Records In The Time of Corona: Plaid Room Records

Today, in our ongoing series Records In The Time of Corona, we sat down with Bob and Terry Cole, owners of the Colemine Records label and Plaid Room Records locted in Loveland, OH. They talked to us about how the global pandemic has affected what they do on a day to day basis and how the record shop is an important part of the community among other things. Enjoy-

How has the global pandemic affected your day-to-day record store?
In some ways, the impact has been dramatic, in other ways I’m lucky that it’s been somewhat normal. For example, I still come in every day before we would open, go upstairs and dig into primarily label work. The only difference has been it’s just been me, which is a bit odd. However, obviously having no customers downstairs changed the dynamic. We’ve shifted from prepping used drops to strictly picking orders, packing orders, and shipping. So, the label side is still the same: mix records, work on artwork, emails, etc.

What are you doing differently to get sales?
We already had a very strong online presence before all of this, but our strategy has been to just lean into that portion of our business. For us, that means adding more items to our site daily, keeping up with upcoming pre-orders, staying on top of each week’s new releases, and now cross-listing our items on Discogs and EBay.

You always have a huge presence online (IG specifically), can you explain if you’re doing anything different, and how selling online mostly has helped or hurt you now?
Pre-pandemic, our business was about 60% online, 40% in-store. I think having that baseline customer group has been huge in helping us get through all this. We already have a lot of great systems in place, which allowed us to scale up our online business without missing a beat. So it helped…. dramatically!

Are people still getting rid of collections at this time?
We’ve been getting calls over the last couple of weeks, but at this time, we’re trying to ease back into buying used. We’ve had a few folks drop off collections, but we’re not doing house calls like normal. We have had a lot of calls though. I think folks are at home and looking around for ways to make a little extra money so it makes sense.

Is this downtime at the physical shop forcing you to dig through your own collection more?
I really wish I had a cooler answer to this, but if I’m honest, the answer is no. My work has been different since all this started, but it’s not any less, really. I might have gone from 60-70 hours per week down to more like 50 hours per week. But that extra time has been spent with my family, making dinner, playing in the backyard, etc. Most of the music I’ve been listening to is from artists we’re actively working with or hoping to be working with, which is a good thing.

They’re going to hustle it for you because they believe in you, the music, and your goals. And that sort of effort defines community in a way. A group of folks sharing ideas, music, art, etc. Record stores are the best. Period.

What gems have you revisited in your own collection?
I did have to move some stuff around in the studio and while doing so found my coveted copy of the Ohio Players first LP “Observations In Time” with the original cover. That’s one of my favorite records ever. I shared their version of “Over The Rainbow” with our little seven-year-old and she loved it.

Are you doing anything else non-record related during this time?
Whitney (my better half) and I have been doing a lot more cooking and been doing our best to use this time to sort of reset our lives a bit. It’s been a wild five-year ride for us since the shop opened up. The shop’s growth has been insane, same with the labels so it’s been tough to keep up with taking care of ourselves. So we’ve been eating better, going to bed early, taking time to be creative not because we have to, but because we want to. It’s been kind of great in that aspect for us.

What has this global pandemic shown you about the record game?
That it’s just like any other sort of venture….diversity is a good thing in business. There are plenty of shops that I know don’t mess around with new records, which is fine. But without new LPs right now, our income would be significantly decreased. My philosophy is to have a little bit of everything. And leaning into alternative selling channels certainly has helped us. Having our new inventory on our site, EBay, and Discogs definitely keeps our inventory turning over a ton. We don’t sell any of our used online, so all of our current income is being generated from new vinyl, and we’re doing just fine. As much as I love selling used to local customers, I’m not that into selling used online. I think a decade’s worth of selling 78s, 45s, and LPs online jaded that part of the game for me šŸ™‚

Any tips for record heads that are going nuts by not being able to go to a record store?
This is definitely a time for music and record heads to explore some genres or territories not yet explored. And while it’s not as fun to digitally dig, you can certainly cover a lot of ground in a short time period. So my suggestion is to open your mind, and let something new inside šŸ™‚

Last comments, whatever you want.
I can’t emphasize enough how important record stores are to communities, artists, and record labels alike. I always tell folks how important independent retailers are to any new release. Each record shop you can get on board with what you’re doing is a little satellite promotional avenue. They’re going to hustle it for you because they believe in you, the music, and your goals. And that sort of effort defines community in a way. A group of folks sharing ideas, music, art, etc. Record stores are the best. Period.

More info on Plaid Room Records here.

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