Interests piqued by that infamous question, “What’s The Buisness, yea?!” we searched far and wide, holding court with the guy who runs Gray’s Papaya, Mitch Modell and even Mr. Todd Google himself to find out exactly what is The Business. It wasn’t until our expedition brought us to one of the extreme corners of these United States that we discovered what The Business actually is.
Well, friend, turns out The Business is an excellent record store near the heart of the legendary Pacific Northwest scene – Anacortes, to be more precise. For this installment of the Matablog series your kids will surely be talking about some day, we spoke with the shop’s current owner Nick Rennis.
1. Tell us briefly about your store.
The Business has been a cultural landmark in Anacortes, WA since 1978. Some of the Pacific Northwest’s finest have either worked here or owned the place, including Bret Lunsford (Beat Happening), Phil Elverum (Mount Eerie), and Karl Blau (Karl Blau). From 1995-2004 it was home to KNW-YR-OWN, a DIY label that boasts early releases from bands like D+, Khaela Maricich (The Blow) and more. The Business is now located in the heart of “downtown” and recently became the retail distribution home for K Records, KNW-YR-OWN, Marriage Records, Modern Documents, and P.W. Elverum & Sun.
2. What got you into the independent record store business?
Until I took over the shop, I had been part of the independent music community in almost every other facet: as musician, booking agent, radio dj, promotion, and part of the last wave of folks who were running the iconic Department Of Safety all-ages music/art space here in town. When we decided to close the D.O.S., I needed something to keep me in Anacortes, and The Business was it.
3. Who are some of your favorite contemporary stores?
Being from Chicago, I loved going to Reckless Records and Record Breakers. Recently, I’ve been falling in love with all of these boutiquey shops who aren’t afraid to try new things. It’s a weird time for retail, and I think that these stores who are breaking the mold are going to be the ones who succeed.
4. How have things been going from a business perspective?
Shifting the focus in the store to local, new vinyl has been a really positive step since I took over. We’re a tourist town, and the gateway to the San Juan Islands, so summers are our busy times. We have to get creative in the darker months, but we have such a great community that rallies around all things local. Our free in-stores are really important to us, and the new distribution work is a great supplement.
5. What do you think spells the survival for an independent record store today?
Again, I think that there’s a strong tendency for stores to want to do things the way that they’ve been doing them for the last 10-15 years. That’s a no-go. I think that gradually, stores and their owners will have to devote more time to working with individual labels rather than giant one-stops. It’s more cost-effective and builds relationships that are really important to the independent music community. I run the shop with my girlfriend and we have zero employees. We’re here 7 days a week working on store and distro- stuff, but you’ll never hear us complain. It’s really important that customers have a face they can associate with the shop.
Oh, and vinyl. Stores who are selling strictly CDs are going to go out of business. Sorry.
6. What are some of the coolest thing labels have done with you? Instores? Promotions? Sales?
Obviously, our relationship and involvement in our “scene” helps a lot. What The Heck Fest is always a huge deal in the PNW and I think that the upcoming Unknown series of events will do a great job in evolving those ideas. We only work label-direct, so we do have a close relationship with everything that comes through the store. The labels we work with are passionate about their artists and are always up for in-store opportunities, or getting us display materials for a great promotional window.
7. Why do we need record stores?
There is value in physical media and human interaction.
8. What kind of taco is your favorite?
I WILL EAT ALL TACOS.
9. Who are your top 3 favorite bands right now?
Jim O’Rourke is always up there on my list, and continues to be my favorite. Joan Of Arc is another standby, and I miss these Chicago dudes dearly. Anxious to see what 2012 brings in the Kinsella realm. The newest Fennesz 10″ Seven Stars was great and made me excited about a possible return to Plays or Endless Summer-type sounds. We’ll see what happens!
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…”
I truly love the history of this place. It’s tangible. The move into the oldest brick building on Fidalgo Island intensifies that. Ghosts of the past live here and there’s a lot of unwritten stuff that is so so so exciting.
11. What are your goals for the future of your store? Long term and short.
In the short term, we’re looking to get more kids in town interested in what we’re doing. We don’t sell iPads. Sorry. But we are cool. Seriously.
In the long term, I think we’ll continually grow and get more and more folks inspired to buy music from local artists on new vinyl. We’re also obviously interested in fostering the new, upcoming stuff that comes from our environs. The store has had a motto for a long time which goes something like, “you name it, we’ll promote it”.