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Sam Heaton | Owner, Erie St. Vinyl

In this feature we get the pleasure to introduce you to someone who became a part of the Women in Vinyl community, and then became a friend.  She’s an all around awesome human and we’re happy to celebrate and share her success with you today! Sam Heaton owns and operates Erie St Vinyl, a record store in a beautiful historic building in Massillon, OH.  Erie street just celebrated its one year anniversary, opening the doors in October 2021. The brick and mortar vinyl boutique offers hand picked, thoughtfully curated new and used records and goods.

Outside of work Sam is a Mom, “I am a mom of three amazing young individuals. I locked down a real renaissance man with a pompadour about 20 years ago and it’s been real good ever since. Being present when I’m home with my family is my hobby.”  She says they have a big yard she love to landscape and garden while the kids play and ride their bikes. Her and her family are serious eaters, and Sam loves cooking with her husband, spinning records, and listening to their kids make fart jokes at the table. “I usually am able to carve out a night where I can go to yoga during the week. There’s a lovely little studio right around the corner from the shop, and man does that hour class feel like a goddamn vacation.” The past two years Sam says she’s made a conscious effort to volunteer more and “fill my cup“. She’s enjoying year two on her community’s food cupboard board, and joined her local Soroptimist Chapter where she has been able to connect with some wonderful women and help with some amazing programs to help enrich, encourage and support women in her area.

How did you get into your industry / What motivated you?

I basically forced myself into the industry. I had grown out of the career I loved for most of my adult life. After the pandemic, I was unhappy and looking to do something more fulfilling. A building became available next to my husband’s tattoo shop. He went and looked at it but talked himself out of it before he even came home to tell me about it. Our family’s record collection has been such a source of joy during such a shitty time to be in this country. I decided I wanted to share that joy as consciously as I could. Seeking out local record stores and small boutiques has always been a passion of myself and my husband when we travel. Massillon had not had a decent record store since the 70s.

It all just made sense, I sat my husband Tj down and told him I thought the building would be perfect space for a record store. I hadn’t even looked at it yet. He gave me a look, same exact look, when I told him I was pregnant for the first time. No joke. I knew right then, we were about to change the course of our life and I was going to start, own and operate a vinyl record shop.

I’m motivated by record store culture itself. There really isn’t anything like walking into a matured, curated and unique records shop. I take that responsibility seriously, and I want to honor that.

What is a day in the life like?

I’ve turned into a real morning bird after having kids. Up early, get all the kids where they need to be. Get to the shop and try to get as much admin stuff out of the way. Books, ordering, emails, all that. My brain works best early in the morning with coffee. I take my pup Clarissa for a nice walk before we open up, she works with me on most days and is a real queen.

Once I open I like to get busy sorting, grading and pricing used vinyl. I have really started to accumulate a nice solid back stock of easy selling used vinyl. I try to get about 2 crates of fresh stuff out each week for my regulars. Shipment days are always fun, checking in new vinyl inventory still jacks me up, and forget it with with promo goodies. I turn into my 13 year old self when I get stickers and posters. I try to keep up with creating content, staying visible and creeping into as many people’s algorithms as I can during the course of the day.

Close up, eat dinner with my lovely fam, homework, showers, bedtime for kiddos, pack lunches, have a cocktail and chat with Tj until I flatline…zzzzzz. Also, I’m being real low key with the logistics of having three kids and both of us parents working. Guys my calendar is a color-coated hellscape and most working moms are higher evolved species.

What has been your favorite sale / relationship made from behind the counter?

Anytime I get to sell cool fucking independent music. How’s that for a pageant answer? My store isn’t located in a “happening scene” I don’t get foot traffic and most people in this area shop big box 24/7/365. When someone comes in, bypasses Rumors and grabs El Michels Affair, Japanese Breakfast, or Hot Snakes I start dancing.

And as for relationships I just want all my locals to feel welcome here. I feel like I’m slowly earning the trust of the serious collectors. From the Third-Man multi variant, pre order only crowd, to the 15k VG+ kings of Discogs and garage sales. They are coming around to the fact that I might not be doing it exactly how they think I should do it but I am doing my thing really well.

As for the new crowd, the people that have found vinyl through this reverb, if you will, of love for physical media. I love being their local shop. For most shoppers here in Stark County there hasn’t been as super strong, diverse independent shop since the late 90s/early 2000s. I also take pride in having young people here, feeling safe, flipping through new and old music and grabbing those free stickers and posters for their rooms.

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?

The coolest thing to come through my shop is a chunk of a collection I purchased from a local named Jeremy. I didn’t personally know him, just the interaction about our transaction. Which resulted in an hour long phone conversation about music, the vinyl industry, skate culture and the scene in Northeast Ohio. He was delightful and has a ton of friends that love him very much. Unfortunately Jeremy passed away before I could meet him. I was able to purchase stickers from his skate shop Collective in Canton to put with all of his albums that I have to sell here. It’s really special when I get to find worthy homes for those albums.

As for finders, keepers…I haven’t been able to let go of an original pressing of Bobby Brown’s ‘Don’t Be Cruel’. Not sure what that does for my credibility or taste level. I spin it once a week, it makes me feel like when I used to steal my older sister and brother’s 45s and jack them up on my fisher price turn table. Don’t worry I have learned to take better care of records now.

What has been the craziest experience that has happened at the shop?

The first couple hours of my first Record Store Day. We just observed the day here at the shop. I didn’t have access to any of the lists just yet so I was just throwing a party really. Honey, I was living for that hostess with the mostest vibe. I worked my ass off the week before and night of. Huge wave of new restocks, I purchased a juicy used collection to beef up those bins, re-vamped the sales floor, live music, local goodies for sale, live art. It was busy, I had my best sales day I have ever had, the vibe was so good and it was so nice seeing so many people enjoy the magic that is shopping in an independent record store. Verdict is still out on what Record Store Day will look like in the years to come.

What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into pursuing what you’re doing?

Reach out! Everyone has been so incredibly encouraging. For me the Women in Vinyl community has be crucial. I started my research on female owned record shops and it took me to the blog. I was so inspired and reassured that I can do this while I absorbed literally every post on the website in one night. The day after I got the keys and title to my building I stumbled upon that first podcast episode with the lovely Amanda Schutzman. A week later she was one of my sales rep and a wealth of knowledge.

You just have to open up and listen. There’s a lot of hot air out there but there are enough people in this industry that understand there is space for everyone.

Are you a vinyl collector yourself? 

Yes! My husband and I have a blended collection. It’s a solid venn diagram of who we are as individual collectors and things we love to share together. My personal collection is not the largest or most valuable but it’s music I love to spin. Most of my albums have been purchased in physical stores while traveling in my 20s and have a lovely, romantic story on why I have them. Slowing down, digging through a record shop and eating a good meal at a solid restaurant will forever be my perfect evening. I built a store to reinforce that.

That being said I have an ever-evolving “house dressing” collection at the shop that highlights my vibe. I try to enrich that by making sure when I buy new music online it’s directly from the record label or bandcamp. I loved learning that little tidbit on the one Women In Vinyl podcast, when you had Karlyn King on. She talked about how back in the 40s and 50s, I believe, all the marketing for vinyl music was geared towards women. They were the ones picking the music for events, parties and the home. They were in charge of decided if something was playable and what was popular. It was a real moment for me, I feel like that is what my collection looks like. It’s music I have collected to create a space for myself, my family, my friends and customers.

What has been / is the most difficult part of your job?

My confidence. Staying true to what I want this space to be. Trusting myself to provide that solid record store experience every week. And actually staying on top of new releases…what a hustle.

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.

Online sales is next on my to do list! Discogs has been super helpful for me in so many ways. Their new focus on independent stores has been really encouraging. So many independent shops stayed afloat during the shut down via Discogs. The fact that the company took what they learned from the last couple years and are making an effort to support shops is promising. I like the idea of site being swamped with fair collectors and honest shops instead of serial price gougers and trolls. I’m excited and scared shit-less at the same time. Internet sales seem like the wild west to me. I’m happy the people at Discogs are down for helping Erie St Vinyl navigate that. Don’t get it twisted, I know they are getting theirs too. It seems genuine though.

Who has been influential to you and your growth as a professional in this industry? 

The shops around me. Just 20 minutes north of me is an institution of a music store. Square Records in Highland Square, Akron which has been around for a long time and do it right. An hour north, Brittany’s Record Shop in Cleveland is a whole movement with live DJ sets and a powerhouse of an owner. I listened to her speak at the Discogs Independent Record Store conference, she’s the coolest. Cleveland is super inspiring right now. Pretty much every neighborhood has their own shop that is just as unique as the next. And they are all so welcoming and encouraging.

There’s a newer shop I’ve been following called Shepard Records. The owner, Emma has a really cool, rich selection from local bands and does some really cool live events in the store. To the west is Blackbird Records, the kings of Record Store Day and new releases. Those dudes know how to order. And to the east my boy Josh at State Street Records, he’s always reaching out asking how I’m doing, offering tips and sharing info. Not to mention he is like scary organized when it comes to inventory, it’s insane.

Anything else you want to share? If not, tell me: What is your favorite music genre or band right now?

New and throwback imports have had a strong hold on me. I’m coming down from a summer of Yard Act, Wet Leg, Folly Group, Shame and Sleaford Mods spiral. We’ll see what fall and winter bring for me. When in doubt I always spin Nick Waterhouse or Hinds.

Find Sam: 

Instagram: @eriestvinyl

Tiktok: @eriestvinyl

Facebook: @eriestvinyl

Website / Merch: Erie St. Vinyl

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