With Record Store Day around the corner, we’re pleased to meet and learn about even more independent stores to introduce you to! Today we are talking with Ashely Whittington, she co-owns Atmosphere Collectibles in Evansville, Indiana with her husband Jerome. Atmosphere Collectibles is a small indie record store carrying both new and used vinyl, and is all about customer service! They are very active in their regional vinyl community and have even created a group called Southern Indiana Vinyl Collectors. Playing records all day and chatting with their customers about music is what Ashley loves to do. You can also find her placing all of the orders for new vinyl from distributors, pricing and grading all the used record bins, and being the general inquiry contact for all of the local customers on social media, email, or text. Ashley and Jerome also run a YouTube channel you can check out here.
When not at work Ashley is still sort of at work since she says, “work and hobbies are so intertwined, there are no hobbies outside of work!” I know some of us can relate.
How did you get into your industry / What motivated you?
Honestly my husband introduced me to vinyl. Our first shop closed in 2009 but he ran it while I worked a normal job. In 2015 we decided to give it another shot and I left my full-time job of eighteen years to do the store full time. Best choice ever. I collected cds since I had my first job at fifteen. Music appreciation brought my husband and I together.
What is a day in the life like?
Coffee. Dogs. Emails. Pre-orders / Orders.
We open the shop at noon and then I am usually working on mail in between customers. After mail, I will try to get some used vinyl cleaned and priced. Once we get home, I’m usually still placing backorders and tweaking my new vinyl orders for the week. I am available 24/7 to our customers and friends so I’m generally checking on available releases for people while trying to get records restocked in the bins.
What has been your favorite sale / relationship made from behind the counter?
A few years ago, a brand new customer lost his wife unexpectedly. I told him to come hang at the shop anytime to just listen to music and get out of his head. He started hanging with us at the shop often, and that relationship grew, he is now our best friend / extended family. He is our biggest cheerleader and supporter. Our lives are filled with so many friends through the shop. We started Sunday Dinners with friends of Atmosphere. I wish I could describe how lucky we are to have so many people rooting for us.
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?
What has been the craziest experience that has happened at the shop?
Years ago, our house was broken into and we had some records stolen. The craziest thing that happened was someone coming to sell us our own records back to us. Geesh! Luckily, we got them back.
What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into pursuing what you’re doing?
We didn’t open a record store to get rich, so I would just say to make sure it is something you love. I started by becoming active on Facebook vinyl groups (2014) and met a lot of friends that way. I friended other people with shops. There is a large YouTube vinyl community that you can learn from, and podcasts like The Women In Vinyl Podcast, is very informative.
Are you a vinyl collector yourself?
I have collected records since 2001. I mainly collect music period. It was Cds when I was a teenager. My now husband bought me Spinal Tap OST, Pussy Galore, and Tenacious D to begin my little collection. I also married into a collection that is pure “awesome concentrate”. I also collect video game vinyl soundtracks.
What has been / is the most difficult part of your job?
The hardest part is that as records become more popular (yay!), so many titles requested are out of stock or backordered. I just worry new collectors will get frustrated and leave collecting. But it is overall a good problem to have, we have more people that want records than records available.
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.
I am excited that sound quality and good mastering is considered much more now. People realize that vinyl isn’t a novelty.
One thing that I worry about is warping. So many new sealed releases have defects or warps that I worry about quality control. Overall I am a positive person and realize that this industry has grown so fast, and adapted really well to the insane increase of production.
During this time we’re currently in, what message do you have for music and vinyl fans? How can we support you, the industry?
Make friends with your local record store. I will do my best to help you work on your want list. We created a regional collecting group on Facebook and host meet ups/swaps. It is a community that looks out for each other. I have countless stories of friendships make at “the bins”.
Anything else you want to share? If not, tell me: What is your favorite music genre or band right now?
My favorite band since I was a teen in the 90s is the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. I also like the Osees, Amyl & The Sniffers, and Fontaines D.C. There is so much new music that I am always discovering through the shop and customers