Raoul Benavides is part business owner, part photographer, and part vinyl-lover. The 43-year-old’s latest focus is on the vinyl third, though, as just over a month ago he opened Flashlight Vinyl — a two-floor record shop in northeast Minneapolis.
Flashlight’s first floor, carrying its rock, folk, punk, and country selections, has been open since January 4. But the official opening party and second floor banner-cutting (figuratively, we assume) is planned for 6 p.m. Friday.
"I didn't want to open both floors at the same time," Benavides says. "I wanted to concentrate on the first floor and not be overwhelmed."
The second floor is home to a wider collection, featuring funk, soul, R&B, and hip-hop records. There are also 5,000 $1 records up there — bargains!
Opening night partygoers can enjoy 15 percent discounts on everything until 10 p.m. while imbibing palomas and snacking on empanadas courtesy of the Salty Tart, whose owner and head chef, Michelle Gayer, is Benavides’ wife.
With the opening of Flashlight Vinyl, Northeast's busy arts district finally has a true record store.
“Every day, people are like, ‘I’m glad there’s a record store here finally,’” Benavides says. “Customers are grateful and make it fun.”
The new vinyl destination is not Benavides' first Northeast business venture. His passion for photography led to the photo rental store he launched in 2007 under the same Flashlight moniker.
Flashlight Vinyl, just a block away from the photo rental shop at, is unique in its dedication to 12-inch vinyl and 12-inch vinyl only, a feat unclaimed by other area record stores. The shop's selection favors punk and hip-hop over less "stick it to the man" genres.
“I like to be all over the board, but I love any music that influenced hip-hop and punk rock and all the people that punk and hip-hop influenced,” Benavides says.
Much of the haul at Flashlight came from John Kass, the Minneapolis vinyl-collecting giant behind online record shop GoJohnnyGo and media-of-all-forms outlet plus performance space Dead Media in Seward.
Benavides bought a whopping 300,000 records from Kass. He acquired the rest of the merchandise from collectors in Michigan, Los Angeles, and Chicago — Benavides’ hometown.
“He’s the mayor of the Twin Cities’ music scene,” Benavides says of Kass.
Kass also puts in time sorting, processing, and pricing records at Flashlight in the morning. “[Benavides] is the brains. I’m the brawn,” Kass says on Facebook.
Benavides relocated to Minneapolis 20 years ago and became enamored with the energy of the Northeast arts district, hence the centralized location of his two businesses.
“It’s a place for art appreciators,” he says, “…and beer appreciators.”
Benavides now splits his time between the two Flashlights, although he reports 75 percent of it is spent at the vinyl shop, so not a true balance.
“I opened [Flashlight Vinyl] to reduce my stress,” he says. “I can manage things while selling records and talking to people, which is my favorite part.”
If there were ever such thing as a “record store desert” in northeast Minneapolis, that void is filled.
Flashlight Vinyl grand opening
With: 15 percent discounts on vinyl and food/drink from Salty Tart
When: 6-10 p.m. Fri., Feb. 5
Where: Flashlight Vinyl, 1519 Central Ave. NE, Minneapolis
RSVP on Facebook here.