Monday, January 7, 2008

"Brooklyn pair profits from Vinyl comeback"

from - BY Lore Croghan - Daily News business writer

Are you kicking yourself because you threw away all those records you listened to decades ago? Do you miss the sound and feel of vinyl?

You are not alone.

Growing numbers of audio fans are listening to records at home and using digital music players for when they're on the go. Increasingly, indie bands are skipping the CDs and releasing their music on records as well as on digital MP3 files.

Vinyl was largely phased out in the late '80s by the rise of CDs, though it remained the darling of club deejays. But now, it's making a modest comeback with nostalgic baby boomers and the under-35 crowd alike. And a Sunset Park, Brooklyn, plant is profiting from the trend.

At Brooklynphono, where two rebuilt '70s- and '80s-vintage presses make hot vinyl into records, sales have grown every year since 2003.

The work load is so heavy that, until company co-owner Thomas Bernich, 36, finishes rebuilding three more pressing machines, he and his wife aren't seeking out new clients.

"We have to be careful not to bite off more than we can chew," said Fern Vernon-Bernich, 35.

As she spoke, workers on the factory floor below their office slid new copies of '60s and '70s Motown singer Bettye LaVette's album "Do Your Duty" into record jackets.

Half of Brooklynphono's work is for reissue labels that offer older music like LaVette's. The rest is new releases from indie labels.

Reissue label Sundazed Music in upstate Coxsackie is a repeat customer.

"They speak my language," said owner Bob Irwin, whose vinyl releases run the gamut from '60s garage band the Remains to music giants Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan.

Bernich grew up in Flatbush, Brooklyn, and studied to be a sculptor at Pratt Institute. While he was in college, he interned at Island Records. "I was already in love with vinyl, but that really sealed the deal."

Before starting the company in 2001, Bernich did construction work and designed modular furniture (which he never produced).

His mother, Erika Handler-Bernich, who runs an importing business, helped finance Brooklynphono's launch, and she and her daughter-in-law jointly handle the books.

The company got off to a slow start. Bernich had to find machinery, rent a factory on 42nd St. — which he later bought for $1.4 million — and set up a production system. He didn't start pressing records until 2002.

Bernich hired John Aiello, who supervised 80 vinyl presses at Specialty Records in Lackawanna, Pa., to teach him how to operate the equipment and trouble-shoot the glitches.

Early on, Bernich paid Aiello a couple hundred dollars a day for his Saturday visits to Sunset Park.

Sales picked up in 2003 after Vernon-Bernich — who grew up in North Miami Beach, Fla., and worked as a knitwear designer for Liz Claiborne — became Brooklynphono's production manager.

Sales doubled in 2004 and again in 2005, then tripled to $290,000 in 2006. They were almost $400,000 last year.

Vernon-Bernich, whose musical tastes range from '70s house music to early Aerosmith, loves listening to records.

" 'Sweet Emotion' sounds best on vinyl," she insisted.

At first, she freelanced part-time for Liz Claiborne, then decided there was too much to do at the record factory.

"It was all-consuming," she said.

On sweltering summer days when they couldn't bear to operate the presses, the couple would wait till night to finish jobs and avoid missing deadlines — even when she was pregnant.

A year ago, Vernon-Bernich cut her hours to part time following the birth of their daughter, Hazel. But Vernon-Bernich plans to return full time and focus on winning new accounts next year, when Hazel will start day care.

By that time, they hope, the three presses Bernich is rebuilding — he bought seven old machines to scavenge for parts — are expected to be finished.

Once those presses are operating, the couple plans to add at least three new staffers, which besides them includes three full-time employees, one part-timer and an intern.

Brooklynphono handles orders as small as 100 records and charges $1 for each record they press. While out-of-state competitors charge 86 to 91 cents, local indie music producers say they can save hundreds of dollars in shipping charges by picking up their records from the plant.

Also, some choose Brooklynphono because they can stop in and check on the work being done for them.

"They're so meticulous," said Nico DeSimone, who owns Park Slope, Brooklyn, indie label Wonderwheel Recordings, which produces his own and other artists' Latin, funk and Afrobeat dance music.

"A lot of errors can happen in the vinyl-making process," said the deejay, aka DJ Nickodemus. "They nip mistakes in the bud."

- Be sure to visit Brooklyn Phono's site @

photos from Rosier/News ©

1 comment:

Spyder ~ said...

Nifty. Will have to check it out.