Scratching out a niche with vinyl

When David “Twist” Haraldsen moved from Maui to Kaua’i nine months ago, he came to open the island’s only vinyl record store. Despite cornering the market, he was surprised at the demand for vinyl.

“It’s amazing how many people just collect records here,” he said from behind the counter of Off Da Hook Records’ cozy location in the Nawiliwili Harbor Mall.

Twist has done OK for the five months he’s been open, despite not advertising. Instead, he relies on the island grapevine, the most powerful advertising money can’t buy … word-of-mouth.

“I’ve got a pretty consistent group of regulars,” he said.

Though no regulars stopped by Friday morning, two decidedly non-regulars — West Virginia residents straight off a cruise ship — popped in, seeking out some authentic island music for their 5-year-old granddaughter. Twist happily pulled a couple of CDs off the shelf and played them over the stereo, interrupting O’ahu’s own reggae sensation, Ooklah the Moc.

While his wife weighed the merits of a percussion-heavy selection, Butch Ferguson eyed a used turntable on the counter wistfully.

“If I didn’t have to take it back on the boat, I’d buy one of those right now,” he said. “I’ve been looking for one for a long time.”

And the market expands.

The occasional turntable resale, however, barely causes a ripple in Off Da Hook’s waters. Half of Twist’s sales come from CDs, T-shirts and stickers, what he calls “big sellers.”

The other half is all vinyl, which he sells at $3 a pop, for the most part.

“There are some other records I would sell for more, but only for the right offer,” Twist said, glancing up at original pressings of Curtis Mayfield’s “Superfly,” Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit” and the “Shaft” soundtrack, among others, lining the wall.

Twist specializes in the hard-to-find and underground, sticking mostly to reggae and hip-hop. He said the most difficult record to find right now is Bunny Wailer’s solo album, “Rootsman Skanking,” recorded shortly after the death of bandmate Bob Marley.

He can get pretty much anything in about two days if he doesn’t have it in stock, and though he clearly enjoys the business side, Twist contributes on the artistic side as well.

A deejay for 12 years, Twist was twice voted “Best of Maui” in the Maui Times. Most of his gigs are on O’ahu and Maui, though, because Kaua’i lacks venues and interest, he said.

That’s something Twist hopes to change. He’s been tossing around the idea of hosting a mix-off with a cash prize, to draw out the closet deejays.

“There’s quite a few deejays that just play in their bedroom and you’d never know,” he said.

Twist is also a dedicated promoter of local wares, like Kauai’s own Knockout Hawaii and Au’rai clothing lines, the latter of which he’s the only authorized dealer outside of the Internet.

But the value of vinyl is all too clear as Twist showed off two prized possessions, both original pressings of 1980s movie soundtracks. The first, “Beat Street,” he found on eBay. The second, “Wild Style,” worth “a couple of hundred dollars,” he bought for 50 cents in Maui.

“The one thing I really like about music,” Twist said, “you can always recycle it.”


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