"I went to my first concert with [my mom], listening to new albums when they came out together on CDs ... so [my parents] gave me a turntable for Christmas [one year], and I started buying records," Alex said. "[My mom and I] started going through all her records together and buying collections together to put into this antique mall."
Alex said initially this was a way for him to build his record collection and for him and his mom to bond, but it kept growing into a bigger store inside the mall, then a 700-square-foot storefront.
Alex and Karen opened Comeback Vinyl—the only record store in the area, Alex said—in downtown Alpharetta in November 2017, with Alex serving as the operating owner while Karen purchases most of the used vinyl for the store. They chose Alpharetta because it was home for them, and a renovation of the City Center area—which has since been completed—was in discussion among city officials.
"At the time, Alpharetta was just on the verge of starting to get going to where it is now ... so it seemed like it was a good time to be a part of this revitalization that was going on here," Alex said. "We really didn't even look anywhere else. It was a given that we were going to do it in Alpharetta."
With record stores, customer service is a key aspect of the experience, Alex said—something he prides himself on at Comeback Vinyl. Whether a customer comes in once every year or every day, he said he and his staff try to get to know them all on a first-name basis.
"We have customers that have become friends, like we'll go over to their house and listen to music with them. The whole record store experience in my mind is about building relationships with people," Alex said. "I think that's the difference between record stores and other retail industries. It is about helping the customer ... but it's [also] about getting to know their taste in music, getting to know what kind of turntable they have ... really becoming more of a bond than just a customer-to-staff-member relationship that you might find in your generic retail store."
Alex said this emphasis on building customer relationships is part of the reason why he felt the need to still operate Comeback Vinyl even after he decided to temporarily close the physical location March 17.
While the doors are closed for now, Alex and his staff went inside and filmed themselves flipping through all of the old and new vinyls in store, allowing customers to feel as if they are flipping through the stacks of records as well, Alex said. Store staff submits comments on the photos and videos for updates on which albums are sold out, and customers can call or email the store to let a staff member know which albums they are interested in purchasing.
Customers can purchase items at www.comebackvinyl.com/covid-19 with free curbside pickup seven days per week or home delivery for an additional cost.
"We have a couple online stores that were up and running before [coronavirus hit], but they were by no means the majority of our business, so we needed to supplement [our in store purchases] in some way," Alex said. "I'm really proud of our team for coming up with that idea because I think, given the circumstances, we were forced to adapt and ... were able to come up with this really great idea that our customers have been loving."
Despite this method being an "unsustainable model" for the long-term future, both regular customers and new ones are still supporting Comeback Vinyl despite the unavoidable closure of the physical store, Alex said.
"We've received a lot of support, both in terms of placing orders with us and just people giving us good wishes if they can't financially afford to purchase anything," Alex said. "It's better than [doing] nothing at this point, but we hope to open back up soon and get back to some kind of normal, whatever that looks like."
1 S. Main St., Alpharetta
Revised hours (curbside pickup and phone orders): Sun.-Sat. 11 a.m.-6 p.m.