Staying the course
A little record shop hangs on ... and on
Published: November 21, 2012
But it's still been a hard challenge. Companies like Nike, he says, have exclusive contracts with national chains like Foot Locker to supply them with the latest, hottest shoes, and he's not allowed to sell them until months later, when they've gone stale in popularity. So he has to tell customers with cash in their hands that, no, he doesn't have the Kanye West's Air Yeezy II that they're looking for, or the Air Force Ones.
He faces the same problem with music companies. "They give me a CD with eight songs on it, and give Target the same CD with 12 songs on it, plus a DVD! And Target can sell the CD cheaper."
That new retail landscape — more than the emptying of the neighborhood, the tanking of the economy, the struggles of the city — is what make him and stores like his endangered, he says.
"It's big businesses that keep the small business from growing and from surviving with the way they do business," he says. "You're not allowed to compete."
But he's still got something they don't offer, and wouldn't be able to earn.
"Do you need any help with anything," Josie asks a customer in a sweet voice on a Friday afternoon. The tall, lanky kid is browsing the clothes, and declines politely, as if his aunt had asked him. "Just let me know if you do," she replies.
Meanwhile, Beal is in the back room, about to head over to the other store on Warren. A new employee has been hired, and he wants to go there, blend in among the clothes and watch to see if she's good with the customers. Doesn't matter how much she knows about music, or clothes or sneakers. If she doesn't treat customers the way its done here, it's not going to work out.
Neeley, a longtime customer who grew up within sight of the store, mentions the barbeques that Josie throws for the neighborhood, the discounts she gives to some of the kids from the blocks, the respect they show the customers. "You can go there and shop and get clothes and CDs, and it's not a thing where you go in there and people are just gonna watch you to see if you steal."
It's not like that at the big box chain stores, he notes. They don't throw neighborhood barbecues, or bring stars like Lupe Fiasco and T.I. to a little record store in a forgotten neighborhood. And they definitely don't know your name, or tell you to say hi to your mom for them.
"That's key to a small business like this," Beal says. "That's the only thing we got over a Wal-Mart or a Best Buy, is that service. It's key that you take care of your customers good, and that's what keeps them coming back. You take care of them."
Detroitblogger John is John Carlisle. Send comments to him at email@example.com.
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