The times they are a'changin'. It’s trite to repurpose that lyric, but so is another article that looks at the current state of record stores, daggum! After years of dwindling CD sales and a changing Uptown landscape, it was only a matter of time before something happened at the 9,000-square-foot Lake Street Cheapo location (make way for more luxury apartments).
Fortunately for those who still choose to line their walls with media, the store didn’t fold entirely — it just packed up and moved to 2600 Nicollet Ave. S. Open since September, Eat Street Cheapo is now the Minneapolis home to the record-store chain (also with locations in St. Paul and Blaine). Located across the street from Black Sheep Pizza, Cheapo is born again, risen from the Uptown location with a similar look and feel. Haven't made it to the new location yet? Here's what to expect.
First, let's start with the exterior. The big-box relic on Lake Street wasn’t architecturally unique, but its giant white facade was somewhat emblematic. The iconic red signage jumps out, but the new, less-descript building fits in with the surrounding neighborhood brickwork. A corner door instructs customers to enter in back, where the building connects with a decent sized lot with a better parking layout than their previous spot, including a heated underground ramp. Street parking is a little easier to come by than in Uptown. Wins on both ends.
The interior is familiar and comfortable immediately. Maybe it’s the red-on-white placards throughout, maybe it’s the carefully organized and maintained layout, but it feels like Cheapo. The checkout counter greets customers, stationed near listening stations and new arrivals. Generally speaking, the slightly downsized inventory appears to be split evenly between CDs, DVD/Blu-ray, and vinyl.
CDs are closest to the door and checkout counter, followed by the ever-growing stash of used movies and TV shows. The Blu-ray selection was impressive, offering cheaper prices than other resale outlets in town and a wide variety — though it takes some patience to flip through those new arrival bins. But hasn’t that always been the charm of Cheapo, flipping through the bins until your thumb starts to callus? Beyond the DVD/Blu-ray stash is a large vinyl selection that takes up most of the store’s visual display, looming over a landscape of media from the entrance. There is a floor-to-ceiling window near the front door to give some natural light and to connect to the neighborhood. But, for the most part, being inside Cheapo is an escape from the outside world, its own realm of forgotten and discarded hard-format media where the dedicated can treasure hunt at discounted prices.
As always, the category breakdowns in the store are thorough and varied. There’s a large Local stock, ample Pop, Modern Rock, Punk, Metal, Jazz, and more. These genre topics repeat between CD and vinyl, making it easy to find the sought-after titles, though genre classification is sometimes a sticky wicket. That’s what the staff is there for. Considering the well-publicized demise of physical products (save for vinyl), it’s still an impressive collection that doesn’t feel downsized at all, although we miss the old vinyl dungeon.
On a recent quiet morning, there were multiple staffers inside, organizing, working the register, and keeping things neat. Music, of course, played on the sound system, with a few shoppers browsing during the brunch-hour visit. Cheapo may have moved, but it doesn’t feel like the end of an era for the store — rather, it feels like the end of an era for Uptown.