The vinyl countdown: How 40,000 records ended up at a Lower Mainland store

Surrey’s Innovative Audio has become a go-to place for record collectors

SURREY — With so many cardboard boxes of vinyl records to sift through, Mark Smith is feeling a bit overwhelmed at the moment.

“There’s a lot of them,” Smith said nervously as he scanned the interior of Innovative Audio, a store in Newton devoted to fixing and selling vintage sound equipment.

In a rear storage area rest boxes full of close to 40,000 titles culled from the collection of Howard Tsumura, who previously ran the record bins as an independent arm of Gord Sauck’s store operations.

Earlier this month, Smith acquired all that vinyl and, with the help of a half-dozen people, moved it from Tsumura’s house to the store on 78th Avenue.

“Nobody really knew how much of a hoarder he really was,” Smith said with a laugh. “He had a lot of good titles, and there is some stuff that wouldn’t sell, sure, but he was just overwhelmed and probably didn’t have a chance to get at the boxes and just go through them, of course, with his full-time job. He’s a busy guy.”

In his “other” life, Tsumura is an award-winning sports reporter who launched Varsity Letters – a hub for high school and university athletics – after leaving his job in the print-journalism industry.

While many people know the humble Tsumura for his detailed sports coverage in Metro Vancouver, few know him as an avid record collector and, until recently, a seller of vinyl at the Innovative Audio store in Surrey.

• RELATED STORY: Audiophiles turn up the volume in Newton, from 2015.

On Thanksgiving weekend, with Tsumura’s sale to Smith completed, the big move was on.

“We had 400 small U-Haul boxes that each fit 100 records, so that was 40,000 of them,” Smith recalled. “You have to jam them in tight to maximize storage space, and that was 70 pounds each of boxes. It was all in his basement, so we halved the boxes to make them 35 pounds each, I guess.

“That took us close to five hours, with a good crew, to pull them from his basement,” Smith continued. “That was just 20,000 of them. The next Sunday, we got the other 20,000, which were stored in his heated garage. We just pulled them out with the hand dolly and out they went. That took us only a couple of hours.”

Smith, who lives in Pitt Meadows, said he appreciates the variety of vinyl he bought from Tsumura, who had everything from classical to country in the collection.

“The thing is, we’re in the record-selling business, not the collecting business, and I think Howard had a hard time parting with some of these – I know he did, which is fine, because people do get attached to this stuff,” Smith said. “And now we just want to get it out there, and we want the price to be right. I mean, I’ve got so much stuff to move here, and at the rate he was going, he was almost collecting more than moving these records.”

Over the past few years, with Tsumura’s guidance, Innovative Audio has become a go-to place for record collectors, and Smith is happy to be part of the action now.

“I like what I’m doing, and this is just an extension from working here in the stereo store,” he explained. “I’ve always wanted to take over from what Howard was doing, and I had my eye on it for a long time, but he was very reluctant to get out of it, but it finally happened. And when it happened, it happened fast, and it’s kind of overwhelming for me, too, because I have a lot of stuff to process and go through in the back.

“I know Gord wants his warehouse back,” Smith added, “and he’s doing me a favour by storing all these boxes of records back there as I dwindle that 40,000 down, and around 25 per cent of that would be dollar records, I figure. There are so many titles that have a few marks and scratches on them, but we’ll do a store thing and sell a bunch of dollar records, just to move them out. There’ll be some good titles that people want.”

Not surprisingly, Smith has some observations and opinions about vinyl records – their past, their future and why people continue to appreciate them in the age of digital audio technology.

”Vinyl never really died,” he started, “but it did dwindle down, for sure. The biggest thing is, people want to hold something in their hand. Some people like the sound better, but the kids who like (vinyl) now, it’s about holding it, showing their friends. It’s a collection, it’s cool. You’re not going to say, ‘Hey, you want to see my MP3 file collection? They’re on my computer.’ So with that, you don’t physically own anything, even though you pay for it – or not, I guess. And people like the thrill of the hunt and come to places like this and find things they want. Even online you don’t get that, but here, you never know what you’ll find.”



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

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