Behind the Business: From yard sales to Jack’s Record Store
You may have seen Jack Allan at a local estate, yard or garage sale. When he arrives, hopefully early, he heads straight for the records. Sometimes they’re valuable, other times they are nearly worthless, but that’s the nature of treasure hunts.
When Allan moved to Sonoma Valley in the summer of 2020, he carried a light load. He and his wife left London for a more quiet life, and he had to leave most of his beloved record collection behind.
He’d spent over a decade amassing it. Allan grew up in Norwich, England, a town that — despite having a population of just under 150,000 — had seven quality record stores when he was a teenager.
He bought his first vinyl album at 14.
After abandoning all but 40 records in the move, Allan built back his collection, with around 1,500 albums stacked in boxes and tucked in cabinets in his Boyes Hot Springs home — the unofficial warehouse of Jack’s Record Store, his online business for secondhand vinyl.
His business began after he discovered a copy of “Led Zeppelin ll” in good condition. He already had the album, but bought it anyway because it was only about 50-cents. When he looked up how much it would fetch online, he discovered that people paid upwards of $450 for the original vinyl.
He was shocked by the price of health care when he first arrived in the United States. He knew it would cost more, but didn’t anticipate how much. So when he saw how much one rare record could raise, he got an idea. He didn’t know how long it would take for somebody to buy it, but he was confident it would sell.
“Led Zeppelin ll” only lasted 20 minutes online before Allan’s first customer bought it for $450.
He got the bug. He started a Jack’s Record Store Instagram page, and grew his online offerings. He searched sites like Facebook Marketplace for entire record collections, ranging from 25 to over 100 vinyls, and would drive an hour for the chance to buy them.
Sometimes, he keeps the records he finds for his own collection, but more often than not when buying an entire collection, there’s only so much crossover in musical taste.
“I’m not gonna like everything you own. And, if I do, we should be really good friends,” Allan said.
Often, sellers aren’t in the best mood. Sometimes they’re parting with their records because of a move or a spouse is pressuring them to clean out their collection — he knows how hard it is to part with lifelong belongings.
That’s why Allan likes the yard, garage and estate sales, where sellers often get rid of stuff at a cheap price.
When he finds a rare or valuable piece in a dusty box with “$1” scribbled on the side, Allan has what he calls “a palm-sweating moment.”
“There’s definitely a euphoria to that,” Allan said.
A few months ago, he showed up to an estate, but decided to come back later after seeing a line of 40 people. He wasn’t optimistic he’d find much, after seeing a few other shoppers who are usually on the prowl for records. But tucked in the piles, he found a gem.
“No one saw this? You’ve got to be kidding me,” Allan said as he held up an old Link Wray album.
While it may look rather plain, it’s the most valuable record in Allan’s collection. The track list contains the historical song “Rumble,” the only instrumental track in history to be banned from the radio — Rolling Stone described it as sounding “like an invitation to a knife fight.”
Allan doesn’t plan to sell it.
As much as he enjoys his secondhand hustle, part of the fun is finding and keeping unique records for himself.
“It’s a way for me to build my own collection with a net zero approach,” Allan said.
He uses some of the money from sales to buy records for himself. He recently purchased his current favorite vinyl, Black Sabbath’s “Master of Reality.”
“It has a tickle on it that you can hear,” Allan said. “It’s just artistic sludge and it’s great.”
Allan said he’s always been good at thrifting. He enjoys shopping secondhand for furniture and clothes as well as music.
His home is filled with vintage decorations, unique chairs and retro-looking technology. But to be “good” at thrifting, it takes a mix of luck and knowledge.
“It’s mostly persistence,” Allan said. “There’s plenty of times when you go to a yard sale or a thrift store and you find nothing, and that’s what you should expect.”
Nearly three years after it began, business saw a boost. Since the beginning of the year, Allan has shipped 10 to 15 records per week, and it hasn’t slowed down, showcasing an international trend.
According to the BBC, this year vinyl sales surpassed CD purchases in the United States for the first time since 1987, as people fall back in love with the medium. It’s further propelled by musicians like Beyoncé, Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus, who release their latest albums on vinyl as well as streaming platforms.
“They’re completely impractical, but they’re fun,” Allan said.
Find more about Allan’s record store on the Instagram @jacksrecordstore, or search Jack’s Record Store on discogs.com
You can reach Staff Writer Rebecca Wolff at email@example.com. On Twitter @bexwolff.
Correction: A previous version of this article contained a misspelling of Jack Allan’s last name. The article has been updated to reflect the accurate spelling.
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