Behind the Counter: Stormy Records (Dearborn, MI)

Each Tuesday, Behind the Counter speaks to an independent record store to ask about its recent favorites, best sellers, and noteworthy trends.

Stormy Records in Dearborn, Michigan was created to serve the Detroit area with a diverse selection of hard-to-find records. That simple mission, along with the unwavering passion of its two proprietors, Windy and Carl (also the ambient duo Windy & Carl), has sustained Stormy for more than a decade. Though the “weirdo music” that fills the shelves leaves some customers feeling entirely clueless, its specialized focus fosters a tight-knit community. Get to know Stormy, and check out photos of Windy and Carl’s favorite records.

Stormy Records
Windy holds Tabula Rasa by Arvo Pärt and Vini Reilly by The Duretti Column

Stormy Records
Carl holds Sunflower by the Beach Boys

Give me three great albums that you’ve enjoyed lately.

– We both really like the new Deerhunter; it is a fully realized record, and we feel that it showcases them as a band in a much better way than their previous releases. It just sounds great.

David Bowie‘s Station to Station. Bowie can do very little wrong, and that album is certainly right on!

Latitia Sadier‘s The Trip. Her voice is lovely, and the music is catchy, but more importantly, she pays wonderful homage to her lost sister. The record was made with a lot of emotion, and that comes across in every note.

Which albums has your store sold the most over the past month?

Mississippi Records titles all do really well for us. Brian Eno‘s new one, Stereolab‘s Not Music, Funkadelic‘s Maggot Brain.

What was your motivation for starting a music store? / What is your background in music?

We both have loved music our whole lives. We can remember buying 45s as kids at the local department stores and record stores. We both worked for other record shops and felt that we could offer the Detroit area a specialty store that would focus on hard-to-find indie releases, avant jazz, and off-the-wall records.

We have a band together (Windy & Carl), and when we would tour, we would visit as many record shops as we could, always taking notes about what we liked and would want to include in our own shop.

What is the musical community like in your area?

Detroit has a million bands, and their focus is wide-ranging. It is not always as much a community as we would like it to be — sometimes people are too exclusive about what they are creating — but mostly, Detroit is full of music lovers who play as many shows as they can and go see their friends play and put out a zillion records. It’s busy, diverse, and fairly friendly. There is not a lot of money to be had, but there are a lot of good folks.

Why do people choose your store over major or Internet retailers?

At Stormy, it’s just me and Carl — just two folks who are ridiculous in their love of music. When someone comes in to shop with us, they will find that we are brutally honest, picky, and occasionally snobby, but we don’t lie, and we don’t steer people wrong. We are genuine about what we do; we help people find music that is worth their time, music that they will truly love. We take pride in that everyday.

We know all of our regulars by name; we know their kids and their dogs, and we order things for them before they even ask. Folks who come into Stormy get a level of personal service that they would never, ever receive from a major retailer, and especially not the Internet.

Describe your own online presence and its impact on your business.

We have had no luck with hosting a website, even when it had a working PayPal cart. It simply never brought us more business. We sell on eBay, and that is how we keep the shop open — any store that is still in business will tell you that. We’re very thankful for eBay, especially as the economic decline of Detroit has been so sharp and quick that we do not have as much walk-in traffic. So the shop website helps people get our phone number and look over our new releases, but it’s never really helped with sales. I think we are one of the only shops who has experienced this issue.

You label the genres you carry as “weirdo music.” What constitutes weirdo music at your store?

Noise, Japanese psych, Frank Lowe‘s Black Beings, Don Cherry‘s Brown Rice — music that would cause the general public to recoil, to cover their ears, and ask, “What the hell are we listening to?” We’ve seen a lot of people come in the door over the last 11 1/2 years, look around, and then ask us what the hell we are selling, or ask us why they have never heard of a single thing we have on the shelves.

That is what we do: we carry tiny releases, which either means an unknown artist or a very small pressing of an item. We carry music that the general public has not heard of, nor would they want to. We carry music that generally does not get radio play.

And for the folks who shop with us — we love them, but they are all weird. Crazy hair, crazy clothes, bizarro political views, and strange art obsessions — to the outside world, they are weirdos, and so is the music they listen to. To me and Carl, they are our community, our musical family, the people we are comfortable with. We carry music we love and music they want to hear. It works well for us all.

Do you promote zines or visual art?

We hang up flyers for all sorts of art projects in the area and help the comic-book shop we share our space with promote their quarterly art shows.

Any big future plans for Stormy?

Well, there is a great national art-support group called Artspace that is looking at Dearborn as a potential new support area, and we are hoping that in the next few years, when they build an art live/work space, that we may be one of the tenants on their main floor. That would be huge for us — a new building full of artists and with a great energy in it.  That would make every day for us so much more of a joy. We’re hoping that Green Brain (the comic store above us) would be right next to us because, after four years of sharing a building, we can’t really imagine being open each day without them.

For the time being, we are getting ready for the upcoming holidays by preparing for a Thanksgiving day weekend sale (we never have sales — this is a big deal) and rearranging some of the record racks — we need to build more space for 45s than we currently have.

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