Get To Know Your Local Independent Retailer Vol. 13 – Treehouse Records

I’ve never been to Minneapolis but there are a few things I’ve always heard; “Dude. It’s way cooler than you’d think!” or “Dude. It’s a big biking city.” or “Dude. When you get up there, you have to check out Treehouse.” So one day, when I make it up there, I will surely ride a bike over to Treehouse. Until then, I’ll just have to take owner Mark Trehus (yes!) at his word. But by the sounds of it, I’m more likely to run into him in New Orleans… read on.

1. Tell us briefly about your store.

We opened on April 1st, 2001.  From 1973 until then, there was a record store called Oar Folkjokeopus in our spot, which I managed from 1986 until its last day (March 31st of 2001).  We have always been a vinyl-heavy store, concentrating mostly on areas of music that myself and my employees are interested in. Like any good indie store, we have everything from Sun Ra to Hank Williams, from the 13th Floor Elevators to Eddie Bo. We have the best vinyl selection in the state, and carry both new and used. (We do carry a few select CDs, but don’t feel particularly proud about doing so.)  We consider ourselves a RECORD store, pure and simple.  We consistently rate among the best record stores in the country by anybody who knows anything.  No brag, just fact. (ED: #humblebrag)

2. What got you into the independent record store business?

Well, with the old adage of Sex, Drugs & Rock and Roll being the credo during my misspent younger years, I figured that settling into the latter option would be the one most likely to end up without imprisonment , the nuthouse or suicide. I have loved music and have collected records since pre-adolescence. I am still trying to figure out what I want to do when I grow up, and I just turned 57!

3. Who are some of your favorite contemporary stores?

My favorite stores are Peoples Records in Detroit, Michigan, Mississippi Records in Portland, Oregon, and Domino Sound in New Orleans, Louisiana.  All three stores are owned by true music lovers, all 20 years or so my juniors.  The owners and their employees are all very lovely and righteous people, and I am proud and happy to call them my friends.  All of them value love over gold, as do I, and that is what binds us together and soulfully.

4. How have things been going from a business perspective?

I am very fortunate in that regard, as I have other ventures which augment my income.  My store was in the black last year, but a little in the red the previous one.  This year, in a nice turn of events, we have done very, very well–at least by new millennium standards, anyway.  We seem to be back on track toward becoming more profitable again. I hope we have weathered the storm.

5. What do you think spells the survival for an independent record store today?

I don’t believe that there is an easy answer for that.  In this day and age, it seems that all independent record stores need to have a little something extra. For some folks, like Aquarius in San Francisco, it is a strong internet presence.  For Domino Sound in New Orleans, it is having a cheap storefront in a relatively-low income area–coupled with a relaxed, non-extravagant lifestyle. For Mississippi Records, it’s a positive attitude, and an unwavering trust in the basic humanity of people to do right–if you do right unto them too.  And so on and so on.  For me, I am blessed in that I own my own building, have employees who have forsaken personal gain in order to keep Treehouse alive, and have a strong community of loyal, vinyl-loving customers spiritually and soulfully.

6. What are some of the coolest thing labels have done with you? Instores? Promotions? Sales?

In a general sense, the best thing that labels can do for us is to give us (independent stores) records that (a), people actually WANT, and (b), that they can only get from shopping at an independent store.  While many larger labels are unnecessarily fearful of biting the proverbial hand that feeds, smaller labels are offering in-store appearances, price breaks, limited editions or special packaging, etc., by artists that our customers demand.  Specifically, in recent memory, Van Dyke Parks (who has his own small label for his own records) did an in-store with us this month.  This utterly blew my fucking mind!  I mean, come on, VAN DYKE PARKS in our 100-capacity store in the heart of the godforsaken Midwest?  It’s stuff like that that makes me happy that I never went to law school.

7. Why do we need record stores?

Because the soul is being sucked out of our lives by computers and big business. Obtaining music via illegal downloads or on-line sources not only deprives musicians and/or record stores a means to make a living, but more importantly, robs the consumer of an organic, fundamentally-nurturing aspect of the whole gestalt of the music-appreciation process.  Hearing music on an mp3 file on your computer isn’t the same as LISTENING to music. I feel sorry for these fucking kids who don’t get that! The soul is nurtured by listening to RECORDS, on analog equipment, that are (hopefully) bought at a brick-and-mortar, independent, music-loving establishment and listened to AT HOME, on a STEREO SYSTEM.  It is a necessary component of being part of something much, much bigger.  That “something” is a little big to properly define in this small space, but it involves nothing less than the saving of one’s own soul, and keeping one’s integrity in the face of an increasingly greedy and destructive element of society, one which threatens to keep us in check, and to imprison those of us who wish to stay human and t0 love our neighbor as we do ourselves.  The personal and the political truly ARE one and the same, aren’t they?

8. What kind of taco is your favorite?

There is nothing better than authentic tacos al pastor, of course, with a nice red chili pepper salsa.  Is that a trick question? (ED: No)

9. Who are your top 3 favorite bands right now?

Impossible to answer, you know that! But, we’ll say Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Bob Dylan & his band, and whoever I am next going to hear perform live (cuz live music is best!).  Oh, and everybody who records for Matador Records, of course. (ED: Of course.)

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 have a job where I can walk in the door, and there are ALWAYS some pieces of music–new or used, usually both–to listen to for the first time.  I think that many people go to work where at best they hope to merely survive the day.  I get to have fun because even my “work” is enjoyable.  I feel truly blessed to be in this position, and if it all ends tomorrow, I have had one hell of a run.

11. What are your goals for the future of your store? Long term and short.

Short term, to get through the collection of 6000 records I just bought!  Long term, to get by until I am of retirement age, and then I will decide to sell the store and/or building, or otherwise cash in my chips and move to New Orleans.  There, I plan to open Treehouse Saturday Records.  Treehouse Saturday Records will be in a building that I will buy, will likely live above or in back of, and will be open only on Saturdays.  There, I will have an espresso machine, a cooler full of cold beverages, and records that I have gleaned out of my personal collection for the past week, leading up to that Saturday.  I will use money earned in order to eat copious amounts of jambalaya, etoufee, and gumbo, for the rest of my life, getting even fatter, listening to my records, hanging out with music lovers and enjoying great live music, in the city that I love above and beyond all others.

2 thoughts on “Get To Know Your Local Independent Retailer Vol. 13 – Treehouse Records”

  1. Hi Mark;
    this is very inspirational and a good humorous read as well. yeah it’s good you never went to school; me neither, & I do have times when I’m grateful for that. Also that I didn’t get exposed to TV until I was 12 years, and then it was only three channels. holy shit when I go into a big store and see all this crap on big digital flat screens I fear for my 2 year old daughter.

    hope to submit my half on the SPJ Koerner split 10″. the house studio band recordings didn’t yield so (Croakers) so we have a stash of live at Laurel Thirst that sound great but need a protool expert to get them out the the computer. and need the time! to listen, but what I’ve heard sound really good.
    to yor health

  2. Hey! Great article! I enjoyed reading it all the while nodding my head in agreement AND,cuz it sounded just like you-all probably no editing…Far out as we used to say in those grand(?) old days…
    I’m PROUD of you for your staying power in this weird Techno world!
    Hey, Neil Young just came on the radio-spooky!?!

    While I’m not too happy about your long term plans involving a move to Detroit -what happened to moving overseas?!?-I guess I will come and visit you -on a Saturday, of course -cuz I support you in staying true to yourself and admire you living your dream and enjoying the hell out of it too! Keep on keeping on, Cousin Mark! xxoo

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