For this week’s installment, I spoke with Matt Mona of mid-Atlantic mainstay KA-CHUNK!! Records in Annapolis, Maryland. One thing we noticed is that as much as anyone we’ve spoken to, Matt’s heart is pointed in the right direction. This dude loves records and music and everything that comes with owning a record shop in today’s landscape. Some would classify Matt as being “stoked.” Another thing we noticed is how pretty much every other profile has named Chicago’s Reckless Records as one of their faves… just sayin. So read on, my brothers and sisters.
1. Tell us briefly about your store.
KA-CHUNK!! deals almost exclusively in vinyl with a healthy portion of concert and art screen prints. One thing I noticed about a lot of record shops was that they kind of thought of records as a side business to CD’s/DVD’s or they were more geared towards used records. So I figured if I focused first and foremost on vinyl that I could offer a wider selection of new records and carry a lot of stuff that would be neglected in a lot of shops. I was either going to have a CD/Vinyl shop that was ok or hopefully a kick ass vinyl shop. I’d rather have a kick ass vinyl shop even though I’m sure I’m leaving some money on the table by not catering towards CD’s.
2. What got you into the independent record store business?
Records have been something I always thoroughly enjoyed and I never wanted a “real” job so it seemed if I was going to make a run at anything it would be this. I’ve had an online business for many years prior to opening up a shop so I’ve been gradually working my way into opening up an actual shop.
3. Who are some of your favorite contemporary stores?
That’s an incredibly hard question to answer just because I don’t have to the time to go record shopping any more since all I do now is maintain mine and patiently wait for customers to sell me old Parliament, James Brown or Kinks records I can squirrel away into my collection. C’mon, guys! Hook me uuuuup!! I’m so behind the times on current record shops. The last record stores I heavily frequented were Reptilian Records in Baltimore and Record & Tape Exchange in Annapolis and those are long gone. Those are contemporary, right? I think I cheated on this question a bit. Although I really enjoyed Reckless Records in Chicago when I visited and I have incredibly fond memories of Smash Records in D.C. which is still around.
4. How have things been going from a business perspective?
It’s definitely an upward trend but I’m a pretty new shop anyways so that should be expected. I’m basically located between Baltimore and Washington D.C. so more and more customers are making the trek from both cities to frequent my shop. It’s always incredibly flattering to hear when people leave a city loaded with record shops to shop in yours. But bottom line is I’m a healthy business that’s going to be sticking around for a while.
5. What do you think spells the survival for an independent record store today?
This question is just begging me to start talking straight out of my ass. “Please Matt, just start making up bullshit, it’ll be all right!” I’m not a marketing wiz, I really have no idea, plus I’m the new guy on the scene so I hardly have any wisdom to add for people that have been around for a while. The only thing I know is that as a whole we should be making sure Record Store Day is protected. I think it’s an amazing event that generates an incredible amount of publicity and interest into vinyl. Indies should step up their game and not let the major label cash ins rule the day. That event helps me run my business so much better because it gives me a financial backing to carry records that may sit around for a while but when someone does finally pick it up it may change their life. I’m not going to sell a Wipers record every day but if I have some cash in the bank I don’t have to chuck it out of the bin to make room for a better seller.
6. What are some of the coolest thing labels have done with you? Instores? Promotions? Sales?
Sub Pop and Record Store Day helped me publicize my in store performance of Obits in early April. That was an incredibly fun time! I hope to do more of that in the future. And not to preach to the choir or anything but Matador’s Buy Early Get Now program is an amazingly cool thing to do with retailers. It’s promotions like that that really make the indie retail experience a positive one.
7. Why do we need record stores?
Record stores, besides hopefully making the owner money enough to live his or her life, should provide a service to the community. There’s a level of communication you don’t get from shopping online or just pirating MP3′s. It’s about personally explaining to a kid who’s just discovered the Seattle music scene that there’s a history that cultivated that scene and punk didn’t start at any one band, it’s a growing evolutionary process. Someone influenced Nirvana and someone influenced Iggy & The Stooges. It goes beyond music too. It’s just about creating a better community for people where we can all gather and share tastes and common experiences. It just makes for a richer society.
8. What kind of taco is your favorite?
First of all, thank you for posing this after the last question. I need a breather after that one. Oh, man! I’ve been getting loco on Doritos tacos waaaaay too much. Justin, stop calling me at 2am to get loco! These sad taco parties in the parking lot of Taco Bell have to stop!! We’re grown men for God’s sake!
9. Who are your top 3 favorite bands right now?
Any and all Billy Childish bands, which band is he in now? I have no idea. How can anyone keep track!? Thee Oh Sees who put on an amazing show in Baltimore not too long ago. And JEFF The Brotherhood. I’m probably annoying my customers by playing all three at every waking hour.
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…”
Probably the building itself. It has a beautiful Art Deco movie theatre style facade out front with glass tiles and an amazing marquee that hopefully I can get a band to play on one day. I’m probably going to take the funds from this last Record Store Day and invest it into restoring the signage. I’m heavily biased but I think it’s the most unique building in the city of Annapolis. It’s a privilege to run a store out of it.
11. What are your goals for the future of your store? Long term and short.
Maybe I’m a terrible business owner but I don’t have huge goals. I just want a cool record store that customers appreciate. Anything I can do to facilitate that is both my short term and long term goal.