For Volume 3 of our groundbreaking featurette, we dug in with Sharod Bines and Bradley Ellison, the two Floridians who run Retrofit Records. These guys rule and apparently have the kind of taste that would fit right in at Matador HQ. I dig them because they say “motherfucker” a lot.
That photo down the bottom there that’s Sharod and Bradley with a special friend. They’re clearly radical dudes.
1. Tell us briefly about your store.
SB: Retrofit Records is located in Tallahasee, Florida, in the heart of downtown Tallahassee. Our store is about 950 square feet. Within our small space we host in-store performances, community events like BBQs, potlucks, listening parties, and anything else fun that we can think of! About 95% of our stock consists of new and used vinyl, while the remainder consists of about 60-80 CDs (at any given time), shop related apparel, a few publications, vinyl accessories, and new record players.
2. What got you into the independent record store business?
SB: A love for music and the need to contribute in a bigger way to our city’s music scene. That, and we’re the only record store in town where you can find new and current released music. Before we opened it was a little embarassing when a band came through town and would ask us to direct them to the nearest record store and we’d have to tell them none exist. Now that we’re open, we just direct them to our shop!
BE: Honestly, it also felt necessary for us (instead of anyone else) to start the store. We, to put it bluntly, are music nerds, and our knowledge of music is a little more intense and comprehensive than many other people in our town. So it really came down to who would be capable, willing, and knowledgable enough to present and sell music to our town. Plus, It’s a handy tool for instructing and recommending albums to people based on maybe one band that they are into.
3. Who are some of your favorite contemporary stores?
SB: Radio-Active Records in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, Vinyl Richie’s Wiggly World in Orlando, Fl, and Criminal Records in Atlanta, GA
BE: Aquarius Records
4. How have things been going from a business perspective?
SB: So far things have been great! I don’t come from a retail background at all (never even worked a register before now hah), so I was definitely nervous about opening a record shop. However, we actually lucked out, as in, we opened a week after major construction concluded on the main thouroughfare where our shop is located, and we opened a week before fall semester classes started, which really has helped sales and word of mouth regarding the shop. Even one of the universities interviewed us and put the article on the front page of their “Arts & Culture” section, which was really nice! So far this year has been great for us! We’re hoping 2012 goes just as smoothly.
BE: Some people have questioned our logic and asked aloud “why start a vinyl store when music sales are on the decline?” We’ve proved the naysayers wrong pretty quickly by succeeding at our mission.
5. What do you think spells the survival for an independent record store today?
SB: SUPPORT within the community! I can’t stress that enough. Considering that we’re the only contemporary record store in our city, we’d like to hope that people would treasure something like what we’re doing, and would want us to succeed and therefore inspire others within the community to create their own cultural exchange, no matter what form it comes in, be it music, art, culinary, etc… That being said, a large part of the onus lies with us. Part of our job as a record store is to inform and educate the public/scene on what’s available. You know, not just what’s cool or new, but what’s out there beyond mainstream radio and TV.
BE: The size and focus of a store is also important. There’s no way a store can survive if it becomes bloated and tries to appeal to everyone’s slight whim. We saw a store in town fall apart by trying to grow and grow – Vinyl Fever RIP – but let’s face it: with the rise of the Internet, plus with the dreck that passes for mainstream music, most people no longer see the need to buy records. But there are always music fans out there, willing to dig and listen to new things. By keeping small, you can provide a more diverse collection of music and you don’t compete with chain stores in any way.
6. What are some of the coolest thing labels have done with you? Instores? Promotions? Sales?
SB: At this point we haven’t done as much as we would like to with labels, in fact we want to do a lot MORE! Maybe the labels are waiting to see if we’ll be around in a year, or maybe they just want us to buy more inventory haha. It’s cool though, the labels we work with send us the usual schwag (posters, promos, limited edition stuff, etc..), which we more than appreciate. Some labels don’t send us anything! Either way, we’ve hosted some really fun in-store shows and events with the likes of Nobunny, Shannon & The Clams, Moon Duo, Jacuzzi Boys, Cheveu, Paul Collins Beat, etc… Oh yeah, almost forgot Keith Morris (Black Flag, Circle Jerks, OFF!) came by the store and bought a bunch of records, which was pretty cool!
7. Why do we need record stores?
SB: Who doesn’t need a hang spot where you can listen to awesome records?!
BE: Why do we need to breathe? Why do we need to love? Because otherwise, life would be life would merely be a dull, inescapable throbbing pain.
8. What kind of taco is your favorite?
SB: I don’t eat tacos often, but I’m a pretty straight forward guy. So I’ll have to go with the original: ground beef, lettuce, tomato, and shredded cheese.
BE: Oh my god! The taco, you see, is imperative to life. I prefer using tempeh and vegetables (done the same way that typically comes in a fajita), adding some guacamole and melting some cheese on the motherfucker. And before you ask, yes it’s in a hard shell. Goddamn, maybe I should start a Mexican food cart.
9. Who are your top 3 favorite bands right now?
SB: The Spits, Yussuf Jerusalem, and Davila 666!
BE: How cruel, cutting it down to three. Anyway, lately I’ve been obsessing over Sun City Girls, Dungen, and The Bug.
10. What is your favorite thing about your store? And you can’t say the customers. That’s like saying Einstein or Ghandi when asked “If you could meet one person, living or dead…”
SB: Fulfilling one of my dreams! ..and the pride of ownership. It feels really nice to work hard for something and then see it come to fruition, there’s nothing like it.
BE: Swag. No but for real, it’s what i’ve wanted to do since I was a kid.
11. What are your goals for the future of your store? Long term and short.
SB: Retrofit Records world domination?!
BE: Surviving and thriving motherfucker!