Vibrant vinyl

The needle drops, and after a few static-filled seconds, the opening guitar riffs of Led Zeppelin pump from the speakers of the silver turntable.

Music echoes off the walls of Electric Key Records, serving as a fitting soundtrack for flipping through plastic-sheathed LPs from bygone eras: Bruce Springsteen, the Talking Heads, the Ramones, ABBA.

In an age of digital music, the warmth and vibrancy of a vinyl record is still unparalleled, said Cory O’Sullivan, co-owner of Electric Key.

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“It’s nice to see that resurgence, that people are taking the time to slow down and make yourself part of the listening experience,” he said. “We like to share that with the people who are interested in that.”

The reawakened appreciation for vinyl is on full display at Electric Key Records, a new shop that opened in downtown Franklin in early August. The small store, operating out of 1823 Bakehouse, features a variety of classic rock and R&B hits, as well as newer releases from artists such as Bruno Mars and Beck.

With sales of vinyl growing and more people discovering the format’s superiority, O’Sullivan and his wife, Erin, felt that Franklin needed its own place for record enthusiasts to gather.

“That’s really part of our goal: to get people into the listening experience,” Erin O’Sullivan said. “There are so many people out there who have collections that are in their basements, they don’t think about dragging them out and listening to them.”

Music has always been a central part of the O’Sullivans’ relationship. The couple met when they played in a band together in the early 2000s, and even after the band split up, they stayed together.

Their tastes ran through all genres and eras of music, and they found the appreciated, “everything from ABBA to White Zombie,” Cory O’Sullivan said.

A record shop was something that they have always talked about owning, Erin O’Sullivan said.

“What better to do than something we’re so passionate about. We’ve collected records for years, so it seemed like a great next step for us,” she said.

Cory O’Sullivan works as a contractor in the natural gas industry, which helps support the family. But the position also gives him flexibility to start Electric Key. They did research about the types of vinyl records that people were interested in, and how to build up an inventory of popular music from all decades, collector’s items that people were looking for and brand new releases.

Vinyl has been on the rise for more than a decade. According to research and data company Nielsen, sales of vinyl records topped 14 million units sold in 2017. That number was only 900,000 in 2005.

“Even digital downloads have taken a nosedive this year, but vinyl has been rising for the last three years,” Cory O’Sullivan said.

Cory O’Sullivan grew up in Franklin, and has loved seeing the downtown area revitalized with new boutiques, vintage stores and eateries.

But he and Erin O’Sullivan thought that some more diverse shopping options would be good too.

“It would nice to have somewhere people could congregate, maybe talk about the arts a little bit,” Cory O’Sullivan said.

At the core of the store is a sense of community. Music has the ability to bring people together and open discussions as well as friendly debate, Cory O’Sullivan said. They want vinyl fans to share the records that mean the most to them, and to engage with other people to discover something new.

They hope to have listening parties when new albums come out, introducing people to the latest releases.

“We can discuss the album track by track, really get into it,” Cory O’Sullivan said.

Once they figured out what they wanted Electric Key to feature, the O’Sullivans went to work building up an inventory. They scoured antique stores, garage sales and Craigslist for the classic records they wanted to offer. To provide listeners with new releases, they found a distributor who could provide up to 14,000 new titles once they determine the types of music their customers are into.

Electric Key is finalizing a deal to offer turntables, headphones and other equipment as well.

“We’re starting out kind of small, but we want to be able to grow with people,” Erin O’Sullivan said.

Looking for an ideal location, they worked with 1823 Bakehouse owners Elissa and Tom Moore — old friends of Cory O’Sullivan — to operate out of a space at the front of the eatery.

“They gave me the opportunity to start the shop up and see where it goes,” Cory O’Sullivan said. “It’s a great place to set up.”

Electric Key Records opened to the public on Aug. 3. The O’Sullivans’ hope is to share the format and music that they love so much, and help others find their next favorite band among their stacks of records.

“There are a lot of bands that we want to introduce people to, or even reintroduce them to. There were some bands from the ‘70s and ‘80s and ‘90s that I never really listened to but that I’m discovering now,” Erin O’Sullivan said. We want to help other people do that too.

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What: A small record store focusing on classic vinyl, collector’s items and new releases.

Where: 25 E. Court St., Franklin

Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.