If you’re a vinyl record collector in the Fox Valley, you’ve probably noticed some pretty significant changes in the record shop landscape in the past few years. While the closing of The Exclusive Company stores have left a huge, historic hole in the local music scene, there have been a number of scrappy little indie shops stepping up to fill the void. These are my favorite stores (and other assorted spots) to find vinyl records in Northeast Wisconsin:
Rock N’ Roll Land (West Green Bay)
This is the place I consider my “home” record shop in the area. It started as a narrow little indie retailer in the Westgate strip mall along Military Avenue, but has recently moved down the road to a much larger space in the former military surplus store. When the Exclusive Company shuttered, owner Todd Magnuson really stepped up and expanded the new record inventory by a significant amount. This is definitely my favorite all-around music store in Northeast Wisconsin, with tons of new and used records, as well as CDs and tapes (also new and used), novelty merch of all kinds, refurbished audio gear and lots more. Going to Rock N’ Roll Land on a Saturday afternoon, you really get the whole record store vibe. Todd’s done a yeoman’s job of making a great community space for music lovers, right down to their reemergent live music performances in-house. Highly recommended.
Green Bay UFO Museum Gift Shop & Records (East Green Bay)
The other Green Bay area record store to rise from the ashes of the Exclusive Company is this quirky pop culture-heavy hole in the wall that’s getting better and better every day. Owner Pierre Jacque has even brought local Exclusive Company fixture Tom Smith along for the ride. This place definitely feels more punk and indie, but you can still find a ton of new and used records of all varieties here. Pickings were a bit sparse upon opening but the place is really hitting its stride bringing in a ton of new titles every week. A great place to dig for records and talk records. There’s also a literal ton of pop culture tchotchkes, comics, VHS movies, and tons more. If you’re an 80’s/90’s kid like me, this is definitely a place to check out. They’re hosting and promoting a lot of great live events there in the store and around town, so it’s a must for local music aficionados.
Eroding Winds Record Shop (Appleton & Oshkosh)
I’m not as familiar with the original, larger Oshkosh store (which is a great shop if you’re in the area), but the Appleton satellite store opened up shortly after the Exclusive Company shut down. It’s quickly become my go-to place here, which is partly because it’s really Appleton’s only dedicated record retailer aside from what you’ll find at the big box stores. It’s a tiny little spot on College Avenue that also has been getting better with age. If you ever find yourself on the Avenue for a farmer’s market, duck on in. They get a steady stream of new releases and quality pre-owned records, including some choice rarities along their back wall. This (at least the Appleton spot) is an all-vinyl shop so if you happen to be looking for the occasional CD you’ll be out of luck. But as far as small indies go, it’s a great little spot I could see growing out of their little storefront very quickly. People are friendly and helpful and willing to hang onto something or order it in if you’re looking for something they don’t carry.
Music Boxx Records (Sheboygan)
A little bit on the outer extreme of what I’d consider “Northeast Wisconsin,” I just discovered this little neighborhood shop on a recent I-43 journey and I’m glad I did. This is another great little neighborhood record shop with a lot to offer, including a large selection of new records and a nice selection of used. They also have a sizable new and used CD offering and a few rarities to boot. Not necessarily a go-to or a magnet store for those in the Appleton or Green Bay area but if you find yourself meandering along the lakeshore, I’d check it out.
Memories Antique Mall (Little Chute)
Antique malls have always been a great place to stumble upon a cool obscure record or two, but Memories Antique Mall has lots of different vendors offering a really wide variety of records for just about every taste and preference, from new to used to bootleg. One particular reseller, The Cult of Geek, sets up shop across a few booths here and offers a truly eclectic assortment of new and used albums from mainstream to novelty to collectible. There are a couple of other dedicated record resellers housed here, along with other stray booths with a mixture of “your grandma’s record collection” and truly collectible finds. Definitely worth a stop if you’re making a vinyl-buying trip up I-41.
Bay Vinyl (Sturgeon Bay)
I’ve only just discovered this spot just across the bridge into the Door County peninsula, but it’s definitely worth a trip. This feels like one of those cool little out-of-the-way shops you’ll be glad you found. Managed to find an out-of-print record I’ve been chasing for a while in great condition and much cheaper than Discogs here, as well as a ton of other new and used records and CDs. Check their hours online before you go, but if you’re heading to Door County this summer, it’s worth a stop.
Half Price Books (Appleton)
For a place that doesn’t specialize in records, I’ve found a number of significant additions to my collection here. To me, Half Price Books is one of those shops with a small but highly-varied selection. Most of their stock is used, but there are a handful of new records that find their way into the stacks that have surprised me. It’s really one of those shops where a lot of days you won’t find much but every once in a while you’ll come away with something you’ve been looking for forever.
Fox River Antique Mall (Appleton)
This antique mall isn’t quite on par with Memories, but there are a few dedicated record booths here worth browsing, including one seller that does split his inventory between both malls. You’ll find less new stuff here — though there is one booth that seems to carry a couple of small boxes of sealed remaindered Target and Walmart pressings — but the used records are a lot more varied in age, genre, and price. There are fewer random booths offering records, though there is one booth here that seems to traffic more in more old, obscure stuff and 45s. Don’t sweat it to get here if you’re on a vinyl excursion with limited time to kill.
Where do you like to find records in Northeast Wisconsin? Any place I missed? E-mail me at [email protected] or find me on social media and let me know where you like to buy your records. I always love finding new spots to check out.