Byrdland Records is reminiscent of an art dealer’s loft. At the front of the Union Market-based record store, you’ll find neat rows of vinyl organized by genre and then artist. In the back behind the counter, there’s a plush velvet green couch, a few seats and turn-of-the-century cabinets showcasing the different turntables you can go home with. Byrdland, which opened on October 24, is the sister shop to Songbyrd Record Cafe and Music House in Adams Morgan. We spoke with owners Alisha Edmonson and Joe Lapan about their new space and the power of vinyl, even mid-pandemic.
District Fray: What inspired the idea for Byrdland?
Alisha Edmonson: We were actually looking in [Union Market] before Covid hit. We’ve wanted to expand our record store [for a while]. We expanded [Songbyrd] a couple years ago, but we still didn’t feel like we were completely doing what we wanted. So, we talked about just doing two spaces.
What’s the benefit of having two spaces?
Edmonson: Having more space allowed us to convert the café into safer indoor dining, because that’s something we weren’t providing that people were asking us for. [Byrdland] allows us to do something we wanted to do and allows Songbyrd to pivot more to dining.
What is your vision for Byrdland specifically?
Edmonson: I really wanted to sell record players and speakers. [They’re] an investment. The kind of record player you have really makes a difference [in] how you experience your music. There’s nowhere in D.C. where you can actually test record players out, and that’s something I’ve wanted to have for a long time. Things shifted when Covid hit because now [vinyl] is the only music you can grasp onto.
How was the opening?
Edmonson: We sold out of most of [the record players]. I ended up selling some of our display record players to some regulars that wanted to walk away with their dream record players.
How do you pick your record players?
Edmonson: I try to find ones that you can build on so that if you want to become more of an audiophile, you don’t have to switch out your equipment. You just add better needles and better speakers to it.
How do you pick your records?
Lapan: We work with [our vinyl director] Jonathan [Druy]. What you see here is a good representation of what we started with at Songbyrd, except it’s about four times the capacity.
How do you source records?
Lapan: [For] new records, we work with the labels and distributors keeping up with what’s new, what’s good [and] what sells. We want to represent a lot of different genres. On the used side, there’s more of an art to it – what you find where and who you might buy from. We’re just looking for interesting titles that people might want to start their collections with.
What does the process look like?
Lapan: We started with a master genre list. It had titles we already had at Songbyrd and then what we wanted to grow into genre-wise. I started mapping out the bins, the capacities and then [the] genres. It represents all our different tastes and what we’ve seen and learned over five years: that intersection of what we like and what people want.
To check out the collection, visit www.byrdlandrecords.com. Byrdland is open Tuesday and Wednesday from 12- 7 p.m., Thursday and Friday from 12-8 p.m., Saturday from 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. For the latest, follow Byrdland @byrdlandrecords on Twitter and Instagram.
1264 5th St. NE, DC; 202-481-0424; www.byrdlandrecords.com
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