Local Current Blog

Flashlight Vinyl: New Northeast Minneapolis record store opens its vault

Photos by Nate Ryan/MPR

Located in Northeast Minneapolis, Flashlight Vinyl specializes in rock, funk, and hip-hop records. With items ranging from cheap one-dollar records to obscure releases, Flashlight caters to casual listeners and record collectors alike. The new record store opened for business last month, and it’s celebrating with a party tomorrow — Friday, Feb. 5.

Local Show host Andrea Swensson sat down with Raoul Benavides, owner of Flashlight Vinyl, at the store. Here is their conversation.

Andrea Swensson: How did this all come together, what made you want to open a record store?

Raoul Benavides: It kind of happened quickly. I thought of the idea and then I kind of rolled on these big collections that I all bought in four days. I looked for space and it wasn’t the one. Then I found this weird space and the whole deal kind of happened within five days.

Wow, that’s fast. So we’re in Northeast Minneapolis in a really cool, kind of an industrial feeling space right across the street from Diamonds Coffee Shoppe. What attracted you to this area of town?

I’ve always kind of worked in the Arts District — I call it the brewery district — and it was just an easy match.

We have a lot of record stores here in the Twin Cities. What do you think sets this one apart?

I think the biggest thing, when we open up the second floor, will be the selection. And also how broad it is, from $100 Germs records to dollar records. We have 5,000 one-dollar records, so it’ll be digger’s delight upstairs. I think the biggest thing is the selection. Mostly punk, hip-hop focus because that’s the stuff that I love — but it’s the gamut. Some guy bought like 15 Rush records yesterday, which I thought was weird but kind of cute. I like Rush, but I don’t like them that much. So it’s all over the board.

Tell me about your background as a music lover and music fan. Have you always collected records?

I’ve collected records in one way or another my whole life. I grew up in Chicago and I used to DJ house music, which is all 12″ singles and disco kind of oriented music, so I’m really familiar with vinyl. I love music. It’s a different way to relate to it because I’m such a show-goer. I think it’s like I’m getting older, I’m more of a music listener with records.

Another cool thing about this store is that you have custom cabinets that you’ve had made; it seems all very intentional. What was in the space before? Tell me a little bit about the process of turning it into a store.

I think the store at one time was an antique store. Then it was vacant for a year, then some artist lived here. I had the idea that I wanted to open Jan. 4, after the holidays and that’s when we did open, but we had eight weeks to build it out and we kind of painted and manipulated the space every day from 10-12 hours. It’s a lot of custom work, a lot of hiding weird wiring, but I’m really happy with the space and it’s still a work in progress.

So one thing that piqued my interest is that you have a vault. Tell me about the vault. 

Right now we’re doing sorting, organizing and cleaning of records. But it’ll eventually be kind of a collector’s record hangout. There’ll be obscure records, anything $75 or up, but all different genres. It’s kind of a place to find the record that you’re looking for that isn’t $5.

So you have a little something for everybody, the series collectors and people just getting into buying vinyl. What do you think it is about this format that has gotten so popular in recent years?

I think we all strive to live a tactile life. We want all this digital [like] the iPhones and everyone’s kind of in their digital world. It’s kind of not even a digital world, it’s the world now. I think we all want to feel. We all want to touch and we all want to be a part of something and I think records make you participate. I love the idea that it’s an object of art. It’s a real thing and I think that we all need that. We all lost it in this digital revolution or whatever and we all just want to touch and feel and be loved.

Do you remember the first record that you bought?

The first record that I bought…I’m thinking it was Eric B. & Rakim’s “Paid in Full,” but I’m not sure. That’s the one I remember paying a lot for, which was probably like $12. I’ll make that my answer.