A groovy new record store is playing right into Fort Worth's growing retro scene. Panther City Vinyl has opened its doors at 1455 W. Magnolia Ave, Suite 113, in the city's popular Near Southside district.
Co-owners Dan Lightner and Ted Stern met a few years ago as coworkers at a Half Price Books, where they shared their interest for music in vinyl form.
“We went to lunch one day together, and I don’t know who mentioned it, but one of us was like, ‘I’ve always wanted to open a record store,’” Stern says. “So, it snowballed and we saved money, collected records. It took a while to get it off the ground. In fact, it took three years to collect enough records, get money together, find a location, have the bins built by a friend of ours, you know.”
The shop is made up of one large room with a middle aisle and a row of vinyl bins along the walls, all organized alphabetically and by genre. Music plays from a record player throughout the store — never streamed digitally. While it has a small selection of tapes and CDs, 98 percent of what they sell are records, 70 percent of which are used and the rest, new releases, the owners say.
“We don’t really specialize in one genre,” Stern says. “We’re a traditional record store, kind of an old-school shop that has a little of everything. But I’d say the majority is like rock, pop, soul, R&B. We have some hip hop, reggae, and punk. Mostly, though, we like rock.”
The store buys used vinyl, but they emphasize that with records, disc and sleeve condition matter greatly for acceptance. Other determining factors include the album’s rarity, scarcity, and demand. The owners know what sells in the area, and they say a years-long increase in vinyl demand and popularity makes sense for the younger generations.
“I think a certain generation missed out on the actual tangible stuff you can put in your hands, like going and playing an actual pinball game with real flippers,” Stern says. “They’re used to playing games on their phones, which is fun, but people like the authentic experience. Same with records. Anybody can have a giant MP3 collection on their phone, but when you have the actual product to show someone, it’s special.”
Fort Worth does seem to be entering a golden era of throwback leisure and entertainment. Craftcade, a pinball arcade bar that opened recently nearby, has become a hit for those who like some fun and games with their beers. And Game Theory, the city's first boardgame lounge, will keep the vintage vibes flowing when it opens. Another local vinyl store, Doc's Records and Vintage, recently moved into the hip new Foundry District just west of downtown.
Stern and Lightner say they've discovered that listening to music on vinyl forces you to pay better attention to it, which makes you appreciate it more. Also, they say, the discipline it takes to care for records and a turntable system teaches skills that most people miss with more passive methods of entertainment.
“There’s just something very human about listening to vinyl, as opposed to everything being digitized. It’s just more fun this way,” Lightner says, adding, "Jack White said that vinyl is gonna be the home format and then streaming is going to be the mobile format."
The Panther City owners continue building and expanding the shop’s inventory and plan to hold events that incorporate local bands. They’re also planning seminars on vinyl-related topics, such as how to properly care for records.
When asked which rare albums they would love to have in their store, Stern said an original copy of Fun House by The Stooges and an original copy of Black Monk Time by The Monks would be his ideal selections. Lightner said he could “die a happy man” if they had any solo album by Syd Barrett, one of the founding members of Pink Floyd, and the Beatles’ rare version of the album Yesterday and Today that has a hidden Butcher cover.