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Economy & Business

Recycled Records Co-Owner Dead At 74

photo of Mark Kessler
Rachel Otwell
Mark Kessler at work in 2018.

It's the end of an era in downtown Springfield. The familiar face that greeted customers at Recycled Records has died. Mark Kessler died Sunday after what is described as a brief illness.

Kessler, 74, was co-owner of the business on East Adams Street, along with his brother Gary. The two took over a furniture store that had been in the family for generations. Eventually, they expanded to records, tapes and CD's.

While still offering items such as jewelry, magazines, audio equipment and much more, the store has become a destination for audiophiles and collectors, as well as those simply looking for a specific release.

A 2018 NPR Illinois profile mentioned how it came about:

Kessler said the transition of the family business into a well-known destination for audiophiles was slow, but eventually the music started to take over. “We put a pole from one wall to the other and had a giant tie-dyed curtain made. And we put that up and then when we added more cabinets and took over more, we just moved the curtain back farther. And eventually we had the upstairs surrounded," he explained. Kessler said after his father passed away, the increased focus on music meant the first floor was taken over too.

After spending a decade in Chicago and moving back to Springfield, Kessler was a regular at garage sales with his brother Gary. They searched for rare and collectible records, deciding Springfield needed a shop specializing in music. In 1978 they started the new part of the business with their collection of 800 or so albums. Now, the used furniture is only in the basement. And there are about 30,000 LPs for sale, said Kessler.

Kessler could usually be found greeting customers, haggling with those looking to sell items and talking about nearly anything else with those who came through the doors.

Even competitors were posting messages online after word spread of Kessler's death.

Dumb Records posted the following on its Facebook page.

"We are deeply saddened to hear news on the passing of Mark Kessler, owner of Springfield staple Recycled Records. Mark has been involved with the vinyl business for a good number of decades with his brother Gary. Mark and built up one hell of a legacy here downtown, doing what he loved up until the last moment. Our condolences to Gary Kessler, Mark's family, and the rest of the Recycled Records crew."

Elf Shelf Books and Music also weighed in.

"I am so saddened to hear of the passing of my friend Mark Kessler from Recycled Records. When I first got the store, Mark was one of the first to congratulate me. He was also always there to be a sounding board, complaint department, and a font of knowledge who I could talk to for hours (if either of us had the time for such luxuries). I will miss him coming down to our end of the block for chicken pot pies from Moxo & bringing his pup, Ace, for some pet time down at John's place. So long, friend! You will be missed."

In recent years, Kessler began planning an exit strategy for the business. He made it known the store was up for sale. Earlier this year, he targeted a closing date of this summer if a buyer could not be found.

“If nobody buys it we’ll continue to run it as is. Then I'll probably just sell everything and close it, and sell the building. I mean, I don't really want to do that. That's kind of a last ditch effort. I also don't want to be here when I'm 82,” Kessler told NPR Illinois in 2018.

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