Meet Tara Wyatt, the owner of Tumbleweeds in Niantic CT, when we got in touch with her she was in the process of going through a collection of over 30,000 records! The shop is a story of a daughter continuing her dad’s legacy. Tumbleweeds is family owned and operated, tag-lining themselves as a ‘blast from the past’! They’ve got a mix of vinyl from decades past up to the present carrying new and used vinyl, cds, and tapes with everything from blues, jazz, and R&B, to rock, funk-soul, reggae and more. An additional endeavor includes another location about two minutes from their main spot which holds overflow from Tumbleweeds, as well as vintage audio equipment, discount records, and dollar bins.
When Tara was asked what she does out side of work, well “I basically dig in records all day and night, hmmmm…“, then follows with hiking, live music, and museums. “I’m all about being outside or into some kind of cultural enrichment. I actually have an environmental / marine science degree, so being a tree loving hippie is kinda my thing too.”
How did you get into your industry / What motivated you?
I grew up in my dads record shop, which he opened in 1974! I’ve been working here since I was 15. When I lost my dad in 2006, I made the big decision to give the shop a go, and keep with the legacy he started. Saying he was a music man is a complete understatement. He was practically a walking encyclopedia of music, so I took what knowledge I had and ran with it.
What is a day in the life like?
Well, dust and lots of cardboard and plastic crates that lead to endless collections of amazing music, stories and lives! I buy and sell, so digging in personal collections when you find some amazing history through the records is the gem of the entire job. It’s fascinating what I’ve seen over the 25 years I’ve been doing this!
What has been your favorite sale / relationship made from behind the counter?
That’s a long list! I’ve got handfuls of customers who’ve ended up employees over the years, some still here. But the friendships are gifts that come with the job and I’m very fortunate to have customers who have become such close friends, like family.
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?
With a growing personal collection spanning, I think, close to 5,000 records you almost lose track, but I think one of my favorites is Fela Kuti ‘Kalakuta Show’ original African pressing, and probably my promo copy of Tool ‘Undertow’ on gray vinyl. I have a very eclectic collection I guess.
What has been the craziest experience that has happened at the shop?
When Warren Haynes came into the shop with his drummer Matt Abts from Gov’t Mule and bought a ton of tapestries to decorate the studio at Sonalysts while they were recording a new album!
What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into pursuing what you’re doing?
This isn’t a part time gig! If you’re going to open a brick and mortar social media and digital marketing is key. Investing in your business isn’t a chance, it’s a way of staying above the rest.
Are you a vinyl collector yourself? What drew you to it?
Absolutely! I inherited my dad’s shop but also his personal collection, which was about 8,000 records. I slimmed that down to around 3,000 after really picking what I wanted to keep and had room for, but now I’m just bringing home bags and bins full of vinyl, super junkie status. I have to clear some out and make room. @queenofvinyl as I’ve been dubbed, is where I show my music interests, mostly soul, hip hop, jazz, Afro beat, and funk. I’ve become addicted to digging to see what I can find when we pull huge collections. We’ve been going through one with over 30,000 records, it’s mind boggling what’s in it!
What has been / is the most difficult part of your job?
Possibly all the learning curves I’ve had to take on with branding, running a business, working long hours and dealing with customers that take you for granted, want everything for $1 and are basically just looking for a flea market… but we’re a record store!
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.
Shopping small is coming back, and the want to actually browse in a physical record bin has been gaining interest more and more, we love that! We’ve got over 30,000 records to browse through.
Too many people who are joining the record bandwagon that do not have the experience most of us do, causing us (store owners) our integrity. Please beware of online buyers. Ask questions, for pics, and read reviews.
During this time we’re currently in, what message do you have for music and vinyl fans? How can we support you, the industry?
I think it’s important to buy from shops, not so much random online sellers. Keep the record stores open, they are a huge part of the culture and where people of all generations can go and speak the universal language of music, especially in a time when we’re so disconnected because of technology and the pandemic. I get to see 3, sometimes 4 generations shopping at once in my shop, it’s beautiful. To help us keep going, connect on social media, like and share our posts, you’re already face deep into your phone, that one click means a so much to us!
Anything else you want to share? Otherwise, tell me what you’re listening to:
I like all kinds of music, but lately Lady Wray, Jungle, Fat Freddys Drop, Cymande, Leon Bridges and Sault all seem to be on rotation for me right now.