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22 years old -- and still growing

Vinyl Fever, an alternative record store that opened in 1981, is moving to a new, larger location.

By MICHAEL CANNING, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 14, 2003

PALMA CEIA WEST -- Vinyl Fever, Tampa's oldest independent record store, will move into bigger digs this summer. Owner Lee Wolfson says the store outgrew its space and needed more parking.

The move will take the store out of what could be considered a dream location. The store at 2307 S Dale Mabry Highway sits across the street from Plant High School wedged between two student hangouts, Steak 'n Shake and Smoothie King.

But those who know the unique nature of Vinyl Fever aren't worried about the move a few blocks away to 4110 Henderson Blvd.

Especially Wolfson.

"We have an older clientele in our store," he said. "We've always been influenced by what is being played on public radio," he said, referring to the eclectic noncommercial station WMNF-FM 88.5.

A sizable part of Vinyl Fever's clientele has actually grown up with the store. Opened in 1981 at 1502 E Fletcher Ave., it was the first alternative record store in a town with a large university but no college radio station run by students. This at a time when the college radio trend was gaining momentum nationally and airing then-obscure acts, such as the Smiths, the Cure, U2 and the B-52s.

For years, WMNF was the only place in Tampa that aired underground bands, and Vinyl Fever was the only place stocking their records. When the store moved to its Dale Mabry location in 1989, it proved its status as a "destination location," Wolfson says.

As the years passed, Wolfson and his employees haven't seen a proportionate number of teens filling their client base. Today's younger generation, such as those at Plant High, are more savvy to the music shopping options on the Internet. "Kids download more," Wolfson said.

But Wolfson, who also runs a Vinyl Fever in Tallahassee, has maintained the store's longevity in part by not falling into a niche. Vinyl Fever has always been the sort-of alternative record store, as opposed to north Tampa's more specialized, and now-defunct, Alternative Record Store.

Vinyl Fever's fans range from the 16-year-old looking for the latest pop hit to the 30-year-old who just saw a blues band at Skipper's.

Wolfson said the new location, formerly Sugar3, adds about 1,000 square feet, giving the store room to expand its DVD selection and listening stations. The move should happen sometime in June or July.

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