I tap the Instagram icon on my phone, and there he is. Standing half in the shadows. Arm slung up on the rung of a ladder. Week-old beard. It’s Chet Baker on the cover of his 1977 album You Can’t Go Home Again. I’d never heard the album before. I didn’t even know I wanted it. But now I must have it.
I’m in luck – there are no comments under the photo. So I quickly type “Can you please hold this for me?” In less than 15 minutes, I get a response from Mike Madrigale – owner of Mr. Suit Records in Lancaster. It’s mine. A few hours later I’m dropping the needle on “Love For Sale” – the first track of Side A. Ron Carter’s thick, funky basslines bubble up and Baker’s smooth trumpet tone rides the beat – and I have a new favorite song.
The great thing about the Mr. Suit Instagram feed is that you can scroll through the posts and find a record that intrigues you, make a request for Madrigale to reserve it (and if you’re quick enough to be the first to request a hold, actually get it), pick it up, and be listening to it within an hour. It combines the convenience of online shopping with the immediate satisfaction of brick-and-mortar shopping.
Do some digital digging through Mr. Suit’s crates with this slideshow
I go in to Mr. Suit Records about once a week, but it feels like every day. Scrolling through the Mr. Suit Instagram feed is like digging through a curated crate of some of the most interesting records in the shop. Fans of the feed delight in the photos of record covers – ranging from trippy ’70s soul records dripping with psychedelia to gritty street scenes of New York City punk bands. And Madrigale’s sarcastic brand of humor in the form of off-the-cuff hashtags – combined with his extensive knowledge of music – make for entertaining posts. I’ve seen more than one follower comment on the feed, saying the posts are “the best part of my day.”
Madrigale has found the camera-friendly social media platform to be the ideal outlet for selling records. “With Facebook I can put up a list of ‘Here’s what came in today,’ and that’s helpful,” says Madrigale.
But the visual nature of Instagram seems to work best for him. He finds that people want to see what he has in the store – not a list of the day’s haul of records, but cover art and any special features like inset photos or colored vinyl.
“There’s kind of a thing where you have to see it. It can kind of jog the memory. Like ‘OK, I did want this record. It looks neat.’”
Madrigale, who opened Mr. Suit Records in 2009, set up his Instagram account (which has more than 2,000 followers) in 2013 – when he finally purchased an iPhone. “Usually with all the money I get, it just goes to more records,” he says.
Some friends recommended he try Instagram. Madrigale took to it immediately.
“The posts are super helpful,” Madrigale says. “It’s great because anybody can be looking on Instagram. If they have PayPal I can ship wherever, even if they don’t live in the country. That happens a couple times a week.”
You might think that giving customers that opportunity to reserve records on Instagram might cut down on unplanned in-store purchases, but Madrigale says most customers who reserve records on Instagram also spend time digging through the crates and buy a few more. Madrigale also notes that for every 10 records he posts on Instagram, about nine of them are reserved – and usually fairly quickly.
“There was a Neutral Milk Hotel picture disc that only came out in the UK. That was immediately snatched up, almost before I was done typing,” he says.
Typically, he’ll post a highlight reel of new or rare releases, “If something new comes out that week, I’ll post it or if it’s something that’s been on back-order for awhile, like that MF Doom MMM…Food record. I hadn’t had that in over a year,” he says nodding over to the Doom record on the shelf.
Being relevant to the local music scene is important to Madrigale, too. Lining the walls of his store are releases from local bands like Ton-Taun and Spill, or Billy Synth – a Harrisburg-based artist that I was unfamiliar with. Madrigale, who seems to know every band that ever played, quickly fills me in.
Back in the Fly office, during a little downtime, I cue up the Mr. Suit Instagram feed again to see what’s going on. It’s a pretty eclectic haul today, CAN’s Ege Bamyasi (which I quickly request), a stack of Jessica Lea Mayfield albums (who had an upcoming show at Tellus360), Foxing’s Dealer, Miriam’s Down Today and then a different kind of post. It’s a shot of the counter at Mr. Suit Records that reads “I truly believe I have the best job in the whole world…” before going on to take a playful sarcastic jab at one of his regular customers and ending with the hashtag #recordstorelife.
Need to do some last-minute holiday shopping for your vinyl-collecting friend or family member? And do you also want to slide seamlessly into that shopping session directly after posting that picture of your cat in a Santa hat on Instagram? Follow the Mr. Suit Instagram account @mrsuitrecords and start doing some digital digging.
Mr. Suit Records
118 W. Chester St., Lancaster