Each week, Behind the Counter speaks to an independent record store to ask about its recent favorites, best sellers, and noteworthy trends.
The Corner Record Shop in Grandville, Michigan started out in a tiny corner room behind an old Dutch bakery. Eleven years later, owner Steve Williamson and his “no judgment” staff cater to young and old alike, offering their talents in the two-room spot with an audio-repair shop, stereo showroom, and venue (still in the works). Employee Brian Beckwith shares some thoughts with us.
Give me three great albums that you’ve enjoyed lately.
Let’s see — lately? Well, I would have to say the Surfer Blood: Astro Coast album. We are bordering on playing that LP out, but it’s solid all the way through. If you have been through our store on any Saturday afternoon, then there is a good chance you have heard us blasting some Canned Heat. They were just such an amazing band, and it’s something that all us employees (ranging from 20s to 50s) can all agree on.
There are other albums that are standards around here too like The Only Ones, Television, Undertones, Steve Earle, Captain Beyond, Neil Young, and Bruce Springsteen, but our newest one is Arcade Fire: Suburbs. It seems that they just keep getting better with every album, and that’s hard to do when you start off already being a great band.
Which albums has your store sold the most over the past month?
Well, maybe not the past month, but really [over] the past few months it has to be the new album by The National. It’s died down a little lately, but for a while, we couldn’t keep that LP in stock. Also, being that we are here in Michigan, our ex-Michigander Jack White‘s bands seem to sell really well all the time too. Whether it’s used originals on Sympathy, or new deluxe ones on Third Man, they always do great.
What’s the worst album that you’ve had to special order?
We really try to be the anti-cool-guy and -scenester record store, and we honestly believe that everyone here has a freedom to be into whatever they dig, to “each his own.” But with that being said, stadium-country music is a plague on West Michigan. We love Buck Owens, Les Paul, and even Sons of the Pioneers — you know, the classics. So I cringe every time someone wants me to order them a Toby Keith, or some other terrible joke-based rock group with a dobro and fiddle calling themselves country music this month.
You sell and repair audio equipment at your record shop. Does this attract more musical professionals to your shop over regular music shoppers?
It kind of goes both ways. We get the same amount of people who come in for stereo issues (either shopping for a new one, or speakers, or getting one repaired) who wander over into the sections and end up buying some LPs, as we do record shoppers who find out that we do repairs and bring in some amazing old equipment that has been sitting in their basements unused for decades, and we get it up and running for them. Really, everyday we sell a bunch of stylus replacements, and belts, or pre-amps to people that don’t have an old-enough stereo for a “phono” stage, and have to use their AUX inputs. Our repair guy, Roger, is a wizard when it comes to guitar equipment, so that does bring in people from the local music scene quite a bit.
What is the most difficult thing you’ve had to repair?
Not sure, but I remember a couple times where we had to wait months just for parts to be shipped to us from China. That usually upsets the customers. But as for anything that comes in with a power cord attached to it, Roger is a Jedi with it. It’s crazy to see. I have even seen him fix a 1970s miniature light-up Christmas tree for a little old lady, and that took him about five minutes.
Why do people choose your store over major or Internet retailers?
I think it’s because we try hard to do right by our customers. We know many on a first-name basis, and we actually care about tracking them down the music they are looking for, be it music they were into in college or back in the ’60s, and sometimes just new kids looking to buy their first LP and turntable.
We have such a vast amount of vinyl here, everything from obscure ’40s doo-wop, and ’60s folk protest songs, to ’80s avant-garde and punk, to the new releases coming out each week, and all the generic radio rock in between. We have the largest jazz selection on vinyl in Michigan, and a whole room with 40,000 45s in alphabetical order. I think that people enjoy the fact that we are an actual record store too, and almost some weird type of music time capsule because we still carry all the formats, from Edison rolls, 78s, 8-tracks, reel-to-reels, laser discs, and cassette tapes.