Tucked away on the corner of Knickerbocker Avenue and Jefferson Street in Brooklyn’s growing Bushwick neighborhood sits a new addition to the revival of local record stores in the New York City area. Vinyl Fantasy, co-owned by childhood friends Joseph Cozza and Russell Hymowitz, is a tiny room with little to signify its location on the outside minus a small sign highlighted by stringed lights that are a mighty contrast from the neon of neighboring stores and businesses. Along the walls are shelves and bin-covered tables loaded with a variety of artists beneath potently colorful prints provided by illustrator Valeriya Volkova. It’s a beautiful variety presented as most bins are unmarked besides their well-curated jazz section and some discounted selections. For customers and the equally music-obsessed brains behind the business, half the fun is in the surprise.
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Having just opened their doors on October 10, Cozza and Hymowitz are still in the process of getting into a groove for their new store. The two vinyl junkies had been wanting to get into business with one another for some time and when a good friend offered the space mid-summer, it was an opportunity they couldn’t pass up. Now a month later, the pair are building up their inventory. “The store is constantly in flux,” says Cozza, who just picked up a new collection of records to stock the bins with. “Everything from the art changing to what we’re focusing on will constantly look different.”
The art in question refers to the monthly gallery show the store will present every third Friday of the month. “We felt it was a really good way of bringing different kinds of people into the store,” says Engel, a Pratt alum who has provided the walls of the store with work from two college friends. While Volkova kicked off the series, former fashion major Jo Rigol takes over on Friday, November 15th with her gorgeously dark pieces that will soon adorn the walls of the store. While other in-store events are in the works, the art shows have shown promise in their ability to support their friends by selling their work and enriching the experience of shopping in the evolving space. “For now, we’re going to stick to the one art show a month,” remarks Cozza on future plans. “We might switch it up to one every couple of weeks and split the month up with two artists, but we kind of like letting people have their stuff up on the wall and [to have it] sit for a while.”
As much as the owners love seeing the tangible effects of the store’s physical evolution, they love experiencing the process as well. On Knickerbocker, new businesses with desires to quench unique palates in the area are popping up constantly, making Vinyl Fantasy one of several. Just down the street, a new French bistro named Mominette, with its Tuesday Jazz Nights, has become a budding brunch spot. The two have plans to collaborate in the future. Though Hymowitz lives just down the street from the store, Cozza has found himself returning to work in a transformed area from the one he lived in 10 years ago. Though fostering a sense of community and local pride is a natural hope for small business owners, Cozza and Hymowitz find themselves taking a more laid back and realistic approach to it. “We’re just taking it slowly,” says Cozza. “We’re a tiny space. There are certain limitations to what we can do with it.”
That’s not to say the pair don’t have a collection of goals they hope to achieve as they continue establishing their space. With some local bands represented in the collection, VF is looking forward to one day soon be able to display a bin dedicated to the surrounding scene. New releases are in the process of being acquired as though most of their inventory is used (the first run came from a friend’s dad’s attic). They hope to continue to keep the cost of purchasing their collection reasonable as well. “We try to price everything at a to-move basis,” says Cozza. “We don’t see the point in pricing a Led Zeppelin record at $14.”
Already, minor fruits of their labor can be seen. The art-plastered walls and easily diggable collection give the space a fresh coat of personality, and they have even established a few regular customers, including some local kids. Taking it one day at a time, the owners are watching their passion project grow and are letting its future manifest naturally. For Cozza, Fantasy is a dream to work in. “We’re hanging out listening to music all day. It’s a pretty good gig.”
Vinyl Fantasy will be hosting three events this weekend. Their monthly series “Art at Vinyl Fantasy” happens Friday, 11/15, from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. with Jo Rigol’s work on display. On Saturday, 11/16, local musician Rinehart (also known as Andrew Sellers) will put on a free show. And Sunday, 11/17, Brian of Organs and Holly of Juniper Rising will sing country classics in-store. Both concerts begin at 3 p.m. on their respective dates.