wanted,” he said.

Rachel Farkas is a Tribune-Review contributor.

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