By Dylan Sowle
The newest record store in East Lansing has upcoming plans to offer residents a unique experience through specialized inventory, online shopping and live music.
Residing in the previously abandoned basement at 213 1/2 E. Grand River Ave. sits East Grand Record Company, lined wall to wall with vinyl records and filled with eclectic music coming from the speakers.
Brothers Mark and Mike Voldeck opened the doors of East Grand Record Company at the end of July 2011 after buying and selling vinyl online for the past three years. When they had collected about 26,000 records in a basement, they decided they needed a place for them.
That place was East Grand, and co-owner Mike Voldeck said that East Lansing, with its variety of people and college town location, was the perfect place for it.
“The college crowd has been our bread and butter,” said Voldeck. “They are a perfect demographic.”
With a good market and location, the main concern is that several other record stores are already doing business in town.
Most notably is Flat, Black & Circular, or FBC, the famous shop that has been around since 1977.
Owner of FBC, Dave Bernath, has seen plenty of music stores open up since he’s been running his.
“There used to be 10 record stores around here,” said Bernath. “Things have come and gone. I don’t have any competition. We all just want people coming out to get music.”
Voldeck also stresses the fact that he doesn’t want to view his store as directly competing with others, but as having a positive relationship of bringing music to the community. He even directs customers to the other stores when they don’t find specific items at his store.
With other well-known and successful record shops such as FBC and the Record Lounge around, a new business has to do something to declare its individuality and provide a different service to the community.
One thing that sets East Grand apart is its inventory. Unlike the other stores in the area, this shop deals almost exclusively in vinyl and on top of that, mostly in used vinyl. The store currently carries about 6,000 records and with a large proportion of the used records priced at only $1, East Grand is doing something unique in the way they approach their business.
Selling exclusively vinyl can be a challenge however, especially with the growing reliance on downloading music. Bernath attested to this, discussing how FBC has had to change and improvise over the years in order to give customers what they want.
“It’s definitely still a viable market,” said Voldeck. “We wouldn’t have gotten into it if it wasn’t. In 2010, vinyl record sales were the highest they’ve been since 1991.”
East Grand recognizes the demand for vinyl but also the need to evolve and keep up with modern technology. This understanding has prompted them to build an online store that will allow every single record that they carry to be purchased online, a completely new business technique for record stores in the area.
Hairong Li, a professor of advertising at Michigan State University highly recommends this type of online presence, especially for small businesses.
“You are selling something unique and not everyone in East Lansing will buy it,” said Li. “By putting yourself online, you will have a wider audience, so more people will buy your product.”
Heather Frarey, owner of the Record Lounge, agreed with this, especially with regard to businesses in a college town such as East Lansing.
“You need some sort of online presence in East Lansing because business simply dies out here during the summer when the college kids go home,” Frarey said.
These reasons are what prompted the owners of East Grand to set up this online store, which is currently in the final stages of cataloguing and should be up very soon. This method will allow customers to have the records shipped to them, or allow them to pick their purchases up in the store.
“Even though you’re selling records, you have to keep up with modern technology,” Voldeck noted. “Not everyone makes it down to East Lansing to buy records, but just about 99 percent of people have access to a computer.”
In addition to being present online, East Grand is working on an increased musical presence in their store. They have already had several big name local and touring bands play in the store and have live jazz every Monday and Friday.
“Eventually we want to have it so that someone is playing in our store on a daily basis,” said Voldeck.
Nathan Fedorchak, an MSU student and customer of local record stores acknowledged the value of this idea.
“Having live music in a record store would be a very different experience,” said Fedorchak. “It would be great exposure for local artists.”
East Grand Record Company has been working the past three months on trying to establish themselves and building their presence and the future holds even greater plans.
“We’re still getting our feet wet and learning about the area and the customers,” Voldeck said. “But business is great and East Lansing is a perfect place to be.”