For our visit to Shake It Records, we grabbed some (pimento spread, over-medium egg, and bacon) breakfast sandwiches, roasted potatoes, and fresh cut fruit and berries cups from Metropole and headed north to the premier destination for independent music lovers.
Shake It Records is in the Northside neighborhood of Cincinnati, about 6 miles outside of downtown. When entering Shake It, you feel like you are being swallowed up by the space; a 3200 square foot storefront has never felt so overwhelming (in an amazing way). Inside they have roughly 25k titles on vinyl and 15k on CD, in addition to 12k DVD’s, 3k books, 400 music and culture related magazines and an incredible amount of limited addition Japanese toys, concert tees, postcards, and stereo equipment.
20 years ago when brothers Jim and Darren Blasé opened the store there wasn’t much going on in Northside, currently Cincinnati’s creative heart and soul. “There was a tattoo shop, a salon, a few restaurants and a place called Mama’s Teddy Bears which didn’t last long,” says Darren “It was right before the bottom fell out of the teddy bear market.” These guys are funny but serious about music. When starting the store they refused to entertain the idea of getting a business loan, instead opting to sell their personal record collections (7,000+ albums) for the seed money and they’ve never looked back. And after 20 years they’ve reached what Darren calls a “cruising altitude” and they’re slowly starting to branch out.
“The whole idea for this place was to take music and tie it into all the other cultural things that go with music, whether that’s literature, or art, or fashion, or just community building— that’s what music has always been about”, says Jim. Shake It does more than just selling music, they have their own record label, they do in-store performances, in-store signings, and soon will have a lower level exhibition space for Cincinnati music memorabilia that Darren has been collecting since he was a kid. They do interesting things and according to Darren “Interesting things always appeal to 5% of the people, and then slowly another 30% warm up to it.” Which is fine because there’s no better place to “wait for the rest to catch up” than a record store. Especially one that has been ranked by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the best record stores in the USA.
Ultimately, Shake It Records is a place to go if you love music. It’s a place to go if you’re looking for a rare Ethiopian garage band, a Ukrainian punk album or 1960’s Cincinnati girl group record. Just call ahead if you’re looking for something truly obscure because if they don’t have it they will do everything they can to get it in the store for you. On the daily, they cater to the students who devour the Used CD shelves and to the nostalgic listeners who’re looking for a certain album that reminds them of a time long ago. They stock signed and unsigned albums side by side with no upcharge as a nice surprise for their customers. If you’re looking to go down “the rabbit hole” of music history and influences, Jim and Darren will gladly guide you there. Don’t get me wrong, they have new stuff like Kendrick Lamar and Childish Gambino, but they pride themselves on having the music by the people who influenced the current hitmakers. Shake It is where you can get the “slow appreciation” of music that you lose solely streaming on the internet.
So if you’re in town and love music you absolutely need to visit Shake It Records on Hamilton Ave in Northside. Pick up some music, some books or some of the Cincinnati music legends trading cards they’re currently working on producing. This shop is one of the most authentic places you may ever visit and could easily be a place you return to every time you visit Cincinnati. Find out what’s going on at Shake It on their website www.shakeitrecords.com or by calling Jim and Darren directly at 513-591-0123, or just stop by the store at 4156 Hamilton Ave, Cincinnati, OH 45223.