Cool Kids Vinyl recently opened on the second floor of Maketto, bringing with it a beautifully curated collection of vinyl records, magazines, comic books, VHS tapes and other increasingly rare physical gems.
The concept comes from Matthew Talley, whose name you may recognize from pop-up series Diggin’ Thru The Crates; the five city tour went on to inspire what is now Cool Kids Vinyl.
“I had an idea; we had all this material, these records, these connections, this almost time capsule of an exhibit. How could this translate into something that people come to every day?”
At first Talley considered taking the exhibit on the road, doing pop-up stints at art galleries and other spaces. Then, the thought was to open a physical space where the collection could remain anchored. While Talley had secured a location in SW where he planned to combine coffee and records, the pandemic totally stalled everything, meaning it was back to the drawing board. Fortunately, it wasn’t long before another opportunity presented itself.
“I’ve been at Maketto two and a half years now as a regular manager, and the owner, Chef Erik Bruner-Yang suggested to me, ‘Hey, why don’t you do that on the second floor? We’re looking to change things up when we reopen and people come and dine with us, so the idea of a record shop kind of seems perfect.'”
And Bruner-Yang was right – Cool Kids Vinyl has been a great fit within the space so far, especially under the current circumstances; traditional boutique record shops are often cramped, which makes it tough to comfortably browse during a pandemic. The spacious, open design of Maketto, alongside the health and safety measures (including reduced capacity) that have been implemented, have created an ideal brick and mortar setup for Talley’s collection.
“Of course we’re abiding by all DC laws and CDC guidelines. In the record shop there’s an actual lounge area where people can sit, a few benches and chairs, and everything is six feet apart. We even had the DOH come in a few weeks ago for a pop-up visit, and they really liked our space and said we were doing a good job with everything.”
So what can you expect to find when you pay a visit to the space?
“At the store, we usually only have about 300 records on hand. I’m thinking about expanding it for the holiday season, because I’m set to bring in record players and different material; I really want to package it as Maketto being the perfect place to get a holiday dinner and a holiday gift.”
Talley does an incredible job of curating the collection, some of which is pulled from his own personal stock of around 2000 records.
“I try not to dig deep into my own collection,” he says. “But mostly the records are just me being me. I’m still one of those guys that goes to yard sales, I’m still one of those people that’ll go and appraise somebody’s record collection and buy it. If somebody’s grandmother is trying to get rid of records and cassettes and books in her attic, I’m the guy that’s there. I’ve always kind of been like that; for the most part, the background of acquiring records is grassroots, going through your grandmother’s attic or your father’s shed and making an offer. That’s the beauty of it.”
For an avid crate digger, I can’t help but ask if there are any pieces that have eluded him over the years.
“When I say I’m a digger, I go to the ends of the earth to find what I’m looking for,” he says with a laugh. “I will say there is one vinyl that recently just slipped through the cracks; it’s a limited press issue of Kanye West’s demo tape. It’s interesting, because it sounds completely rough, but it’s songs that he came out with as full blown chart-topping songs. I think he had “Jesus Walks” on his demo tape, and songs from Graduation. A lot of people don’t like or agree with Kanye now, I get it, everybody has opinions, but as far as his music is concerned, to have a hit record that you’re holding onto from your demo tape just speaks to your genius. I found it at the record shop I used to work at, HR Records, and I decided to wait a few days to buy it when we got it in, and of course it was gone the next day. So I’m on the hunt for that.”
And on the flip side of that, of course I asked what he’d deem an absolute staple from records he has acquired.
“One album for me that always sticks out is John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme. It’s probably one of my favorite albums, and one of my favorite quotes from a musician; John Coltrane said he spent so much time on that record because he considered it a gift to God for love. When a person thinks of music in that way, it has to have some type of impact. I’ve probably sold that album twenty to thirty times; different issues, reissues, originals…it’s just that one album I always have to have in my store and in my personal collection.”
It’s clear from speaking with Talley how passionate he is, which is what makes Cool Kids Vinyl more than just a record shop; it’s a living, breathing space to learn and exchange ideas, and you’d be remiss not to experience it for yourself.
“Yes it’s a retail space, but it’s also a look into not just hip-hop culture and music culture, but into Black culture. And these very tangible things in the record shop that can trigger people into making a direct connection with Black culture, whether you’re Black or not,” he says. “Yes, the record shop is a lot of cool things for sale, but it’s also educational; you can sit there and read magazines for thirty minutes and really figure out how Black people maneuvered the riots in the sixties, and then you can pick up a magazine and read about how Snoop Dogg left Death Row. So it’s a wide range of knowledge that’s dope, it’s cool, but it’s also educational, and it tells our story, which I think is important. It’s an encapsulation of Black culture and why it’s important. And there’s no better location than it being in Maketto on H Street.”
Visit Cool Kids Vinyl on the second floor of Maketto (1351 H Street NE) or shop the website.