Hymie's Vintage Records' owners talk about the move
Founded in 1988 by Jim "Hymie" Peterson, Hymie's Vintage Records created a vinyl collector's emporium on East Lake. The business has changed hands throughout the years, most recently when Dave and Laura Hoenack took over the register. Along with maintaining City Pages' "Best Place to Buy Vinyl" reputation, the new owners have been busy upgrading the facilities. After flood damage and leakage issues in the old location, the Hoenacks moved their estimated 100,000 records (70 tons) five blocks east and opened a larger, cleaner vinyl browsing experience. After the success of their Record Store Day street fair, they upped the investment, adding a music venue to the store for Sunday afternoon concerts, record release parties, and other music-themed celebrations.
Gimme Noise pried the two away from the turntable to ask a few questions about their enthusiastic approach to owning their neighborhood's only record store.
Gimme Noise: How did the two of you take over the store?
Laura: We had lived in the neighborhood for a few years and Hymie's was our local record store. When we heard it was for sale, we joked about how much fun taking over a record store would be, but weren't serious about it. When they hadn't found a buyer after a few months, we got serious about putting together an offer. For the first month we owned the store, I was 8 months pregnant and brought our son with me to the store everyday while Dave finished up his contract with the school where he worked.
Do you have ties to Jim "Hymie" Peterson, the original owner?
Dave: I grew up in Minneapolis and I've been collecting records for more than 20 years. I knew Hymie as a customer. We were never friends and aren't of any relation. I was just a kid who came into his shop. It's always been my favorite record shop in town because I'm a pretty random listener. I like the idea of not knowing what I'm going to find.
Moving on to the store itself, what were your impressions from the Record Store Day street fair? Is it something you'll do again?
Laura: Absolutely! There was an enormous amount of work that went into it all but it was all worth it: Eleven of our favorite local bands played, and hundreds of people came to the shop for the first time. We had space for local artists like Dwitt, who also designed our posters for the event, and Rogue Citizen. It makes us both tired to think about it, but the only difference you'll see next year is that it will all be bigger.
You had help with the event from neighboring businesses, right? Did the event help bring the community together or were you already close?
Laura: Our big plans for Record Store Day really drove us to connect with a lot of business owners on East Lake. We've lived in this neighborhood for a long time and it's really the best part of the city. I hate to say that: now everyone will want to move here! A lot of the business owners that we worked with were happy to support us, simply because they want us to succeed. There's a genuine community, not just through the Longfellow Business Association or the Lake Street Council, but through direct contact and relationships.
Dave: Laura and I were really honored when the shop was named "Best Place to Buy Vinyl" by the City Pages this spring, but we were also surprised at how many other East Lake businesses got a nod. Merlin's Rest is our neighborhood pub and we thought it was awesome it's the best neighborhood pub. I know Leviticus Tattoo was on the list, and T's Place by 27th and Lake. What we'd really like to see is this end of town be named "Best Neighborhood" next year because it really is. I'd trade "Best Place to Buy Vinyl" for that.
Why did you add the show space?
Dave: This wasn't something we were thinking about when we bought the business. We were up to our necks with work because the old location was such a nightmare. When we closed down to move the shop, we chose Record Store Day for our last day in the building. But the thing is, it was the home to the best record store in town for more than two decades, and we wanted to send it off in style. The bands who came and played our last day at the old place all sought us out. They hauled gear, they did their own sound. Some of them came back over the next couple days and helped move the shop. They were all customers who just wanted to see the shop succeed, and we realized we could start to return that gesture.
Laura: We want our record store to be a sort of resource center for musicians as much as it is to the people who just love listening to music. There are a lot of people who want to try something out but they don't have a place to do it. There are also a lot of really awesome bands that just want another place to play, to reach a few new people and maybe make them into new fans.
Dave: I don't think we set out to make Hymie's into a venue. We're a record store. The stage is sort of open. Want to play, and you think you can promote it and get some people to come hear you? We can help make it happen. It's really fun because you never know what you're going to get.
We have these not-so-secret dreams of hosting an in-store performance by our favorite big time acts, but realistically I'm far more impressed by a Ben Weaver or a Martin Devaney than I am by most performers you would call "stars."
You update the website frequently with detailed stories and various musical histories. Do you see online communication tools like the blog as a part of the store's identity?
Laura: The blog is definitely a part of the store's identity. Many of our regulars read the posts and come in to discuss whatever the topic of the week is. Dave likes to strike up controversy from time to time (Boston vs. Chicago, for example) and it's entertaining for all involved. It's also a learning experience for both of us. Whenever something unusual comes into the shop, our first impulse is to look it up and learn about it and maybe sample it on the blog. It's another way to share music with our customers that they might not want to own, but they certainly enjoy reading about it and hearing it at least once.
Dave: I got a lot of angry emails when I said that Chicago out-rocks Boston. I think I once said Joe Raposo was more influential on my generation than the Beatles were, and I stand by that even though a lot of regulars made fun of me. I guess the part of our identity that comes out in the blog is that it should all be a lot more fun and that's all we want: for it to be fun for the customer.
How many records are in your personal collections back at home?
Laura: We have a couple thousand albums at home, and about eight boxes of 45s. We thought our record collection was going to grow a lot more when we bought the business, but a lot of what we bring home just works its way back to the shop. It's a safe bet that will be what happens to the copy of Chinese Democracy we brought home the other day.
Dave: Our house is ten blocks from the shop, so when I'm making a tape and I really, really need to put a song on it I can walk over and do that.
Laura: Nearly every record we ever dreamed of finding has come through the door, but there's something really rewarding about being behind the counter when somebody finds the dream record they've spent years looking for. It might be a super-rare private press thing like the Lewis Connection album or it might be a dime-a-dozen classic rock standard, but it makes that person really happy. If we can't make that happen once in a while we're not going to be a very fun record store to visit.