Jeff Whitted, owner of Square Dog Books, Movies and Music, was selling vinyl before it got retro-cool.
Whitted entered the music retail business in 1981 when he started working for a regional chain called DJ’s Sound City at the Triangle Mall. It was a year before the release of the first CDs, which would quickly overtake cassettes and records as the dominant form of music sales.
What is old is new. In 2020, vinyl records overtook CDs as the primary source of physical music sales in the United States. The gap between the two formats is expected to widen further by the end of this year.
“We have people who come every day saying, ‘I don’t know where I would be without music. “It plays on your emotions, it’s an indicator for a point in your life,” Whitted said.
Whitted trade names changed several times over the following years. His Music Rack and Just Music stores both spent years in various window displays in the Triangle Mall and he launched Square Dog in 2013 after being unable to keep up with a rent increase. He recently completed renovations to his current home on Vandercook Way, which he plans to be the last home in the store.
Whitted attributes her continued success to a deep love of music and an ability to respond to client interests and the ever-changing demands for all types of media that pass through its doors.
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Square Dog had to adopt again as the vinyl boom coincides with similar delays in the supply chain that other industries have endured. The re-recording of “Fearless” by Taylor Swift set a modern record for weekly vinyl sales in June and Adele’s new album “30” should further accentuate the vinyl manufacturing activity. At the same time, hundreds of new, smaller albums are unable to fill orders or have very limited supplies.
“I’m overstocking a lot more now, I get five or 10 or whatever will get us through a few months,” Whitted said.
The DVD side of business
Pat Zangl has been a regular customer since the current location opened. Zangl has stated that he doesn’t have cable or internet in his home, so he goes through Square Dog to ask for DVD boxes of shows he grew up watching or movies that interest him.
For items that are not currently in stock in the store, Whitted places overnight orders for as many requested items as possible. He helped find box sets for science fiction TV series like “Highlander” and the late 1960s series “Land of the Giants”.
“He pretty much found everything I ever asked for. The guy is good at it,” Zangl said.
In terms of volume, the supports used dominate the storefront and upstairs storage areas. Whitted said that selecting the second-hand items he receives and organizing them on the shelves occupies the largest percentage of his time in all aspects of his business.
“It comes out when I go to meet other people in this business because I’m slow, meticulous and picky about our used items. Only records that are of fairly good quality do,” said Whitted.
The focus on second-hand items was further increased in the preparation of Square Dog’s sales plans for Black Friday and Small Business Saturday. The back of the store is filled with boxes of used DVDs. Whitted expects to sell thousands of titles at discounted prices during the holiday sales rush.
Black Friday also coincides with Record Store Day. Square Dog and Stash Records are the two local stores officially registered to participate in the national event, which features discounted tracks and records that won’t be available until Friday.