This week we get the pleasure to introduce you to a woman blazing vinyl trails in the Newfoundland region of Canada. Meet Melisa Penney-Jones who co-owns Flip Side Music & More with her husband Doug, out of Conception Bay South, Newfoundland. Flip Side just turned four years old in April 2022 and is a primarily web based shop with local pick-up and occasional local pop ups. They sell new and used vinyl, and recently started selling vinyl related gear. Melisa is also the co-founder and organizer of Record Fair NL, a record fair which draws an average of 700 visitors per show, and is the only event of its kind in Newfoundland. The record fair is held twice a year (spring and fall) in St. John’s, NL. Spring of 2022 will be their 8th fair, 4th during the pandemic and although they had to cancel spring 2020 they’ve managed to have covid friendly fairs ever since.
When not slinging vinyl Melisa is a busy working mom, a lot of her time outside work is spent helping her kids and making sure they get to their activities. In addition to vinyl, she says that she love shoes, particularly Fluevogs, and spends every free moment in the fair weather months sea kayaking. She has two kayaks, both with music related names, the first named ‘Wildflower’ after the Tom Petty song and her sea kayak is named ‘Quiet Riot’. “My paddle buddy and I always joke about kayaking being our therapy”.
How did you get into your industry / What motivated you?
While Newfoundland (Canada) has a great local vinyl community, living on an island comes with limitations. Basically we shop online a lot. In our local vinyl groups people would always ask things like “where did you get that record?” Which lead to us starting to do some bulk ordering with friends to share shipping costs. Doug and I already worked together running another family business, so after mulling it over for about a year we decided to take the plunge. We had always felt like we wanted something that was more “us” and more in line with our personal interests. We invested a small amount of money each to get Flip Side moving and the rest as they say is history. We are not a drop shipper, if it’s on our site we have the item in stock (unless it’s a preorder). We spent a couple years building up our inventory and in late 2021 expanded to bringing in some vinyl related gear (cartridges, record players etc).
Record Fair NL was also born out of similar experiences with our local vinyl community. It was something people in the community always talked about wanting, but the first fair was a complete stab in the dark and totally nerve wracking. But it exceeded everyones expectations. Over the last few years we have moved venues 3x to bigger spaces allowing more vendor tables and a more comfortable environment for everyone. It is a real community event and totally family orientated. We keep the vibe fun, with lots of 50 and 60’s rock n roll playing in the background. Pre covid we emphasized having areas to hang out and sit down for a chat with fellow collectors, we also had a kids area with coloring sheets (all music themed of course) and snacks for kids. I really miss that part, but we’re super thankful to have been able to keep our event going at a time when our friends in other provinces could not.
What is a day in the life like?
Someday I hope to say “I get up, get dressed, fill up my travel mug and head to the shop“, but right now we are essentially living the best of both worlds; or burning the candle at both ends, depending on what day it is. We have two busy teenage boys, two dogs, two cats and day jobs, in addition to Flip Side and Record Fair NL. It can get pretty busy.
What has been your favorite sale / relationship made from behind the counter?
Favorite sale will always be those from Day 1, I remember counting down to our launch and how nervous we were. I will never forget how ecstatic we were when those first few orders came in. Now we get excited every time we ship to a new destination / country. Four years in we have met some awesome people and made so many friends through the vinyl community. For our 4th anniversary we started a Facebook group “Flip Side’s Vinyl Cafe” off of our page to build further on that community feel.
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?
This may sound odd, but I love the little extras. We sell new and used vinyl, and sometimes the used comes with little hidden bonus items like an original receipt from purchase, posters from the era that were tucked in an album jacket for safe keeping, post cards, love letters, one time we found divorce papers. A friend once found a sleeve that had “Flip Side” on it, no doubt from another Flip Side store during another era; he gave it to us so we have it hanging on our wall. We recently picked up a small collection with a funky 60’s yellow ottoman that is designed to hold records, I had to keep that for me!
What has been the craziest experience that has happened at the shop?
Craziest experience is probably the Record Fair NL. We had no idea the fair would be as popular as it is. In all seriousness we would have considered 200 or 300 people popping by for a dig to be a success, but the fair has been averaging 600-700 people. During covid we’ve been following safety first guidelines and strictly following room capacity orders, but before covid we had queues before opening and 150 people entering the space in like the first 20 minutes.
What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into pursuing what you’re doing?
I love the expression “you’re only limited by your expectations“. In life sometimes peoples expectations and their goals don’t gel. Don’t expect to start at the top, but expect to run a marathon to grow and thrive. You’ll also need lot’s of patience. As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day. It takes time to grow a business and build a customer base.
Are you a vinyl collector yourself?
Absolutely! We’re both vinyl collectors and had a large collection of our own before we ever even dreamed about starting a store. Vinyl was the first music medium I was exposed to as a child. I had a huge assortment of Little Golden books with the read along albums and my dad would let me pick a few albums out every time he ordered from Columbia House. I actually still have my originals and all my dads records in our collection. Fun fact: Doug and I actually listened to vinyl together on our very first date!
What has been / is the most difficult part of your job?
Probably not having a physical location. I love our web store and fully embrace it, but we get asked at least a couple times a week “where is your store located“. We definitely dream about hanging out behind the counter in our own little store someday.
There’s no doubt that the vinyl industry is a bit of a boys club. You don’t have to own a store to experience this. But when you are trying to run a business it causes that much more frustration. I’ve had plenty of experiences where people have attempted to bypass me to talk to my male partner, in person and online. Especially with people who like to haggle.
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.
Personally I have a great love for limited runs, colored vinyl, numbered LPs, deluxe editions etc. The collector in me loves this stuff and doesn’t mind pre-ordering or paying a little extra.
As a store owner and business person I worry about the trend we are seeing with price increases on new and used. Yes, the whole world is experiencing increases, and sure part of the cost of vinyl can be considered inflation. Really I just have a fear of vinyl getting priced so high that the market just plain crashes.
During this time we’re currently in, what message do you have for music and vinyl fans? How can we support you, the industry?
Buy local and independent. No matter where in the world you live, it’s safe to say your local stores have felt a pinch over the last couple years and would love your support.
I also have empathy for artists who rely heavily on touring and live performances. Once the world turns upright in your community… GO SEE A SHOW!
Anything else you want to share? If not, tell me: What is your favorite music genre or band right now?
I’m very eclectic. Current frequent spins are Screaming Females, The Dollyrots, 90’s grunge / punk / hiphop / rock. I’m a big Janis Joplin fan. I think my Janis vinyl collection could rival the most serious collectors out there… and somehow it keeps growing.
Record Fair NL:
Fall Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/304288618558783