Get To Know Your Local Independent Retailer Vol. 14 – Sweat Records

For our 14th Domestic Installation (we’ve had two internationals, but who’s counting?) of our phenomenal, sure-to-be award winning web series, Get To Know Your Local Independent Retailer, I rang up Lauren Reskin (or Lolo as she’s known more cordially) of Miami rockstitution Sweat Records to have a chat about her shop, how record stores affect community and whether or not Iggy Pop wears a shirt when he comes into the store.

Lolo is one of the most involved store owners I’ve worked with and I don’t just mean in the scope of her store. This girl is seriously involved in so many different facets of the fast-blossoming Miami scene and I think we’ve all realized that if independent record stores are going to survive, they have to become cultural and community hubs, rather than simply a destination for commerce. There are few people, if any, who seem to embody this ethos more than our pal Lolo.

And let’s face facts. Any store where Iggy Pop shops (scroll down!) on the regular is probably pretty fucking boss.

1. Tell us briefly about your store.
Sweat Records was started in 2005 as a direct response to Miami having a growing indie music scene but no “traditional” indie record store that could be a hub for our geographically spread-out city.  I was (and still am) a DJ and club promoter and saw more and more people coming out to concerts and events, even though back then it was pretty hard to find out about them.  I started Sweat with my best friend Sara who was in law school at the time, she bowed out in ’07 and is now a super kick-ass public defender.  My current team includes Jason “Jsin” Jimenez who throws renowned Miami hip hop and dubstep parties (((SHAKE))) and Get Low, and Emile Milgrim who owns and operates rad record label Other Electricities.  Our shop is in Little Haiti, synergistically located next door to Churchill’s Pub, one of Miami’s most venerable music venues and is often called the CBGB’s of Miami.

2. What got you into the independent record store business?
I was always drawn to music stores and vividly remember going to Spec’s Music when I was a kid and re-organizing any CDs I saw that were out of place.  In middle school a tiny but immaculately-stocked shop called Back Street Records fueled my obsession and stole all my babysitting money.  When I was 16 I got a job and the freshly-opened Miami Virgin Megastore and worked there until I left to open Sweat in early 2005.  Obviously there is a lot more admin involved now, but I still wholly enjoy just hanging out at the counter and talking about music to the random people that come in.

3. Who are some of your favorite contemporary stores?
Radio-Active Records in Ft. Lauderdale is basically our sister store.  We’re about 25 minutes apart and send each other customers all the time.  They are great guys who are truly passionate about vinyl and they’ve got a great aesthetic.  Other Music in NYC has been a favorite of mine since high school when I would visit to devour their “La Decadanse” section full of French/Japanese/Swedish fantasy pop goodness.

4. How have things been going from a business perspective?
Sales have been going up and up and up.  We just dealt with the street in front of our shop being under construction for over 11 months and still had our best year ever (though we seriously hustled).  It is easy to see that more and more people are taking up buying vinyl as a means to get their music (especially because of the free downloads that come with them – thank you labels who do this for getting it!) and not just a hobby, although that’s on the rise as well.

5. What do you think spells the survival for an independent record store today?
You must be integrated with your community, in touch with your customers, tech-y, and responsive to change and suggestions.  After Hurricane Wilma destroyed our first location, we used our forced move as an opportunity to add an event space, as well as a coffee bar and tables so people could use our wi-fi during the day.  We’ve definitely worked online sales too, in 2011 we launched which sells only our local music, shirts and merchandise.  The sales from that are a nice pad to our bottom line, and it’s awesome to be able to help bands and local artisans take care of their business.  My best advice would be to seek out niches in your cultural community and fill them.

6. What are some of the coolest thing labels have done with you? Instores? Promotions? Sales?
Drag City hooked it up with the “Free Florida” tour that had Bonnie “Prince” Billy doing a series of free shows in record stores in the state, which was completely amazing.  Kudos to them as we’re geographically disadvantaged so we get passed over a lot, even though we have a very healthy concert-going audience down here.  (Labels: MORE IN-STORES, PLEASE!  It shows that artists care about the fans and not just ticket sales.)  I also think Sub Pop’s indie-only “Loser Edition” colored vinyl is rad.

7. Why do we need record stores?
It’s an easy answer but cities suck without them.  I did not want the kids growing up after me in South Florida to miss out on the experience of going into a unique space full of music, posters, odds and ends, etc.  It’s concrete proof that there is a vibrant reality beyond the overwrought mainstream music and lifestyle.

8. What kind of taco is your favorite?
Tofu cubes marinated in fajita spices with lots of guacamole and Cholula.

9. Who are your top 3 favorite bands right now?
Gotta give some love to these local acts who are totally killing it:  Deaf Poets (hyperactive bluesy garage rock), AXE AND THE OAK (post-punk twang), and Holly Hunt (brain-melting sludge rock).

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…”
My favorite thing about our physical store is our art – our whole front outside wall is a two-tone mural of our music heroes by CP1 and it’s been featured on CNN, in music videos, and a ton of other places.  We have other pieces around the shop by AHOLSNIFFSGLUE, the TM Sisters, Federico Nessi & Dino Felipe, famed Little Haiti muralist Serge Toussaint and an insanely amazing saltwater tank installation by marine biology/art collective Morphologic.  The tank is mesmerizing and features these brilliantly colored plooshy round corals that are aptly named “discosoma”.  (P.S. The icons on our wall are Prince, Daft Punk, Iggy Pop, Morrissey, MF Doom, David Bowie, Johnny Cash, Aphex Twin, Billie Holiday, Bjork, Serge Gainsbourg, Notorious B.I.G. and two of the Gorillaz.)

11. What are your goals for the future of your store? Long term and short.
Short-term we just finished our third Sweatstock festival (which celebrated our 7th anniversary and RSD 2012) and are working on another similar sort of day fest.  Long-term we basically want Sweat to be around forever.  There’s an independent bookstore chain in Miami called Books & Books that’s open and growing for over 25 years and we take a lot of inspiration from them.  Miami has a really unique sense of community and camaraderie and we want to make sure everything continues on this great upward swing it’s on.

12. When Iggy comes in, does he wear a shirt?
Not always.

*Photos courtesy of TeaJayPhoto

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