How long has your store been in business?
We opened in 1999, we just celebrated our 12th anniv. We just won Best Record Store in our local alt. rag, Citybeat, for the 9th straight year. That was exciting.
Are you the sole owner, or do you have a partner(s)?
My brother, Jim, is my partner. I’m the face of Shake It, he’s the brains. We’ve had the same employees (Billy, Taryn & Joe) for about 10 years & the “new guy” (Travis) that joined about a year ago. We are pretty settled.
Where did you get your inventory to start the store with?
We sold a good chunk of our vinyl collections & reinvested it back & kept turning it over & over. We didn’t pay ourselves for 3 years & just kept building the inventory & once we knew it was gonna work we looked for a building to buy – which we did in 2001. We moved from 700 sq ft to what is now about 5,500 sq ft on 2 floors.
Why music? Why vinyl? Is this what you thought you’d do when you were in 6th grade?
Well, 6th grade I was probably still in firefighter or astronaut mode. But I would say in high school when I started REALLY buying records, I thought it would cool to do. I stared working in a few record shops, learning the ropes & then moved to NY to work for a distributor. I’ve always had a passion for music & maybe even more so the way music intertwines with history. I wrote my undergraduate thesis on King Records & the social history that surrounded it.
I’ve always preferred vinyl over CD & well over mp3’s. I started with that format & just kept with it. And, I’ve always loved 45’s. I can tell an obvious difference sometimes but my ears aren’t that picky to be honest. I like the size, the art, kinda like the large print readers digest for us older folks. Plus in the late 80’s thru early 90’s when folks were dumping their LP collections is was great picking & you could easily take chances on stuff that looked interesting. My tastes & horizons expanded tremendously.
Is your store part of the AIMS/CIMS group? If not, why? If so, what advantages does it afford you?
We are part of AIMS under the fearless direction of Commander Eric Levine. It brings ya into the “brotherhood”. It allows me to find answers to questions we are facing – whether it be where to find cheap mailers & cash reg tape to who is the best at stocking such & such…. I can’t really call up my competition & say, “Hey, where do you guys buy Munster stuff from …. ?Or whatever.” With AIMS, I can.
Does your store have an online webstore? Has it been successful (please provide link)?
The only thing we really sell online is our label stuff & a few Shake It related items from friends. We wanna focus on brick & mortar but not everyone has access to a shop that stocks our stuff so we offer it up. http://shakeitrecords.com/Shakeit-catalog.php
Do you sell on Ebay? If not, why? If so, do you feel it helps supplement your income?
We do. Probably about ½ of 1% of stuff that comes in the door. Mostly stuff that comes in that we don’t specialize in or stuff that is exceedingly rare. I would rather put it on the wall & sell it for $20 then go thru the hassle & sell it for $50 on ebay. It keeps people coming in looking for interesting, rare & off the wall items. That is the more important than selling a record to one person in Boise one time just to make an extra $15 before added in labor & materials.
Did your store sign the RSD pledge this year? If not, why? If so, why?
Yes, we signed because it helps protect the brand. Stores that undermine themselves with selling online right outta the gate undercut the importance of what there store is & can be. Its very short sighted & harmful to everyone.
Do you think that having nearly 300+ items for Record Store Day diminishes from the day somewhat? How was your store able to afford to get most of the items this year?
We bought everything on the list. Some we are hoping to get 50 of, other we ordered 1 or 2 just for coverage. I think eventually as it continues to grow RSD will have to negotiate the onslaught – maybe one in april – one in the fall ? or a weekend or a month with records staggered throughout that month like every Saturday a batch is released. I don’t know the answer but I’ve already heard customers respond with “I can’t NEARLY afford everything that I want – maybe ½.”
What are 1 or 2 things you would suggest to help make RSD even better?
All stores limit purchasing to 1 copy per title per customer to cut down on ebaying. I would also like to see more store manufacture their own RSD releases – like in the past we’ve done little limited edition items like our 7” last year with the Seedy Seeds & this year we are doing a live Wussy record. Bring it all back to local cos every band is a local band – somewhere.
What is the rarest item you have ever had in your store and sold? How much did it sell for?
We sold a copy of the first Contours 7” on Finch for a lot (A LOT) & some delta blues 78’s for even more. I honestly don’t like selling really expensive records (like well into the 1000’s) its too intense.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Record Stores in a “digital age”?
I think folks just need to realize that there is a “ leveling off” coming that will settle in where the folks that buy physical will continue to do so, those that buy digital will continue to do so & those for don’t pay for music will continue to do so. I think it would have been here if we hadn’t been hit with the recession. We continue to see the same amount of customers – or maybe even a few more – but folks are just buying less. Which is understandable. All the while it’s the job of the record shop to stay out infront of demand of their customers.
What are record labels doing, that could potentially hinder the rapid resurgence in vinyl records that we’ve seen the past few years?
High prices – some issues with quality although that’s getting better.
What is the “holy grail” in your personal collection, how did you acquire it, and how long did it take?
I’ve been blessed with coming across a lot of interesting stuff digging through basements, storage bins, collections, flea markets & have come across multiple high end delta blues Paramount 78’s , lots of interesting King Records related items – not only records but interesting paperwork, old promotional items & other interesting ephemera which tell the story of the company.
Finish this sentence…..If I didn’t own this Record Store, I’d be a primary research librarian.
A lot of press for RSD is about how stores have “had their best sales day ever!!”. But how do you try to make everyday RSD for your customers and keep them coming back to your store?
The key is to use RSD as a podium to preach the physical record store gospel & bring that customer who only buys online but cant get the Yeasayer 12” anywhere but a physical store back in & reintroduce them to the joy of flipping through the bins, chatting with other “flippers” . I see the attraction of being able to buy something with a click, but I also feel there’s an amazing element of being introduced to items in a physical place and seeing little handwritten notes on records by clerks, taking a chance on an interesting $4 used lp. I see the value of click & yer done… but for me, great moments in my life have happened when I’ve slowed down …. Whether that’s spending a couple hours in a great used bookstore, driving the backroads instead of the highway, sitting & drinking yer coffee instead of getting it to go & running out the door or flipping thru the used bins in store in Lawrence, KS & for some unknown reason picking up a used James Talley that I’ve seen a 100 times before & flipping it & seeing scrawled across the back “Call me God Damnit! Townes” and Townes Van Zandt’s home phone number written underneath. Why did I pick it up? Why did I flip it over? Cos I slowed down.
Honestly, more than anything I enjoy the conversations I have with people & that has been a key element to the success of our store. We don’t have a backroom or office. Everything is done at the 2 counters. We realize you can buy online for many times cheaper but ya can’t have a conversation about yer hope for the 2011 Red’s season, the public transporation debate or how great the Vietnamese Hoagie is at Take The Cake with the guy that’s packing yer Amazon order. All this leads to community and with that comes understanding of each other which – as corny as it sounds – make it a better world. And yer keeping your dollars local to boot and we all know the benefit of that.
If you could get one artist to do an in-store performance, who would you select?
Good question - maybe Mississippi John Hurt, Eddie Hinton, Dusty Springfield, Sun Ra, Hound Dog Taylor, Johnny Cash, The Delmore Brothers, Arthur Alexander, Joe Strummer …. But unfortunately they have all passed on So of those still with us … Tom Waits or Hazel Dickens.
If you could re-issue or re-release an album on vinyl, what album would you choose?
Afghan Whigs : Gentlemen but some beat us to it a few months ago. Probably Eddie Hinton’s “Hard Luck Guy” or “Very Extremely Dangerous” or some of the older Smithsonian Folkways Lps from guys like Mississippi Big Joe Williams or Snooks Eaglin.
Where do you see your store 3-5 years from now?
I see us as we are today – space wise – but more titles transferred to vinyl stock. Maybe expand our book selection abit more. Not really sure because we’ve always moved in the direction that our customers want so they dictate our future direction.
Finally, if you were to mentor someone who was wanting to open their own record store, what advice would you give them that you know now, that you didn’t know when you first started?
Are you Crazy!?!?!?! And if they are carzy enough to well then, God Bless ‘em! Just tell them to start small & keep it tight. Buy on COD , don’t extend yourself, communicate, communicate, communicate with your customers, be passionate about it & let it show.