The vinyl lovers show up every day.
They come, usually in groups of three or four, to examine the stacks of records we have in our shop. Some giggle at the “antiques”. Some critique the music. Many like to share memories of long-gone record stores with crazy names...
This wouldn’t be so unusual except for two facts: one, the records are not for sale. And two:
To be precise, we are a micro-grocery/cafe, run by two people too young to be “Ma” and “Pa”...
So, what do these records represent, really? Why on earth would people come to a grocery store to discuss them?
Those old enough to remember know that beyond being a place to discover new music, independent record/cd stores were the “cool” place to see and be seen. They were a great way to meet friends and strangers. Even better, “your” record store looked nothing like the one the next town over...
Suddenly nearly all of them disappeared.
Blame the “Generica” virus as it spread coast-to-coast and stamped out record shops and other indie businesses in the name of “cheaper” and “faster”. Along the way all of us experienced a loss. We lost the places like independent record stores that made our cities and towns unique.
“Placemaking” is on everyone’s lips.
I am reminded of how important a “sense of place” is to everyday life. The topic of “placemaking” was a conversation cornerstone at CityWorks(X)po, a conference celebrating the wild and creative things happening in small cities nationwide. Largely, the excitement revolves around independent business and how they contribute to a sense of “place”.
Consider this: when people talk about spending money at your favorite local businesses much of the discussion surrounds keeping money in your community.
What about keeping “community” in your community, too?
Independent businesses reflect the history, personality, and aspirations of the communities they serve. More and more people are rejecting the one-size-fits-all approach to business because it robs us of our community’s expression of creativity.
Here’s why the records matter.
For us, the records in our store are a conversation piece. I believe people respond to them because in modern life we’re missing a lot of “conversation places”. When I witness this interaction it is a reminder that my independent business, and the others on my street, play an important role in building community.
You can’t build community, or a life, at a big box store.
Happily, on the topic of record stores, there is a glimmer of hope. Check out the documentary “I Need That Record! The Death (and Possible Survival) of the Independent Record Store.” In the meantime, come and browse the records at our shop. You’ll enjoy some conversation and discover a place to meet others. Independent businesses like ours are working hard to make your corner of the world a place you enjoy.
Katie McCaskey and Brian Wiedemann are co-owners of George Bowers Grocery in Staunton, Virginia. Her book, “Urban Escapee: How to Ditch the City Commute, Build a Business, and Revitalize Main Street” about their experience leaving New York City and building their business will be published next year.