Today is the second of the 2020 Record Store Day drops, so no better day to highlight a small business owner, Amy the co-owner of Spoonful Records in Columbus Ohio. Brett and Amy met at the Columbus Museum of Art and opened the store in 2010. Amy’s role is as the used collections buyer & bookkeeper.
When she’s not at the shop she is playing pinball competitively, which is a pretty amazing thing to do when not at the record store. She also paints, bikes to work, and makes fresh pasta. Up until Covid hit, she was a nursing home DJ. “I have a little set up and a crate of oldies (Paul Anka, Hank Williams, Glen Miller, Ella Fitzgerald, Freddie Cannon, Rosemary Clooney), but I’m not sure if that will ever be allowed again.”
How did you get into your industry / What motivated you?
My now husband lost his graphic design gig at a museum 11 years ago. He was looking for something to do with music locally, and I suggested that he start a record store. We did it on a shoestring. Five years ago, I quit my museum gig to be at the store full-time.
What is a day in the life like?
My husband and I work a lot. The store is open 7 days a week, we each get one day off. We have three super-part-time staff, so we wear all the hats–customer service, marketing, advertising, order new vinyl, work on used collections, order supplies, ring out the customers, clean the store, etc.
As the used collections buyer, I talk to all the people about their records for sale, evaluate the collections that come in, make the offers, and clean and price over 100 vinyl records a day.
What has been your favorite sale / relationship made from behind the counter?
Repeat customers are easy. Remember their names, learn what they like, show them things in their wheel house. The truly remarkable relationships are the repeat sellers. I really appreciate the folks who keep coming back to me to sell me more or send their friends my way. That means I treated them well and they recognize it.
One of my favorite relationships is an older gentleman named Denny. I bought all his records off him several years back, but we’ve kept in touch to talk about pinball machines, and every once in awhile he calls me with a pinball question or he’s out at an auction site and wants to know if he should buy something or not. I love that.
In your opinion what has been the coolest thing to come through your shop / the thing you had to keep / almost couldn’t put out for sale?
There’s just one thing in ten years that I couldn’t part with. It’s framed and on my wall at home. It’s a Voice-O-Graph First Class Mail record with airmail stamp postmarked Sept 9th, 1952, from Private Tolbard to his wife. Sent from San Francisco, it’s a sweet recording from a man shipping off to the Korean War, he calls his wife beautiful about 30 times and says he’ll be back in about 9 months. It’s smaller than a 7″ single and plays at 78rpm.
What has been the craziest experience that has happened at the shop?
One time I went to a guy’s house. He was moving to Florida and wanted to sell his record collection. There was just junk everywhere. Rusty dishes in the sink. A huge, overflowing ashtray on the sofa. Plaster falling off the walls. A pool table piled high with electronics. His dogs got out and slobbered me. Like literal slobber dripped off my arm. He sprayed it with Windex and I wiped it off with a paper towel. I was getting ready to bolt, but then I got sight of his records. While we were chatting and surveying the collection, I asked him what kind of drugs he took in the 70’s, and he got really close to my face and whispered “I dropped acid, when the acid was puuuuuuurrrre.” Whelp, my mistake. Anyway, I came away with a carload of Sun Ra, Klaus Schultze, Can, Faust, Frank Zappa, Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire, and other far-out obscure stuff. It was awesome, but I’m still kind of disgusted.
What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into pursuing what you’re doing?
It’s nothing like Empire Records. Running a record store is much more about customer service and talking to strangers than it is about listening to music.
It is retail work and very interpersonal. Only do it if you like people.
Are you a vinyl collector yourself? What drew you to it?
It’s strange. I’m completely beholden to vinyl (the sound, the format, the artwork, the whole package) but, because I’m surrounded by records 24/7, at home and at the shop, I don’t feel much need to tuck away records for myself. I’m always thinking about which customers might want what and feel a responsibility to hook them up. If there’s something I really dig, I’ll spin it a few times for myself and then I can let it go. That being said, I do have a pretty sweet Joni Mitchell collection.
What has been / is the most difficult part of your job?
The key to working well with your spouse is the separation of responsibilities, but it’s just the two of us and a lot to do. You have to delineate roles or you step on each others’ toes and get defensive and hurt. So keeping up a great relationship with my husband has been hard sometimes, but we are still learning how to support and encourage each other.
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.
One of the things that doesn’t get talked about enough is the lack of audio equipment servicing available. All the shops that used to fix turntables and replace needles seem like they are closed or closing or the people that run them are approaching retirement. We definitely need more young people to open up equipment repair shops.
During this time we’re currently in, what message do you have for music and vinyl fans? How can we support you, the industry?
At the moment, most music lovers are shifting their concert ticket budgets towards physical media, so there’s not been any downturn, really. People are buying records because listening to records at home is a great pandemic activity. But the concert venues are really hurting, and I think the fallout there is going to be grave. So let’s be ready to support venues in their new capacities and be receptive to new ideas when it comes to experiencing live music.
Tell me what you’re listening to right now: