Over the music, Mack chats with shop regular Armin Unger, who's flipping through the store's progressive rock section. The pair discusses the going rate for Sunflower, a 1970 Beach Boys' LP that Unger's looking to sell. But then Unger stumbles across King Crimson's Islands, and suddenly they're rattling off musicians who have served time in the prog beast: Bill Bruford and Robert Fripp and Adrian Belew and . . .
Everything about Hodad's, a Lakewood storefront on Madison Avenue, reeks of old-school traditions, including its pungent must. Mack not only buys and sells old LPs, but his shop is a hangout for vinyl junkies, who dig rapping about music as much as they do listening to it.
This is the role used-record shops played for decades. But in the age of eBay, nearly every popular hobby has moved from a communal, in-the-flesh pastime to a solitary, homebound pursuit among digital avatars. Record collecting is no exception.
Of course, the trend has made the actual collecting easier; the internet's global market offers instant access to über rarities, like a first-pressing of the Red Crayola's The Parable of Arable Land. But the cost has been the demise of local community. Music geeks were hermit-prone before the web; now there's one less excuse to leave the house and risk making a friend.
Fortunately, Mack's story isn't just another bummer tale about the death of mom-n-pop enterprise. Celebrating its fourth anniversary, Hodad's is a hybrid business, one that exists as both a cyber-store and a neighborhood institution.
"Instead of putting all the good stuff online, the goal has been to try and do this 50/50," he explains. "One doesn't dominate the other. The store can't survive without eBay, and eBay can't survive without the store."
Mack's plan appears simple enough, but it's not easy to execute. Outside of America's cultural hubs (New York, Chicago, San Francisco), many used-record stores that maintain storefronts save their best product for eBay.
"You have a world audience, and you have to take advantage of it," he explains -- especially with Cleveland's struggling economy and less-than-desirable winter shopping weather.
But Mack applies that philosophy only to big-money platters -- a Carl Perkins LP that can fetch $7,500, for instance. He hawks a ton of his records to local music freaks.
"If it were up to me -- goodbye to this," he says, patting the crusty old monitor snoozing on his counter. "I want a place where people can congregate."
Mack, a 35-year-old surf-music fan, has dreamed of owning a real used record store since attending the University of Akron in the '90s. He and a pal used to spend summer evenings sitting on his porch, sipping suds and planning every detail.
He opened Hodad's while still working as a business manager at MetroHealth. But one day, he walked right out of his job and into the record business. "It's great making money this way. I'll work the 18-hour days and be fine with it."
Mack maintains only evening store hours during the work week, when he plays Mr. Mom to his three-year-old daughter, Holly. But despite the hectic schedule, he keeps the place stocked with choice product. And just in case he stumbles across a backstreet garage sale, he keeps his pockets stuffed with customers' wish lists. "I don't own a laptop, and I don't use cell phones," he says, pointing to a couple of large sacks resting near the folk section. They're stuffed with patrons' personal requests.
At first glance, Mack's analog tactics seem anachronistic. But the attention Mack devotes to his local customers has paid off: Last year, for the first time, his store sales matched the revenue he collected online.
Hopefully the trend will continue, and Hodad's can resuscitate a sense of community among Northeast Ohio's record geeks. It's about time they put on some clothes and leave their bedrooms. And who knows? Maybe they'll stumble across that Dave Clark Five flexi-disc from '65 -- or, even better, someone who wants to talk about it.