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Minneapolis/St. Paul record stores past and present

Discussion in 'Music, Movie and Hardware Store Guide' started by steelydanguy, Jun 8, 2017.

  1. steelydanguy

    steelydanguy Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I think there a few old threads on this forum about record stores in Minnesota's Twin Cities (Minneapolis and St. Paul), but in the spirit of the popular "Chicago area records past and present" thread on this forum, I'm starting a similar one here on Twin Cities record stores past and present.

    To be up front, I'm pretty sure this thread won't generate as much traffic as the Chicago version (the Twin Cities are significantly less populated), but I do believe, anecdotally, that there are quite a few people with Minneapolis/St. Paul connections on this forum, so I hope this chat takes off.

    I am in my late 30s and grew up, mostly, in St. Paul and its suburbs. I became a record collector in my teens during the mid-1990s, but there were many independent record stores that I missed ever seeing -- places like Northern Lights, Platters, Garage D'or, Oar Folkjokeopus, Positively Fourth Street, Flip Side, Wax Museum and others.

    The first Twin Cities indie record stores that I became aware of were the Electric Fetus and Let It Be, both in Minneapolis. It was an eye-opening experience to visit those stores because they carried a lot of great records that I wasn't seeing at Best Buy, which was the first place I used to go for grabbing CDs!

    From that point on, the Electric Fetus became my go-to spot for buying CDs, and I built a big portion of my early collection at that long-running store on the corner of Franklin and Fourth avenues. Let It Be was similarly excellent, but being in downtown Minneapolis, it was a little more of a challenge to find parking, etc., and I didn't get a chance to visit it as often. Sadly, Let It Be no longer has a brick-and-mortar presence, though it does have an online site (letitbe.com). Thankfully, the Electric Fetus is still around and is deservedly making lists of the best record stores in the United States (like the one directly below).
    The Country's Best Record Stores

    I no longer live in the Twin Cities, but I still visit family there fairly often and visit my favorite shops. I am highly interested in the record stores there past and present and would love to hear others' thoughts. Thanks in advance.




    Last edited: Jun 8, 2017
    jamesc and DeeThomaz like this.
  2. Lord Hawthorne

    Lord Hawthorne Currently Untitled

    Portland, Oregon
    Mark Trehus was in town recently, he said he's going to close his store (Treehouse records) and retire.
  3. Gramps Tom

    Gramps Tom Forum Resident

    Hymies on Lake Street, Minneapolis, is thriving, also.


    Roadrunner Records, 42nd St. @ Nicollet Ave. Significantly better than avg. quality. Maybe a dollar or 2 higher for used vinyl, and worth every cent.


    CHEAPO is in a new location at 26th @ Nicollet Ave. Not as large as the former Lake Street location, but still larger than average. You can purchase accessories, like storage boxes and inner/outer sleeves, etc.


    Vintage Music Company for everything 78's and wax cylinders. (NO lp nor 45's). I believe they will service turntables and tube-based equipment and sell some selected types of equipment. They offer thousands of 78's, most in great condition.


    steelydanguy likes this.
  4. steelydanguy

    steelydanguy Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Yes, there was a story on this about a month ago in the Minneapolis newspaper (see links below). Too bad because Treehouse has been one of the most interesting record shops in Minneapolis for years. Not a big store, but the selection is always interesting. Apparently the store is going to close at the end of the year.

    Minneapolis staple Treehouse Records to close, ending a 44-year tradition

    Treehouse records to close their doors

  5. Blue Gecko

    Blue Gecko Forum Resident

    I was at the Electric Fetus today. Interestingly, it was the store Prince often shopped at--he was also kind enough that he invited store staff to parties and music events at Paisley Park.
    Gramps Tom likes this.
  6. Gramps Tom

    Gramps Tom Forum Resident

    My music safaris take me to the Fetus once or twice monthly.

    Did you acquire some treasures?
  7. Blue Gecko

    Blue Gecko Forum Resident


    Yes, they normally provide me with a 30 count box to take my CDs home. Note, I try not to purchase more than will fit in the box and sometimes there is still time to visit Cheapo Records.
    steelydanguy and Gramps Tom like this.
  8. steelydanguy

    steelydanguy Forum Resident Thread Starter

    As I mentioned, I don't live in Minnesota anymore, but I do visit fairly often to see family and friends.

    Here are my favorite record stores in the Twin Cities. I know that several new record shops have opened in recent years; I'll have to try to visit them when I get a chance. I should also say that I collect CDs and vinyl, but more so CDs, so I'm coming from that perspective.

    1.) Electric Fetus (2000 4th Ave. S., Minneapolis 55404): The best record store in the Twin Cities, and it has been for years. Has one of the deepest and most wide-ranging selections of new CDs that I’ve seen of any shop in the U.S. Used CD selection is excellent, too. They’ve expanded their new and used vinyl offerings, though this is an area in which there’s room for improvement. Also, their collection of CD box sets has gotten weaker as of my last few visits. Those things said, this is still a great store, definitely worthy of its status on Rolling Stone’s 2010 list of the best record stores in the U.S.: The Country's Best Record Stores

    Incidentally, the Electric Fetus store in Duluth (in northern Minnesota) is excellent as well, if not as large as its Minneapolis counterpart.

    2.) Cheapo Discs, (3 locations – 2600 Nicollet Ave. S., Minneapolis 55408; 71 Snelling Ave. N, St. Paul 55104; and 170 89th Ave. NE, Blaine 55434): Probably the best place(s) in the Twin Cities to pick up used CDs, and the used LP stock is a plus, too. This longtime chain has three branches as of this writing, fewer than it had back in its heyday. The store in the Minneapolis is the biggest and best, even after it moved and scaled back in size. The St. Paul branch is strong, too. I haven’t been to the one in the northern Twin Cities suburb of Blaine.

    One can make some good finds in the Monday-Sunday used CD bins that get refreshed each week, though the condition of the CDs varies, so watch for the sticker labels that indicate the condition. The used vinyl selection is large, too: You can find many mainstream albums, and some more obscure LPs, from several genres going back decades. The vinyl stock, including 45s, is pretty deep. Cheapo also has new CDs and vinyl, but the selection for those is hit-or-miss at this point.

    3.) Treehouse Records, (2557 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis 55405): Not even close to the biggest store in the Twin Cities, but it’s definitely one of the most interesting. The store used to be called Oar Folkjokeopus and was a hub of Minneapolis’ thriving independent rock scene in the 1970s and 1980s. It was renamed Treehouse Records in 2001.

    The store is packed with used vinyl and CDs, with some new product mixed in. I’ve found many collectibles here. Check the LP new arrivals bin first. If you’re a ’60s psychedelic/garage rock fan, those genres are well-represented. But there’s more, too. Basically, I recommend rock/R&B collectors to visit this place because the stock is interesting, if not comprehensive. I’ve occasionally seen this shop crack a national “best store” list, and I don’t have any objections.

    Sadly, the owner has announced that he is closing this store -- at least its brick-and-mortar presence -- likely at the end of the year.

    4.) Roadrunner Records (4304 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis 55409): Under-the-radar, hole-in-the-wall, vinyl-heavy shop that has more going for it than you might suspect. Seems like the turnover is pretty decent at this store, and they’ve got separate bins for new arrivals, which is always a plus. I’ve found collectibles in the new arrivals and regular bins. This shop has some used CDs, too, but the vinyl is the main reason to come here. Small store, but a place worth visiting.

    5.) Hymie’s Vintage Records (3820 E. Lake St., Minneapolis 55406): Interesting store in that it’s very vinyl-heavy – 33 1/3s, 45s and even some 78s, I believe – and large. I guess I’ve been to this place a handful of times over the years. The couple who own the store are nice and I like the ambience, but honestly this hasn’t been one of my go-to spots.

    Perhaps I need to visit Hymie’s a few more times to fully appreciate what it offers, as I have to admit that I was surprised when Rolling Stone named it one of the top record stores in the nation in 2010: The Country's Best Record Stores

    I’ve found the turnover and number of rarities at Hymie’s to be comparatively weaker to my favorite stores in the Twin Cities. That said, check out the place if you’re a vinyl fan and you can form your own opinion.

    One area in which Hymie’s might have an advantage is in 1950s and 1960s LPs. They seem to have more of those older vinyl records than any other shop in the Twin Cities. Hymie’s also has a good amount of 45s, if you’re a fan of that format.

    6.) Half Price Books (Numerous locations in the Twin Cities. The two best are: 2041 Ford Pkwy., St. Paul 55116 and 5017 Excelsior Blvd., St. Louis Park 55416): Used bookstores that also sell sizable amounts of used CDs and vinyl.

    As mentioned above, there are Half Price stores scattered all over the Twin Cities and the surrounding suburbs. The two that typically have the best, most interesting stock are the two most urban stores -- the ones in St. Paul and St. Louis Park, the latter a first-ring suburb of Minneapolis.

    It’s possible to find CD and vinyl collectibles, though the stock typically gets picked over quite a bit. Some of the items, vinyl especially, are marked too high, but the stock is organized fairly well.

    If you’re a fan of music books (rock and otherwise), by the way, these stores are definitely worth checking out. I’ve found many great music books -- in print and out of print -- over the years, and the prices are usually pretty cheap.

    There are many other record stores in the Twin Cities area. Some of the others:

    -- Discland (822 W. 98th St., Bloomington 55420)
    -- Fifth Element (2411 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis 55405)
    -- Homestead Pickin’ Parlor (6625 Penn Ave. S., Richfield 55423)
    -- Mill City Sound (812 Main St., Hopkins 55343)
    -- Eclipse Records (419 Wabasha St N, St Paul, MN 55102)
    -- Down in the Valley (3 locations; the original store is at 8020 Olson Memorial Hwy., Golden Valley 55427)
    -- Know Name Records (6009 Portland Ave. S., Minneapolis 55417)
    -- Extreme Noise Records (407 W. Lake St., Minneapolis 55408)
    -- Vintage Music Co. (1820 E. 38th St., Minneapolis 55407)

    -- The Book House in Dinkytown (1316 4th St. SE, Minneapolis 55414)
    -- Corner Store (900 W. Lake St., Minneapolis 55408)
    -- Barely Bros. Records (783 Raymond Ave., St. Paul 55114)
    -- Mr. Zero’s (1744 Lexington Ave. N., Roseville 55113)
    -- Go Johnny Go Records (4755 Banning Ave., White Bear Lake 55110)



  9. ROFLnaked

    ROFLnaked Forum Resident

    I used to find great deals at the record store in the basement of the Oarfolk..
  10. steelydanguy

    steelydanguy Forum Resident Thread Starter

  11. Oatsdad

    Oatsdad Oat, Biscuits and Abbie: Best Dogs Ever

    Alexandria VA
    Great post! :righton:

    Do any others have thoughts/input about Twin Cities shops?

    I'm only interested in used CDs!
  12. steelydanguy

    steelydanguy Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Thanks! Glad you liked the post.

    I happened to be in the Twin Cities a month ago visiting family and of course stopped in at several record stores.

    I would recommend you try the Electric Fetus first, even if it's just used CDs you're seeking. It's truly a great store, and the used CD selection -- including used box sets -- was excellent during my visit last month. You'll probably want to ask an employee where all of the used CDs are located because there are a couple of spots, including one that's for new arrivals.

    I would say the two most centrally located Cheapo stores (one in Minneapolis -- it's not terribly far from the Electric Fetus -- and the other in St. Paul) would probably be your next best bets for used CDs. Check the new arrivals there first (marked Monday through Sunday). The condition of used CDs can be a little more of an issue at Cheapo than it is at the Electric Fetus, but don't let that deter you because gems can certainly be found there with some digging and items are priced according to condition. The used CD selection at the Cheapos is quite extensive.

    After that, it's a little bit of a crap shoot for used CDs in the Twin Cities. I generally recommend Treehouse Records as a store for record collectors. For one thing, it's relatively close to the Electric Fetus and the Minneapolis Cheapo, so there's a convenience factor. That said, it depends on how much time you have. While Treehouse always has an interesting selection of discs (including some out-of-way items), vinyl is their forte more so than CDs. The used CD selection is not especially large.

    The Half Price Books stores in St. Paul (not terribly far from the Cheapo in St. Paul) and St. Louis Park (a suburb of Minneapolis) are worth checking out for used CDs, but only if you have time. They also have good selections of used books on music. And finally, one place that flies under the radar is Discland in Bloomington. It's in a suburban location not very close to the city stores, but if you have time, it might be worth a look. The selection of used discs is fairly large and the prices aren't bad.

  13. Oatsdad

    Oatsdad Oat, Biscuits and Abbie: Best Dogs Ever

    Alexandria VA
    Awesome stuff - thanks again!
    steelydanguy likes this.
  14. aceman400

    aceman400 Black Triangle Fan

    There are no good CD shops here except for the one that sold me the first press Orion the Hunter last weekend. :D Were you in town for the Gaga show?
  15. Oatsdad

    Oatsdad Oat, Biscuits and Abbie: Best Dogs Ever

    Alexandria VA
    That had BETTER be a joke!!! :wantsome::wantsome::wantsome:

    Yeah - and baseball. I'm working toward seeing every MLB team at home at least once, and I still needed the Twins.

    Now I have 29 of 30 checked off the list - I still need Seattle!
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  16. Oatsdad

    Oatsdad Oat, Biscuits and Abbie: Best Dogs Ever

    Alexandria VA
    So here's my scorecard:

    I hit Electric Fetus, Cheapo Minneapolis and Discland.

    CDs purchased? Zero! :sigh:

    Just not a lot that appealed to the "early CD collector". At least Fetus left open the used CD cases so I could inspect the pressings up close - Cheapo and DL kept them encased in plastic.

    Not a total waste of time, though, as I got to hear a detailed discussion about eating ass between 2 Discland employees. One endorsed the activity, while the other seemed skeptical! :D
  17. steelydanguy

    steelydanguy Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Sorry to hear that you couldn't find any used CDs to your liking. You must have very specific tastes in "early CDs" (not my specialty, I admit) if you couldn't find anything at the Electric Fetus especially. I stand by my assertion that the Fetus is one of the top 15 or top 10 best overall record stores in the United States, but I guess it might depend on what you're seeking.

    Sounds like you at least went to see the Minnesota Twins play at Target Field, which is a fun place to see a game.

  18. Oatsdad

    Oatsdad Oat, Biscuits and Abbie: Best Dogs Ever

    Alexandria VA
    I am a "discerning CD purchaser". I only look for early pressings - stuff through 1987 or so - and I already own so much that it's become more and more difficult for me to find interesting product I don't already have.

    Still, it's unusual for me to hit three stores and strike out completely! Oh well! :shrug:
  19. rhing

    rhing Forum Resident

    I moved to the Twin Cities about six months ago and I really enjoy the many choices I have for purchasing music on vinyl and CDs. Living in the Northwest suburbs, I routinely visit Cheapo Records in Blaine, Down in the Valley in Maple Grove and Crystal, and occasionally Mill City Sound in Hopkins. I’ve also made a few trips to the Electric Fetus and Cheapo Records in Minneapolis. I especially like how the shops highlight local artists, which keeps the Twin Cities music community vibrant.

    For the most part, I like Cheapos for new and used CDs and the Electric Fetus for new and used vinyl. Occasionally, I can find a decent used vinyl album at Cheapos, but the prices for Cheapo’s new vinyl is more expensive than anywhere else. Mill City Sound is a cool shop and they have a nice selection of used turntables there, but their used vinyl could be in better shape for what they charge. They have a decent new vinyl selection.

    Another great thing about the Twin Cities is the selection of hi fi shops in the area. On top of that, there are a handful of several high end audio manufacturers like Audio Research, Bel Canto, Magnepan, and Atma-Sphere in the area.
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  20. ggergm

    ggergm Sir Guy

    I see Treehouse Records is closing end of this month. That's a shame. Between it and the old Oarfolkjokeopus record store, there has been someone selling music on that corner of Lyndale Avenue and W 26th St. in Minneapolis for at least 45 years. I hope somebody else picks up the slack.
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2017
    steelydanguy likes this.
  21. St. Paul Gal

    St. Paul Gal Member

    Saint Paul
    Wow, love the thread. I've enjoyed many of these stores over the years. It got me wondering about the ones that were chains in the 70's that all closed up. I remember the old Musicland locations (even a few Sam Goodys) but there was another one that was around then that was a chain and had several locations in the cities. Can't think of the name though of the store though. Any ideas? I remember Hot Licks, I think that was at Maplewood Mall at one time. Spent a small fortune on 45's growing up in the late 70's early 80's. :)
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  22. lambfan68

    lambfan68 Forum Resident

    Great American Music?

    Wax Museum?
  23. DeeThomaz

    DeeThomaz Senior Member

    In The Felony Room
    There were also several Record Towns in various local malls, as I recall. But I get the feeling Wax Museum is the chain @St. Paul Gal is remembering, as you guessed.

    Weirdest chain must have been Cassette World. All cassettes. I remember one in the Eden Prairie mall, but I think there were others.
    steelydanguy likes this.
  24. DeeThomaz

    DeeThomaz Senior Member

    In The Felony Room
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2018
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  25. DeeThomaz

    DeeThomaz Senior Member

    In The Felony Room
    Sadly, Discland closed a few months ago. I always enjoyed browsing there whenever I visited one of my favorite local Indian restaurants nearby.

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