On an ice-cold but sunny Saturday afternoon, the literate roots-rock trio Elliott Brood gives an in-store promotional gig at The Tiny Record Shop, an accurately named music store in Riverside. After the singer mentions that his two-week-old baby is among the crowd, the band counts down Little Ones, a song off its new album Work and Love. The strummed, waltzing ode is rearview-mirror wistful, about adulthood and youth's joy left behind: "We should all stay little ones, if we could all stay little ones."
The mini-concert is actually taking place in a vintage clothing store next door to the record shop itself, which is just too tiny for musicians, equipment and fans. So, Elliott Brood performs near the boots, belts and changing booths, in front of the usual collection of fanboys and hipsters, the latter's leftover brunch crumbs still in their beards.
But there are parents in the aisles as well, holding and bobbing their sound-protected babies with the rhythm. When the song ends, the first person to applaud is Félix, the three-year-old son of Trevor Larocque and Maude Fallon-Davesne, the owners of the The Tiny Record Shop, a new place for the city's growing vinyl needs.
And make no mistake about it, vinyl is booming. According to data released by Nielsen SoundScan Canada, more than 400,000 LPs were sold here last year, a spike of 71 per cent from 2013. Downloads are down and compact discs are passé, but the demand for 33-rpm listening is such that the maverick Mississippi indie label Fat Possum, for example, has opened up its own record pressing plant.
The Tiny Record Shop is a boutique venture, occupying a leased 9-by-14-foot space in the back of the gift shop Token, at 804 Queen St. E., just east of Broadview Avenue. Where the city's popular vinyl stores (Sonic Boom, Rotate This) are funkier, bigger and louder west-end concerns, this east-side counterpoint is tidy, bright and part of a family-oriented neighbourhood.
"It's a nice, clean, enjoyable store to walk into," Ms. Fallon-Davesne says. "We live in the east end, so we wanted to start something here for young people and young families. It's a tight-knit community – we have everything we need in our own little village."
Mr. Larocque, 41, is well known in the Canadian music business as the head of the Toronto-based indie label Paper Bag Records, home to Cuff the Duke, Austra and Elliott Brood, among other artists.
A few years ago, another Toronto-based label (Six Shooter Records) operated its own music shop in the east end. But where that store stuffed its shelves with CDs from the Six Shooter catalogue along with books and assorted Canadiana what-nots, The Tiny Record Shop is purely vinyl and not dominated by products from Mr. Larocque's stable of artists. "I can't just focus on Paper Bag Records in the store," Mr. Larocque says. "This isn't a marketing arm. I want it to be its own thing."
Its own thing involves a highly curated selection of new records, along with select back-catalogue used copies and high-priced rare pressings. Visitors, who might hear something such as the lilting strains of Heart's Dreamboat Annie while perusing, will find the new Panda Bear album, the National's Trouble Will Find Me, an original 3-D copy of the Rolling Stones' Their Satanic Majesties Request ($75), Nick Drake's Five Leaves Left on the Antilles label ($80) and bins of old soul, jazz, reggae and one-stop Big Bill Broonzy shopping.
Concert tickets to shows held in east-end venues are available, as are a few Tragically Hip jigsaw puzzles.
Ms. Fallon-Davesne likes the idea of young women flocking to the vinyl side, a trend she's noticed from her experience with the new shop. "Generally it's a guy thing to go get records," she says. "It's kind of a boy's club. But we share space with gift shop and a clothing store, so it's exciting to see women buying vinyl."
She doesn't say it, but Ms. Fallon-Davesne probably appreciates the extra space the record store has created in her own home, as some of the vinyl in the shop comes from her partner's extensive collection. "I had too many records," admits Mr. Larocque, who's been hoarding since he was 14.
Mr. Larocque still hunts for rare pressings to sell – "Sure, they're expensive, but there's always someone who wants it" – and he likes to describe his eclectic inventory by talking about what he hasn't got, rather than what he has. "Do you know that record, the one you can find anywhere?" he asks. "Well, you won't find it here."
Elliott Brood, Jan. 24, 8:30 p.m., $23 to $73, Phoenix Concert Theatre, 410 Sherbourne St., ticketfly.com. The Rural Alberta Advantage appears at The Tiny Record Shop, 804 Queen St. E., Feb. 21, 3 p.m., 416-479-4363.