I’m always so thankful for recommendations and this week thanks to one of those I get to introduce you to Heather Frarey owner of The Record Lounge in Lansing, Michigan for the past 11 years.
I’m the only female sole owner of a record shop in Michigan and I love what I do. I cant see myself doing anything else and have had great support from my family , friends and also customers.
Vinyl is her hobby and her work at the same time, which I can relate to. When she’s not at the shop family is a big thing; she enjoys spending time at home with her husband Bill and Mastiff Alfred. She has two kids Tiffany and Christian (also vinyl lovers) who live in NYC that she visits often and gets to go out and dig through the crates with.
How did you get into your industry / What motivated you?
I was always into vinyl from a young age. I grew up in the 70’s so my mom bought me a lot of 45s growing up. When I got into Jr. High I bought my first album with my own money which was Van Halen‘s first LP. Shortly after I would ride my bike to the record shop (Michigan WhereHouse Records) and bug them weekly to hire me. Finally around 1979 I was hired and I stayed with them from 79-82; I graduated got married and moved away, then we came back in 1988 and went back to work for them. I worked my way up to manager, then into the main offices and warehouse becoming a cassette buyer.
What is a day in the life like?
Each day is really different, you have slow days for sure but there are really great days too. In this business you never know who will come in or what people will bring in vinyl wise to sell to me. Each day is literally a surprise but fun I cant see myself doing anything else.
Favorite sale / relationship made from behind the counter?
I have made a lot of great friends while having this shop, I would really say all of them are special. You get to know what people like and don’t like, so when you get a special vinyl in you always think of what customer would like it. I’ve had a lot of big sales for sure but some of the more memorable ones are ones that were rare vinyl. I sold a sealed copy of Guns N’ Roses ‘Appetite for Destruction’ with the original cover as well as a sealed copy of the Pearl Jam ‘VS’ as well. I always remember those as that is usually a one time deal, I will probably never see again.
In your opinion what has been the coolest thing to come through your shop / thing you had to keep / almost couldn’t put out for sale:
I love funk and soul so I had some original Blaxsploitation LP’s come through like Coffy ft. Roy Ayers, Foxy Brown (that was just recently reissued), Funkadelic- ‘Maggot Brain’ OG, also some cool 80s stuff like The Chameleons UK – ‘Strange Times’, Bikini Kill originals as well. Some of these I kept, but would sell if the opportunity presents itself.
What has been / is the most difficult part of your job?
A lot of people bring things in to sell, some are great but there are a lot of records that just will not sell; so telling people nicely that their mom or dad or grandparents vinyl is not worth much, that is always hard but usually they do understand. All of those Al Hirt or Herb Alpert LPs are just not worth anything.
What has been the craziest experience that has happened at the shop?
When we were in East Lansing across from MSU we would always get some characters coming in the shop, but then we moved in the Reo Town neighborhood of Lansing and here we have a few festivals one called the Three Stacks Music Festival and last year Laura Jane Grace from Against Me popped in which was very cool. Timothy Busfield the actor from West Wing would pop his head in when downtown so things like that are always cool. Another great one was when the 2 Ryan’s (Ryan Horky and Ryan McMahon) caught a shoplifter who had been stealing from us and another record shop down the street for a while. Caught that jerk while I was in Brooklyn, New York during Christmas… it was a great gift.
What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into pursuing what you’re doing?
Well despite how cool it may seem to people it’s hard! It is getting harder to find good used vinyl (the ones that sell well) especially for a good price. I would say know what you’re doing for one, you need to know your stuff about music, what its worth, the places to buy new vinyl wholesale, good people to help along the way is key also.
Looking prices up on Discogs is kind of the go to for us and for things a little more rare I use Popsike. We also sell nice used vintage stereo equipment and I have a retired electrician that sells all of his stuff on consignment here. He services everything before bringing them in so I know I am selling good working equipment that is a big draw as well.
Are you a vinyl collector yourself? What drew you to it?
I do collect, like I said before I like funk/soul – I also like garage and psych stuff that is hard to find. I guess I have always dug collecting, having the shop got me deeper into it.
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.
Well the fact that more women are buying vinyl is wonderful and also more women are starting bands that are really really great which is an amazing thing.
The things that I get annoyed at are the kinds of things that get reissued on vinyl. Don’t get me wrong there have been tons of great titles being released and repressed on vinyl but when I see Herb Alpert – Whipped Cream as well as Henry Mancini come out on 180 gram vinyl I get a little confused especially when I have a bunch in my dollar and free bins. I would say be more selective with what is repressed.
Anything else you want to share?
I am hoping that more ladies get into this, if not owning a shop maybe just collecting. I have seen a big flux of girls coming in buying in the last few years, compared to none when I started 11 years ago.
I love neo soul as well like India Arie, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu etc… its great to see they are releasing more vinyl in this category. Lizzo is a great up and coming lady (she needs a vinyl though) also a artist LiKWUiD she’s another great lady bringing it (thanks to my daughter Tiffany for turning this one on to me).