Meet Danielle, co-owner of Neat Neat Neat Records & Music a record store, event venue, bar and record label in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The store carries new and used vinyl, CDs, cassettes and hifi gear to meet the needs of the new and seasoned audiophile alike, while the label and event venue seek to promote and bring broader awareness to the depth of talent that exists in Fort Wayne’s unique and vibrant artistic community and beyond.
I learned of Neat Neat Neat through work when I was introduced to co-owner Morrison. I get introduced to a lot of guys in the industry but Morrison has an infectious personality so when I found out about Danielle who was equally as awesome and her involvement in the store and label, I had to highlight her.
When Danielle isn’t working:
I’m a student of all things related to consciousness, yoga, meditation, mindfulness and awareness. If and when I have any free time, I practice these and attempt to deepen my understanding through podcasts, reading and audiobooks.
She is also involved in an incredible non-profit organization called The Veteran’s Spouse Project that is made up of I Will Wait, a touring performance art piece, and Made For You, an accompanying expressive arts workshop that works to give a voice to the experiences of military spouses across the generations.
How did you get into your industry / What motivated you?
Music and vinyl specifically have been a huge part of my entire life. I started playing piano at 4 and my parents bought me my first turntable at 8. It was a love I shared with my dad for sure. He has fronted a rockabilly band my entire life and would sit next to me everyday while I practiced. I remember in early grade school spinning albums in my bedroom. My first was Fat Boys “The Twist” 12″ single. Haha. I loved to spin 7″s and a couple of my early favorites were Madness’ “Our House” and The Bangles version of “Hazy Shade of Winter” from the film Less Than Zero with Joan Jett’s “She Lost You” on the B-Side. In my highly emotional junior high school years, I would spend hours burning incense and spinning albums from my dad’s massive collection of early rockabilly and classic rock in the basement of my family home. At 15 my dad started sneaking me into bars to sing a handful of songs for his band, The Bel-Airs.
Fast forward about twenty years to 2015 and I find myself having relocated back home to Fort Wayne with my five daughters post-divorce, after having spent time living in Detroit, Indianapolis, and Brooklyn, NY. Over the coarse of that time, I had spent time pursuing musical theater, fronting a handful of bands, teaching ballroom dance, working as a banker and also as a yoga instructor/ personal trainer. Eclectic, I know. I met my now husband, co-owner Morrison Agen, when I popped into Neat Neat Neat to rekindle my love affair with vinyl. After only a short time together, it seemed to make sense for me to buy into the business and for us to expand. It was at that point that we began the journey of bumping out into neighboring storefronts, and building a bar and a stage. We now encompass the entire ground floor of the once three space building we call home. It was also around that time that the Neat Neat Neat label was brought back from a long hiatus.
What is a day in the life like?
Everyday is a different beast honestly. Depending on the day, I can be found listening to and researching the bands that ask to be booked in our event space, planning events both in our venue and events we sponsor in the spaces of neighboring businesses that we collaborate with and helping with booking and promotion for bands we have signed to our label. Of course a lot of my time goes to unsexy things like making sure we are up to code with all the various departments that oversee the bar and event side of our business, managing inventory, bookkeeping, employee scheduling, listing media on any one of our online selling forums, and social media marketing. All of this is done while also juggling the demands of parenting my five dynamic daughters.
What has been your favorite / the coolest thing you’ve worked on?
The coolest thing I have been involved with to date is the release of James and the Drifters album “The Glow”. The album was recorded in an all analog studio Off The Cuff Sound here in Fort Wayne and was released in February of this year. It has been rare in my life that I’ve witnessed the heightened level of energy and enthusiasm that is created in a room when James and the Drifters take the stage. I have wanted to be involved with bringing this locally recognized magic to the rest of the world since I first experienced them in 2014. This album does a fantastic job of translating that atmosphere through the vinyl medium. The recording is simultaneously warm and multidimensionally clean. It is an album stacked with single-worthy songs from beginning to end. It will rip your heart out with haunting ballads one moment and then have you dancing to rhythms that you feel in your bones the next. Be on the lookout for tour dates in a city near you. 😉
I should mention that this was the first year we were able to serve beer and wine on Record Store Day under our own liquor license. I’m pretty damn proud of all the blood sweat and tears that went into that as well.
What has been / is the most difficult part of your job?
I would say the most difficult part of my job is just the struggles of small business ownership. I think they are the same struggles that are shared with other small business owners, regardless of industry. It truly does need to be a labor of love because the system is not really set up in a way that lends itself towards being supportive for those of us in the trenches. All things considered though, I remain eternally optimistic. Despite the inherent stresses, I get to go to work in a RECORD STORE everyday. I mean, C’mon. How incredible is that?!
What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into pursuing what you’re doing?
Gosh, I have never thought about this honestly. I have always been a voracious reader and most of what has served me throughout my life and career has been self-taught.
Follow your passions. Learn to cultivate intuition. Educate yourself. Collaborate with other motivated and creative people. Be open to unconventional methods. Be resilient. Surround yourself with positive people. Believe in yourself and work your ass off.
Are you a vinyl collector yourself? What drew you to it?
I am, though I have to admit that I collect less since actually being in the industry. If I can sell something that someone else wants, that takes precedent. There are certain things I won’t part with though, like the 1973 Love Serve Remember 6xLP box set that I received as a gift from my husband. It’s so juicy to listen to those call in radio shows and do guided meditation with the pop and crackle of the vinyl albums.
What types of things are happening in your industry / with vinyl that you’re excited or worried about? i.e. innovation, or trends you’re seeing.
You know, a lot of my record store brothers and sisters are concerned about all of the direct to consumer business that is happening in the vinyl industry within the last few years. While I certainly understand their concern, I tend to think that the more vinyl that is being bought, manufactured and consumed, regardless of platform, the better for us as well. We may need to morph a bit and change some of our business practices in order to change with the market, but vinyl as a medium is not just still alive, it is expanding and thriving. It is our job to educate our communities on what brick and mortar stores continue to bring to the table as far as community and customer experience.
Anything else you want to share or are really into right now musically?
I have too many favorite music genres to choose just one, but a few of my favs are soul, post-rock and bands that find themselves straddling the fence between Indie and Americana with a tinge of a pop influence. The two bands that I spin the most right now are James and the Drifters and a band out of North Carolina called The Collection. I’m also loving absolutely anything released from Colemine Records including of course, Neat Neat Neat fav, Durand Jones.
Neat Neat Neat Records: @neatneatneatrecords