Vince Slusarz is so busy these days he can't afford to miss work. That's why even after a crippling snowstorm, he still manages to make the long commute from his Chesterland home to the downtown vinyl-pressing plant he opened in August 2009.
As one of less than a dozen manufacturers in the nation still making vinyl albums, Slusarz's Gotta Groove Records has clients throughout the United States as well as in Canada, China and Australia. They range from Cleveland bands that want to get their albums pressed locally to national labels such as Yep Roc and Manifesto Records.
With Record Store Day, an annual event designed to bring people back to independent records shops, scheduled for April 16 and a special slate of vinyl releases set to hit store shelves that day, Slusarz's workload has been enough to keep him working weekends throughout the winter and early spring.
"We've only been in business for about 16 months, and our sales have been steadily climbing," Slusarz says in late February as he walks the shop floor, wearing faded jeans and a sweatshirt with the company logo on it. "We are fortunate to get a lot of repeat customers, and we've been getting higher profile releases."
The industrial warehouse hums with activity. Machines whir and pop as one press spins out 180-gram vinyl copies of a reissue by R&B great Shuggie Otis. Another machine delivers a pressing of a band named Tenderizer, a death metal group out of Mexico City. Boxes of reissues of two classic Dead Kennedys albums sit on crates waiting to be shipped, while labels that will go on reissues by Hot Tuna and Nick Lowe rest on a nearby table, destined for the oven (the labels are baked then pressed onto the vinyl).
For Slusarz, 54, Gotta Groove represents a fresh start. For almost 25 years, he worked for Newbury-based Kinetico Inc., a plastics-manufacturing company. Shortly after he was laid off in 2008, he purchased vinyl-pressing equipment from a place in New Jersey. While he admits Gotta Groove Records hasn't yet turned a profit, he doesn't think it'll be long before he's in the black.
"As busy as we're getting, becoming profitable is just around the corner," Slusarz says. "I just want to continue to grow this business."
So far this year, Gotta Groove Records has taken orders for major releases by Iggy & the Stooges, Nick Lowe and Tom Waits. It has also released the vinyl versions of the latest albums by acclaimed indie rockers Mogwai and the Damnwells. The way Slusarz sees it, there's still plenty of room for growth.
"I don't know how many people I run into who say, 'Oh, they still make records?' " he explains, adding that vinyl album sales have been rising since 2006. " I think that tells me it hasn't reached the level of any mass consciousness yet."
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