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Erika Records Founder Looks Back on 40 Years of Pressing Vinyl

Throughout its existence, Erika Records has remained a family business: Dunster’s husband, Charles, does “anything that needs to be done,” she says, while son Janos “John” Schermerhorn is operations manager and daughter Erika lent her name for the company. Erika Records is also an innovator: As CDs boomed in the 1980s, it stayed afloat thanks to its out-of-the-box designs. Erika is now the largest manufacturer of custom records and picture discs in the United States. It’s also the first plant to use lead-free PVC for all of its pressings, taking a greener approach to vinyl manufacturing.

“When Third Man was preparing to open our own pressing plant, Liz welcomed us to Erika, gave us an in-depth tour of her facility and even took our team out for lunch,” says Ben Blackwell, co-founder of Jack White’s Third Man Records, which opened its manufacturing facility in Detroit in 2017.

To commemorate Erika Records’ 40th anniversary, Dunster, 67, discusses the uphill battle of the nostalgia business and vinyl’s bright future.

Courtesy Photo

From left: Michael Jackson’s Thriller picture disc, Erika Records’ largest reorder to date; Misfits’ “Monster Mash” glow-in-the-dark 7-inch, pressed in 1999; space shuttle Columbia-shaped picture disc, pressed in 1981.

Does it feel like you’ve been doing this for 40 years — or 400?

It feels like a lot. (Laughs.) I’ve got a lot more gray hair, a lot more wrinkles. But I love it. I won’t give it up. I tell people I can cut my veins and PVC will come out — in different colors. It really is in my blood, but trust me, my body feels it after all this time.

How did you get into this business?

I had my own label, and I didn’t like the quality I was getting. My father at one time built presses, and I asked him if he would help me build some. He said, “No, your job is to stay home and have babies” — very old-fashioned. He said, “You being a female, you won’t make it in this industry,” because it was male-dominated at the time. So I saved enough money to buy my first machine shop in Signal Hill [in Los Angeles] and asked my father again if he’d help me, and he goes, “Hell, no!” I thought, “OK, I’m not going to have my own pressing plant.” Then I said I was going to go into law and wanted to be a judge, and he finally gave in and helped me build my first two presses.

Rather than have you go into law?

Yes. He didn’t want me doing that. He was like, “You’ll probably get killed in the first two weeks.” But that’s OK, because music was my real love and passion.

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