5 Years Later, Red Onion Records Still Exploring the Vinyl Frontier

Red Onions Records & Books

Wall of sound: One thing we’ve lost in the transition from analog to digital? Big, bold album covers. (Google)

Well, well, do we have a spicy one for you today!

A couple of months ago, we featured one of the last of the Mohicans, Melody Record Shop in Dupont Circle. Melody is one of the few remaining places to buy new music, or at least one of the few remaining places solely dedicated to new music.

Today, we feature another one: Red Onion Records & Books

Now, before you go bouncing off the walls with glee, Red Onion Records & Books in Adams Morgan only sells new vinyl records, and the selection is tiny. Think punk/indie and other obscure stuff. Be that as it may, they also sell used CDs, records and books, so stopping by will be worth your while even if you’re not looking for the newest Lilys release.

Let’s get a little expository. If you’ve met me or read much of my written output as a writer, nay, come on, let’s call me what I am, artiste … OK, whatever you call me, if you’ve read some of my work over the past decade and change, you could rightly surmise that I know a thing or two about rock ’n’ roll.

[ Related: Rock and Roll Hotel Promises a Gaudy Good Time on H Street ]

Red Onion Records & Books
1901 18th St., N.W. #B
Washington, D.C. 20009

If I were to walk down a crowded street in Any City, USA, and throw a handful of birdseed high and far into the air like a baseball (and not in a line drive like they teach you – thanks, coach – but in a more spiritually fulfilling, lollipop loft), I’d be willing to bet that no one hit by said spray would know half as much about the subject as me.

If I were to hit Josh Harkavy, owner of Red Onion Records & Books, however, for once I’d be considered the dummy, and that’s saying something. Judging by his site and infrequent blog posts, Harkavy would probably be in the running for Music Geek of the Year in Washington, D.C., and that’s really saying something.

Founded in December 2006 by the Long Island, N.Y., transplant, Red Onion Records & Books has been fulfilling music and reader needs for quite a while now, taking some of the sting out of the closures of DCCD and Olsson’s Books & Records. Given its extremely small space, Red Onion Records & Books probably only stocks about 5,000 items at any given time, but I’m sure what they lack in quantity they make up in quality.

You only have to take a gander at their “incoming” releases in June to know what you’re dealing with regarding the Red Onion: How’s that new Kids on a Crime Spree disc “We Love You So Bad” doing you? What about that Nodzzz release? Still scratching your head? Unless you’re this guy, you might very well be.

But hey, I’m sure you’ve heard of some of Red Onion’s used CDs, records and books.

[ Related: Paperbacks & Pancakes: Kramerbooks in Dupont Not Your Typical Bookstore ]

Used CDs are usually $1 to $5, which is an awesome price for such. New vinyl will run you $14 or so, which (to my eyes at least) also seems very low. Used vinyl can run the gamut, costing anywhere from a buck to hundreds of dollars, depending on the item’s collectability, though most used records will run you $5 to $15.

Once more, the Red Onion buys and trades classic vinyl and CDs, too. As their name implies, they also buy, sell and trade books, especially tomes specializing in music, art, fiction and photography.

Like many record stores, the Red Onion certainly cares about the community, enough to regularly feature in-store performances from local and national indie rockers. Recently, this included the likes of D.C.-based band Hume (who I’m assuming named themselves after the philosopher and not Brit) and Philly psychedelic folkie Kurt Vile.

If you’re a walker like me, getting to the Adams Morgan shop shouldn’t be a big deal. The Red Onion is located between Metro’s Dupont Circle (Red Line) and U Street/African-Amer Civil War Memorial/Cardozo (Green/Yellow Line) stops, about a half mile or so from the latter and a little less to the former as the crow flies.

They open every day at noon, except on Mondays, when they don’t open at all. From Tuesday through Thursday, they close at 7 p.m.; on Friday and Saturday, they cut the lights at 8 p.m.; and on Sunday, they literally force you out the door at 5 p.m. Imagine!

Check out the neighborhood and apartment listings in the area on Apartment Showcase. 

Scott D

Scott D

Scott is a local writer and has been with the Apartment Showcase blog since its inception in 2010.

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