Feature: What Record Store Day Means To Me

So here we are, on the eve of another bi-annual Record Store Day, and I take time to reflect on what record stores mean to me. I am a product driven person. I do not look forward to some sort of “technologically advanced” future, where all music is bought/sold/traded/acquired in the format of just a file. Or download card. I hear of people THROWING away their hard copies after ripping them to their computer and it makes me ill. Physically. Ill. I refuse to pay for 1’s and 0’s. I will not. I want something tangible in my hand and that’s that.

As a former record store owner, the arrival of this day, now twice a year, makes me nostalgic for my old store. “It’s easy” proclaimed my old friend and former record store owner (Last Wax) himself the late Kelly Parker. “It’s easy”. Those words still ring in my memory as if it was yesterday, and were the solidifying words that made me decide to open my own. It had been a dream of mine in high school to own a store, to be surrounded by the music I wanted to sell, and by the people who wanted to buy said music. “It’s easy”. They still hang right there, as if we were still in his living room on a cold early January evening. He never said it would be so expensive.

Being a creature of product, there wasn’t any way I was putting my collection in the store. No way. I had no idea this was how most record stores really started. Which is why I opened Slacker Kingdom with a 1/10th full store (and that’s being generous). I remember the week leading up to my initial opening day. It was a dreary rainy day and the UPS carrier brought me my first box of Caroline Distribution titles. One box. A $600 check later, and I knew I was in deep. Oh God, I thought, what have I done? There were some great titles in that box, just not nearly enough to look impressive. So I did what any novice merchandiser would do: spread them out, face everything I could, and hope it looked fuller than it was. And I did a mediocre job of it.

As time wore on, my inventory grew, and within 4 months or so, it was looking like a real store. I was happy, but still broke. This would be the same story for all 20 months I kept it open. Burnout hit fairly soon, as I was the only real employee, besides my one friend, Sean Brown, who volunteered from time to time so I could do something else for a change. He got a whopping 10% discount for his troubles. I could seriously never repay him for his help.

But again, I was living my dream, and I was happy I had taken the leap. The entire basis for my clientele was based around the nightclub Mad Hatter’s being just down the block, I knew I would have a built in clientele as long as they were there. In the Winter of 1994, though, they decided to take on a bigger space, re-envisioning Mad Hatters as The Engine Room. Therefore I moved accordingly. On paper and in theory, this was my best move; I could move into a section of The Engine Room building and cut my overhead well in half. Perfect. Hindsight being 20/20, this wasn’t a good move. The area in which The Engine Room was moving had nearly zero foot traffic or traffic period. People had to make special trips to the club or the store and only for the sole purpose of going to either destination. Burnout had fully set in at the new location, and my hours were sketchy at best. The newly christened Record Lounge opened in February 1995, and would hold onto life for another 8 months as sales leveled and never climbed upward. I decided to let it go on my own terms and not drive it fully into the ground. It was finished.

I miss my record store ownership days. At the time, there wasn’t a celebration for independent record stores. It was a fend for yourself attitude versus big box stores that were honing in on indie stores titles and slashing them as loss leaders. This would be where the majority of us would lose the war.

So please, be sure to take advantage of Record Store Day, get out there to your local indie retailer and let your dollars do the talking. And as a whole, let’s make every day Record Store Day. They need your business, they need your patronage, and they need your support.


~ by thesynaptic on April 15, 2011.

One Response to “Feature: What Record Store Day Means To Me”

  1. That’s a huge collection! Any way I could use the image from your article for a blog article advertisement about Album Art History? Please feel free to email me if so.

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