by Luis Gomez
First, there were records. Then there were the 8-Track and cassette tapes. Next came CDs. Now music is digital. So, who would open a record shop in 2006 and make a go out of it? And who buys vinyl now? It’s dead, right? Wrong.
The store is Som Records on 14th Street and the owner is Neal Becton. (Som is Portuguese for sound.) After a string of amazingly diverse jobs around the globe, he worked for The Washington Post for 10 years as an editorial aide in the newsroom. Becton then left the Post in 2003 to co-run Crooked Beat Records in Adams Morgan. He had collected records for years and most of his extra income went towards them, so it was a logical move for him.
Then Becton left Crooked Beat after three years to do his own thing. “I always dreamed of owning my own record store. I started telling friends I was going to open a shop and after telling enough of them, I had to go ahead and do it.” He opened Som Records in the downstairs space at 1843 14th Street NW in 2006–on a rapidly changing block just south of T Street near Café Saint-Ex.
Becton says the best part of owning your own business is being able to take a vacation whenever you want. “The worst part is paying for your own health insurance.”
Who Buys Vinyl?
Becton sells new and used vinyl LP’s and the store carries “super rare jazz records to dollar-bin 80s rock and everything in between.” He sells a few CDs, but more than 95% of the stock is vinyl.