Bernie Naworski, owner of Play It Again Sam, has devoted the last 38 years of his life to the repair and sale of vintage audio equipment. Much has changed since 1979 when Bernie first opened his doors to the public. Then, audio equipment was designed with both form and function in mind; it was considered to be a semi-permanent piece within one’s home that was intuitive to operate and easy to repair. Now, consumer culture has shifted away from permanency, towards one driven by the 2-year upgrade model. Upgrades sold as improvements in quality have become more of a status symbol then actually adding anything of real value or substance to the consumer.

In the time spent at Play It Again Sam we saw no signs of a waning business. In fact, there appears to be a renewed interest in analog sound and all that comes with it. We learned from his staff that cassette tapes, a technology loathed by those who had to fast-forward to their favorite song, are experiencing a resurgence in popularity.  We were fortunate to hear demonstrations of this “outdated” equipment that actually outperforms many of the “high end” surround sound systems sold today.

If you have equipment in need of repair or simply crave the smell of old stereo by all means visit Play It Again Sam at 14311 Madison Ave in Lakewood, Ohio. Special thanks to sound artist Richard Chartier for granting us permission to use his works in this edition of Behind the Sign.

Cleveland SGS is a homegrown group of street archivists and artists who, since 2006, have investigated the hidden meaning of Cleveland’s commercial narrative, one block at a time. From scrapyards to clothiers, hair care to daycare, and back alleys to bar stools, SGS painstakingly chronicles the homemade imagery that makes up so much of Cleveland’s landscape. Drawing heavily on the stories, images and visual vernacular they unearth in their travels, SGS produces video, paintings, and installations deeply entwined with the city’s pulse.

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