Vinyl has long been the chosen medium for music lovers drawn to its warm sound, and throughout its rise and fall and rise again, they had their "Needle Doctor."
For 40 years, Jerold "Jerry" Raskin sold turntables and cartridges — high-end equipment, too — in turn expanding what he described as a "niche" operation into a much-loved enterprise with a global reach.
He would be the first to say he was a real character, too.
Raskin, who started his Needle Doctor business in a small shop in Dinkytown and survived the compact-disc revolution through an early embrace of online sales and a lack of vinyl-centric competition, died Jan. 3 of complications from cancer, his family said. He was 62.
Growing up in St. Louis Park, Raskin developed his entrepreneurial skills at a young age, buying hot new brands of candy with a 25-cent-a-week allowance and selling them to middle school classmates for a profit. At the University of Minnesota, he earned enough to pay the rent, and buy a nice stereo, by selling blank cassette tapes to students between classes.
The backpack he used to tote the tapes still was hanging in his store when he closed it in 2019, his brother Ken said. By then, he'd relocated to a spiffy storefront in St. Louis Park.
Raskin first began selling audio equipment out of the basement of his parents' home and eventually opened a store called Campus Audio. He struggled before realizing his best chance at success was a specialty operation, and after absorbing lessons from 25 marketing books, the Needle Doctor was born.
He also believed in vinyl.
"I listen to CDs when I'm in the bathroom, or when I'm putzing around in the kitchen," Raskin told the Star Tribune in 1994. "But when I'm listening to music, I play records."
About that time, a woman walked into the Needle Doctor angry about a rehabbed turntable she bought at Audio King. Her name was Brigid, and Raskin took an immediate liking to her. "I'm going to sell you a Denon [turntable]," he told her, and while his staff got it ready, he took her out for coffee. They married a few years later.
"I still have the turntable," she said this week.
Brigid saw how his business flourished, with sales to Japan, Australia, Germany and other countries, and also how well he treated his employees — guys like manager Ken Bowers, who worked with him for decades.
"They had Google benefits before there was a Google," his brother Ken said. Raskin also made it a practice to order out for lunch, and joined the crew, too, except on days when he carried Lulu, his Chihuahua, to the former Goodfellow's downtown, where the chef would prepare liver pâté for her — at no charge, Brigid said.
Raskin helped inspire a new generation of vinyl lovers by teaming with the Electric Fetus and others for turntable clinics. He retired, however, after a punishing run of cancer treatments. He took up photography and offered prints for sale, some capturing scenes at Golden Valley Country Club, where he was a member and purchased all of his clothing, said Ken, laughing.
He bought a Jaguar and often drove it cross-country.
Raskin also shared a story, his brother said, about being in the company of doctors unfamiliar with his line of work, and as they discussed a patient, they asked if he was a doctor, too.
"Yeah, I'm a doctor," Raskin replied. "I'm the Needle Doctor."
In addition to Brigid and his brother, he is survived by his mother Jan, daughter Molly Randall Davich and sister Susie Bonthius. Services have been held.
Anthony Lonetree • 612-673-4109