The Jazz Record Mart (JRM) closed its doors in February 2016, and at the time it seemed to mark an end of an era in Chicago. But Bob Koester, owner of Delmark Records, has opened a new store, Bob’s Blues and Jazz Mart, carrying on the tradition of selling rare jazz recordings.
Koester’s JRM was a store a that had an expansive inventory of jazz and blues recordings from many labels and years, making it the go-to place for recordings by artists like Memphis Slim, Honey Boy Edwards, Louie Armstrong, Count Basie and others. The business owner is also the founder of one of the oldest, most respected jazz and blues record labels in the world, Delmark Records.
Koester’s passion for jazz and blues music began when he was a kid growing up during the Big Band craze of the 1930s and ‘40s. That passion for music has stayed with him throughout the years and he’s made it his life’s work to make it available to everyone.
It’s that passion that helped Koester—following the sale of the name and inventory of the JRM to Wolfgang’s Vault, an online music memorabilia seller back in February 2016—to quickly open another jazz and blues record store in the front of the Delmark’s headquarters a few months later. Of course, Koester quickly outgrew that space and has opened up Bob’s Blues & Jazz Mart located at 3419 W. Irving Park Road in Chicago.
The new store is a large storefront featuring three rooms full of jazz and blues records, CDs and cassettes from many artists.
“Retailing is fun and some people offered me some record collections that I couldn’t pass up so it just grew from there,” Koester says. “Now we have a great stock of jazz, both early performances and contemporary musicians playing traditional jazz.”
Koester has every label that you can imagine as well as a decent collection of 78s.
“We are buying collections small and large. We got one collection in today and all of the records were pretty much mint condition that you can darn near shrink wrap them!”
The new store is also open to taking on new merchandise as well as a lot of artists “producing their own records,” says Koester, adding he’s hoping many musicians will stop in and talk about placing some of their recordings in the store just like the artists used to do at the Jazz Record Mart.
As Bob’s Blues continues to grow, Koester has plans to present live jazz and blues performances in the space as well as showing his jazz and blues films on his vintage projectors.
“I have quite a library of films. I’ve always told people that I was going to be a filmmaker who collects records, but now I’m a record maker who collects films.” The new location on Irving Park Road is between Kimball and Bernard and has street parking right in front, which is a challenge for a business owner.
“It’s been fun opening this new store although it’s not a great location for foot traffic, however I do have a lot of people thanking me for not being downtown because of the very easy street parking.”
It seems Koester’s new store is set up for success thanks to the overflow of their stock of jazz and blues recordings, all in a very cozy, inviting layout. Bob’s Blues and Jazz Mart is open Monday through Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information visit delmark.com/bluesandjazzmart or call Koester at the store at (773) 539-5002.