The Thrill of the Chase

For Dedicated Vinyl Collectors, the Hunt for the Next Great LP Never Ends

Fun fact: Records recently surpassed CDs as the top-selling physical medium for the first time ever.

By John Thomason November 28, 2023 Published in the November-December 2023 issue of Sarasota Magazine

Jen Kokay at Jerk Dog Records.

Jen Kokay at Jerk Dog Records.

Image: Joe Lipstein

Jen Kokay remembers vividly the first record she purchased on her own. She was around 12, browsing a thrift store while on a family vacation in Michigan, when she stumbled upon Combat Rock by the Clash. The copy itself was far from mint—it was a discard from the Grand Rapids Public Library, with writing on the label. But it changed everything.

“You could tell this was going to be amazing,” says Kokay, sitting cross-legged on the floor of her second-floor walkup in Bradenton, as she pulls the LP from its alphabetically organized shelf. She had never heard of the Clash, but she remembers how the sleeve, which shows the band posing on train tracks and sporting black leather and slicked-back hair, made her feel. “I don’t know who you are,” Kokay envisioned saying to the band, “but you look cool.”

“I wanted to smoke a cigarette all of a sudden, and I’ve never smoked in my life,” says Kokay. “I put it on, and it blew my mind, and the Clash immediately became my favorite band.” Combat Rock was actually released on Kokay’s birth date, exactly four years after she was born. Her first tattoo depicts an open book, traced from the LP’s back cover.

Kokay has since found a better-sounding copy of Combat Rock, and both are among a collection she’s been building ever since. She’s not alone. According to the Recording Industry Association of America, vinyl record sales have risen for the past 16 years, and in 2023 the organization announced that records had surpassed CDs as the top-selling physical medium for the first time ever. (Streaming is still the dominant form of music consumption, accounting for 84 percent of all recorded music revenue in 2022.)

There are many reasons for this surge: a renewed interest in once-abandoned mediums (cassettes and VHS tapes are having a moment, too); a desire for a tactile relationship to music in an increasingly digital world; and the reemergence of the LP as an investment item, complete with limited-run colored-vinyl variants and packages that include booklets, posters, patches and other ephemera.

Like many record obsessives, Kokay’s collection is a testament to her omnivorous taste, proof of the old aphorism, credited to Duke Ellington, that “there are simply two kinds of music, good music and the other kind.” Spread across four shelving units, you’ll find Afrobeat leaning against psych rock, new wave, ambient, exotica, neo-classical, punk and jazz, and even a splash of bluegrass.

The collection brims with both staples—Beatles, Hendrix, Nirvana—and Kokay’s eccentric rabbit holes, including rarities from the elusive British post-industrialists Coil to experimental Dutch pioneers the Legendary Pink Dots to solo efforts from the members of Sonic Youth. She has a shelf full of reggae 12-inches and another of odds and ends, like typewriter-instruction records. It’s all logged on Discogs, an online marketplace and resource for fellow record nerds.

Kokay is fast approaching her self-imposed limit of 1,600 records. “If I hit 1,600, some have to go,” she says. “I don’t want it to be so tight that I can’t browse.”

While she occasionally shops online for the scarcest of titles (“When I have spare money, I’m giving some random guy in Greece $100 for some weird version of something Coil did”), Kokay prefers to find records at stores such as Bradenton’s Jerk Dog Records, just steps from her apartment, where she holds a part-time job. Her Dodge Caravan is easy to spot by its multitude of stickers, including one that reads, “Honk if you love vinyl.”

“I prefer to find things randomly, because that excitement is a little rush,” she says. “Every time I go to a new city or I’m on vacation somewhere, I always seek out the record stores, partly because you’re seeing something cultural of your community. The used records we have at Jerk Dog are from our people in this area.”

Douglas Holland, the owner of Jerk Dog Records in Bradenton.

Douglas Holland, the owner of Jerk Dog Records in Bradenton.

Image: Joe Lipstein

Douglas Holland, owner of Jerk Dog and a longtime friend of Kokay’s, says most of his shoppers aren’t as committed. “I would say big collectors are a very small part, a handful,” he says. “Most people are like me—not purists, but people who purchase music by artists or genres that are particularly interesting to them. I try to keep [my collection] to a couple hundred and trade out things that don’t keep my interest.”

For Kokay, who regularly tears off the shrink-wrap from the sleeves of new records—an act of heresy to some purists—it’s her eternally expanding passion for music that keeps her going. Which is why it drives her crazy when some shoppers buy records simply as décor.

“It’s not a tchotchke,” she says. “There’s actual human emotion inside this object. When you pull the record out of the sleeve and put it on, this whole world opens up.” 

Vinyl Destinations

Looking to build your own collection in the greater Sarasota area? These retailers can you help you get started.

Jerk Dog Records

Unlike some shops, this compact retailer in Bradenton’s Village of the Arts prices its records to sell. You can find a generous selection of used LPs and curated new titles for tastes both commercial and avant-garde. Crate diggers will enjoy the shelves of $3 titles, and the store also sells T-shirts, pins and other accouterments. 1119 12th St. W., Bradenton, (941) 243-7426

Sarasota Music Archive

Located on the second floor of Selby Public Library in downtown Sarasota, this music-rental archive keeps weird hours (10 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Thursday), but if you can sneak in a visit, you might find a steal, since nearly all the records it sells from its single-room shop cost 50 cents. Pop and rock titles go quickly, but classical, opera and jazz are plentiful. 1331 First St., Sarasota, (941) 861-1168,

Salty Dog Records

This narrow, poster-bedecked space in a strip mall in Gulf Gate boasts the largest local selection of new vinyl, priced consistently against the internet’s going rate, along with a sizable amount of rare “holy grail” and audiophile titles in rock, jazz and more. For those in south Sarasota County, there’s a Venice location, too. 2178 Gulf Gate Drive, Sarasota; 234 S. Tamiami Trail, Venice; (608) 751-4814

Show Comments