October 4, 2016

Dusty Groove Offers Eclectic Records and a Ukrainian Village Location to Match

Collecting and selling records began as a hobby for Rick Wojcik and JP Schauer. Then, in 1996, while trapped in a snowstorm in the mountains in Pennsylvania on their way back from a trip to buy records, the friends got an idea: They decided to open an online store at dustygroove.com specializing in rare and imported records. At the time, record stores weren’t as diverse as they are nowadays, and most focused primarily on rock and roll. By using the internet as their storefront, they could offer hard-to-come-by records and unconventional genres including hip hop, Brazilian, jazz, Afro-funk, world music, and soul.

Dusty Groove was one of the first record stores of its kind. Although other shops, like Wreckless Records and Dr. Wax had websites of their own in the 90s, neither had started out as online only. In the early stages, Wojcik and Schauer worked part-time, selling records out of an apartment on Chicago’s south side. Within a year, the gig turned into a full-time job, and they moved to a back-alley office space in Hyde Park. Shortly after that in 1997, they moved again to Wicker Park. “We honestly didn’t want to leave the south side,” remembers Wojcik. “But rents were too high in Hyde Park.”

Wicker Park was a cultural crossroads, and Wojcik appreciated the neighborhood’s diverse mix of black, Hispanic, Polish and white hipster populations living there at the time. Eventually, Dusty Groove outgrew this space as well, and in 2001, the shop moved again, this time to its current Ukrainian Village location at 1120 N. Ashland. Dusty Groove’s Hyde Park location had been open to the public once a month and the Ukrainian Village location had been open two afternoons each week, but the spacious storefront allowed them to open a physical shop that customers could visit in-person seven days a week.

Since the 90s, Dusty Grove has been recognized as one of America’s best record stores by Rolling Stone and is a staple of the Ukrainian Village neighborhood. Wojcik has lived in the neighborhood for almost 15 years, and one of his favorite haunts is the Happy Village, a laid back neighborhood bar with a beer garden and ping pong tables that’s been around since 1964. “It’s incredibly crowded and incredibly festive. It’s a great place. You can get a good beer there for incredibly cheap without the hassle of the Division Street crowds.” The bar also happens to be his voting precinct.

Another favorite is Inntertown Pub, a dive bar that’s been around since the 80s. He also frequents Intelligentsia Coffee at Division and Ashland and anticipates the opening of the Publican Anker restaurant, which is set to open in Wicker Park this fall. But Wojcik isn’t limited by the boundaries of his neighborhood and likes to explore the rest of the city as well. “I’m the guy who will drive across the city for both a record and a pizza place,” he says. But for the less adventurous, Dusty Groove’s online presence allows customers to shop from the comfort of their homes.

In Chicago, our homes extend beyond the walls of our apartments and into the neighborhoods where we live. Through conversations with local business owners, this series explores the institutions that give each neighborhood its unique character with the goal of helping renters find a place that feels like home.​

Ben Kramer is a freelance writer currently living in Chicago. He has written primarily about beer and alcohol for the ChicagoistRedEye, and Newcity. When not writing, he’s either busy being a barista or listening to Marvin Gaye.

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