Roadrunner Records marks 30 years in business

John Beggs at Roadrunner Records. Photo by Michelle Bruch

The bars on the windows at Roadrunner Records give a clue to the age of the record store.

“We really don’t need them anymore,” said Manager John Beggs. “It’s no secret this neighborhood is way better.”

Roadrunner Records is celebrating 30 years at 43rd & Nicollet, and the experience of walking into the record store hasn’t changed much in that time. Record sales are jotted down in a notebook by hand. Beggs, who took over the shop in 1999, remembers the original owner getting a deal on the current carpet and ceiling paint. Staff tend to skew a bit older, Beggs said, and one staffer has worked there since 1988. It’s always been a First Avenue ticket outlet. The sound system relies on a 90s-era Sony amp — a pre-digital machine for the best sound quality, Beggs said.

“We like the analog gear,” he said. “We answer email, that’s about as high-tech as we get.”

The store’s footprint in the building has expanded and contracted over time, depending on record sales.

“Vinyl sales today are nothing like CD sales were 15 years ago,” Beggs said.

He said the shop has always been known for its vinyl selection, particularly its rock and jazz collection, and the store is a mix of new and used albums. Staff also field music requests from coffeehouse visitors across the street. (They recently received a new shipment of “Purple Rain” on vinyl.)

The original owner, Todd Adams, opened the shop in 1986 after leaving school in Madison, Wis. He previously owned MadCity Music Exchange in Madison, which is still in operation.

Adams said that before opening Roadrunner, he was bagging groceries at Kowalski’s and decided to spring for the vacant retail space on Nicollet.  He named the shop Roadrunner after the Modern Lovers song.

As CDs become a thing of the past, he said Beggs has done a good job maintaining the business and focusing on vinyl.

“So many have gone by the wayside,” he said.

“The vinyl business has come to life the last five to 10 years,” Beggs said. “That’s what has kept people interested. Records are for somebody who wants something more.”

Roadrunner Records
Where: 4304 Nicollet Ave. S.