Women in Vinyl Logo

Victoria Donaldson

Owner, Northside Soul

This week we are pleased to introduce you to someone who was destined to be a part of the vinyl community, and like her site says, whether intentional or not, she has always incorporated music into her work.  Meet the owner of Northside Soul record store, and vinyl DJ, Victoria Donaldson aka DJ Makeda Kravitz, based in St. Louis. Since childhood, Victoria has had a propensity for music having grown up in a household full of all sorts of genres, but Soul in particular. As a DJ, a radio host, a community events organizer and a professional in the nonprofit sector, there was an opportunity for her to incorporate her love of music in creating Northside Soul and she took the bull by the horns to do so. The shop is a space for the community and while music and retail is the core of its operations, it is a space intended to serve the community within North St. Louis City with programs, events, educational opportunities and more! 

When she's not working her full time job, DJing or working behind the counter at the records store she likes playing with puzzles, doing crosswords, and watching movies, "...horror is my genre."

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

I've been a vinyl collector since high school when I got my first job at a library and would use my paychecks to buy records at Vintage Vinyl in St. Louis. After graduating from Alabama A&M University, I returned home and eventually got a part-time job at Vintage Vinyl where my collection expanded. I was also co-hosting a radio at the local community radio station, KDHX, which would eventually lead me to DJing. With my sales job, DJing and being a radio host, music became my everything.

Like most during the pandemic, I had a moment of reflection on how I wanted to create a better life for myself so I thought "why don't I just start my own record store?" There aren't many Black women on the retail side of the music industry and I think I have a keen sense of awareness when it comes to what most Black record collectors are looking for. It just made sense that I'd at least try. So, I took that leap! My vision was to not just create a space (virtually and physically) for Black artists to be heard, seen and supported but to also highlight the musical history of Black St. Louis.

What is a day in the life like?

Well...it depends. First, that leap of faith to start Northside Soul wasn't a full dive. So, I still have a full-time job. I'm the Visitor Services & Membership Coordinator at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum. In addition, I still DJ regularly (at least once a week). With that, a day in the life for me depends on the demands of all of my jobs.

Usually, I'm working my regular job, then the evenings are dedicated to doing work related to Northside Soul or my DJ brand. And don't worry...I do make time for myself which is something I've had to learn to implement with time. I'm getting better at it.

Favorite sale / relationship made from behind the counter?

This is hard for me to answer. But I would say the first exciting sale I made was of a Moor Mother record. It was so affirming because I knew it was a record that many wouldn't be aware of but those who know, know. So, this guy bought it, we chopped it up about her work and he would eventually come back to me to see if I've gotten more work like Moor Mother's in. It simply felt great to have someone see and appreciate how intentional I am about what I carry at Northside Soul.

In your opinion what has been the coolest thing to come through your shop / thing you had to keep / almost couldn't put out for sale?

Another hard one... Since most of the items I buy are new, I rarely get hard-to-find records or merch that I know I can't get anymore. However, there have been instances when a record I didn't know was on vinyl was available and I had to grab it. One example was Jazzanova's "Of All The Things" which features "Look What You're Doin To Me" featuring Phonte of Little Brother/The Foreign Exchange. It was such exciting find!

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

The most difficult part of my job is the steep learning curve I have to deal with in regards to finances, management and doing everything on my own.

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

Honestly, nothing so far. knocks on wood

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

Come as prepared as possible and be patient with yourself and the process.

I'm not from a well-off background so there wasn't any financial backing when I started Northside Soul. It was just a vision and dream of sorts. If I knew then what I know now, I would have taken more time to prepare myself for the work that it would require of me.

I've fancied comparing building a business to raising a child. You have to put a lot into nurturing and caring for that child and give that child what they need to grow and succeed. The same can be said for your business. So, again, prepare yourself mentally, physically, spiritually and financially for what's to come. And find as many business grants as possible!

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'm always worried about how long will vinyl last but I can't and shan't dwell on that. However, I am excited to see more artists putting their projects on vinyl right out the gate versus consumers waiting years or decades later for them to press it. This industry has its ebbs and flows so I'm just waiting to see where it takes me.

Are you a vinyl collector yourself? What drew you to it?

Of course! I started collecting vinyl because I felt the urge to preserve music through vinyl and fell in love with the sound of the needle drop and cracks that follow.

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

My community, especially the community of Black women in my life. Many of my friends are entrepreneurs of some sort and to witness their resourcefulness, their drive, their consistency and persistence pushes me to continue even when things aren't going well.

Anything else you’d like to add, if not tell us who you're listening to right now: 

My favorite genre is right now has to be the sound that most would consider "alternative soul" perhaps. People like J*Davey, Lynda Dawn, Fana Hues, Ego Ella May... And I'd add the UK soul/jazz scene is producing so much great music right now! Yussef Dayes is a favorite but also Ezra Collective, Nubya Garcia and a lot more.

Find Victoria

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