Sarah and Leah Cunnick are veterans of this industry and we’re thrilled to be able to share their story with you. Sarah on the left and Leah on the right, co-own and operate Sisters Of Sound in Manhattan, Kansas since 2004 and yes, they are actually sisters. They are also the only indie music store in their area and love to promote the local music scene to include supporting the Manhattan Music Coalition (MMC). The Sisters of Sound website states, “if the sound is too loud you are probably listening to the wrong music!” and we love them for that.
As mentioned above they are biological sisters, the youngest two of eight siblings and help care for their mother who just turned 92! They love hanging out with their dogs, so much so they collect funds for all the local rescues. If someone buys cassettes, 78s, or needs a mask, they give that money to the rescues. They also love gardening and working with plants. Their dad had plants and gardens when they were growing up so they took to it. Oh, and the photo below with Emmylou Harris, that happened when she found out they work with shelters (as does she).
How did you get into your industry / What motivated you?
Sarah worked for Streetside Records from 1992 until 2001 when they closed. They gave us the tables and fixtures and said “you should open up a records store!” And that’s all we needed. Well that and friends and family to help us out. In 2004 we opened up our doors!
What is a day in the life like?
Well, we spend the morning drinking coffee, hanging out with our dogs, and making a plan for the day. Then, throw that plan in garbage. Because everyday changes and we are usually forced to roll with those changes. But seriously, we spend a lot of our time at the shop buying, selling, ordering vinyl records, helping customers with their stereo set up, answering questions about what they need to play their records, repairing their equipment, and of course playing and talking about the records we’re cleaning up for sale. We’ve become the go to place to answer all those questions without the run around. If we have to go to someone’s house, we do. If we have to send some, somewhere else, we do. We know things can get frustrating and helping folks is worth it. Kindness doesn’t cost us anything.
What has been your favorite sale / relationship made from behind the counter?
We love our regulars! They’ve become friends and family to us. Sometimes they get adopted and work for us, lol!
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 have been a couple of albums. 1st there was an original mono pressing of Miles Davis’ Kind Of Blue’. 2nd was the 12″ Single of ‘Goonies R Good Enough’ by Cyndi Lauper which of course isn’t worth a lot, we’re just huge fans.
What has been the craziest experience that has happened at the shop?
So many… Our store is in a shopping and dining district with a bunch of bars. Across the street from the college, go figure. One night as we were trying to close it started pouring and a group of college students came running into the shop. Of course our dog Riley, a large lab/rottie mix went over to them for pets. All of sudden one of the students said, “hey, your dog just peed on me!” I told them we were about to close to take him for his walk and pee and I guess he didn’t appreciate you interrupting that. Damn, we miss that dog!
What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into pursuing what you’re doing?
- Love what you’re doing, because you are not gonna get rich.
- Concentrate on buying used before you go crazy buying new.
- Concentrate on special orders for the new albums at first, that way you don’t have product taking up space that you’re not sure will move. This was given to me by another record store.
- Have friends that will help you out, a lot! These crates get heavier over time, and we’re not getting any younger.
Are you a vinyl collector yourself? What drew you to it?
That’s kind of how we started in 2004. We had acquired so much vinyl at the house we had to put it in the shop, and it snow balled from there. We’ve always loved vinyl and recorded music in general. Our older brothers and sisters had it and we thought it was cool. We wanted our own! We love putting on a record, reading the liner notes, making dinner while we listen, hearing that one song we LOVE to sing along to… it’s the best!
We like to call it a time machine. It takes you back to a point in your life but also a time when the artist recorded that album or song.
What has been / is the most difficult part of your job?
Telling people that the collection they brought us needs to be thrown out due to mold. We were raised by folks who lived through the depression and it shows. Our store is small but packed. We think of the records, tapes, and CDs as our rescues and we need to find homes for them. It’s saddens us to have to tell people to throw them away.
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.
We love that more people are getting into it. However, we worry that prices will scare some people off.
During this time we’re currently in, what message do you have for music and vinyl fans? How can we support you, the industry?
For the vinyl fans: Be patient with us. Follow our guidelines for visiting our stores. If we ask that you wear a mask, please do. If we can’t get an item in stock, know that no one can control every step of this industry.
As for the industry: Also, be patient with us. There’s a lot of us out here. Some large stores, some very small. We all can’t afford to order a bunch of copies just to get five. We are all in this together. That’s the only way we are going to get thru it.
Oh! And, get vaccinated. Store owners and people selling their records to the owners are not all healthy 20-somethings. We are older, vintage if you will. Try not to kill us before we can get you that vinyl record you’ve been searching for forever.
Anything else you want to share? If not, tell me: What is your favorite music genre or band right now?
We love finding new incredible female musicians or musicians from other countries. Especially, if they’re involved in a genre that most people think of as American or European. It’s incredible to see these folks working so much harder & succeed.
Find Sarah and Leah: