A Montreal music institution celebrates a landmark milestone this month
MONTREAL -- Cheap Thrill's location on Metcalfe St. is an oddity in a downtown Montreal now dominated by modern chain stores.
The rickety stairs to the shop, a flashback to a bygone architectural past.
And inside the store, one could be forgiven for thinking they've boarded a time machine.
“It's amazing. I think it's a lot of good luck on our part, we just stood the test of time and we're the last one standing downtown,” says owner Gary Worsley, who bought the store from its original owner four years ago, after working there for two decades.
There was a time, 30 years ago, when people couldn't give away their record collection because CDs were all the rage.
But Cheap Thrills weathered the storm and now celebrates its 50th anniversary. The original store, on Bishop St., closed its doors in the 90s.
“We kept vinyl but it was hard to get new ones,” Morsley explains. "People weren't coming in with them used, they were coming with tons of used CDs."
But when consumers abandoned CDs and turned to digital streaming, something unusual happened.
A few customers started asking for vinyl records that were still manufactured on a smaller scale in Europe.
“It made a comeback here I'd say a decade ago. And it's really strong right now,” observes Morsley, who was just a teenager when record companies started phasing out vinyl records.
At first, most stores and record companies thought it was a fad.
But it turns out a new generation wanted to discover what it's like to hold a physical copy of recorded music -- packaged the way their parents bought music.
Fernando Diaz, 36, grew up with CDs, but now buys vinyl.
“The sound, the way you feel the music, it's different,” says Dias while holding a copy of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, a classic record that came out 48 years ago.
According to the record industry, the average vinyl record buyer is now between the ages of 25 and 34.
This has led to the opening of many new, millennial-oriented stores.
But Cheap Thrills always remained close to its 1960s hipster roots, as it enters its sixth decade in business.
It's still stocking used books from beat writers, along with musical classics from a bygone era, but adapts to its new clientele.
"We have to stock Taylor Swift and Lorde and Billie Eilish because these records are selling and they help sell the other records,” says Worsley.
And if the past is any indication, the obituary of vinyl records has yet to be written at Cheap Thrills.
A previous version of this article said the record shop was on Mansfield, not Metcalfe.