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The Rat Hole takes you down a rabbit hole of vintage records

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Nestled between the Tyler Mall and Cal Baptist University areas of Riverside, you will find The Rat Hole: one of the last vinyl record shops still standing in the area. As other businesses have slowed during the pandemic, this haven for music aficionados continues to thrive. (Jacob Quezada | Viewpoints)
By Jacob Quezada

Steve Jobs made history with the reveal of the iPod in 2001, and while the music industry sailed into the future, it was somehow also cast into oblivion.

The days of the Walkman would be long gone, nevermind the cassette player, and you could totally forget about the vinyl record player.

But for this generation, things have changed. Nostalgia is now on trend and collecting vinyl has become a sort of novelty.

This community has provided Chris Smith with a clientele of record collectors and music aficionados in and around Riverside.

The “Rat Hole,” a Riverside record store owned and operated by Smith, offers not only the nostalgic experience of browsing through records, but also a new experience for first time goers. 

Organized alphabetically and by genre, its curation of new and used records provides plenty of vinyl to browse through.

“It feels like a treasure hunt,” said Valerie Cisneros,  who was returning to The Rat Hole. “You just really have to take the time and go one by one.”

Cisneros said she only started collecting recently but has already amassed more than 100 records.

“You could spend … an hour just browsing, not knowing what you might find,” she said.

Smith’s shop has been open for two years. He said nostalgia is not the sole reason for the revival of vinyl. He believes that what gives vinyl its longevity and what attracts people in their teens, 20s and 30s toward 12” is sound quality. 

“Nostalgia is only 30%,” Smith said. “The rest is in fidelity. It’s got a warmer, richer sound. It sounds better, clearer and less compressed.” 

The Rat Hole’s wide selection of new releases and used records offers a contemporary glimpse of what role vinyl still plays in the music industry. Smith noted the revival of vinyl is much more nuanced and subjective.

He predicted vinyl will remain unsurpassed by music streaming services. The peculiars surrounding the flux of business of an analog format in a digital age especially among the younger demographic surprise Smith, but he attributes it to irreplicable qualities.

“I haven’t really figured out exactly why a lot of younger people come out, but I bet it has to do with the quality,” Smith said.

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