On March 15, Mike Tyson opened Sunbrimmer Records in Avondale Estates. A former employee of Athens' Wuxtry Records, Tyson has spent the last 25 years amassing his own collection. As the owner of Atlanta's first new brick-and-mortar record store to open this year, he is exactly the kind of small-business owner that Record Store Day set out to preserve. To get his business rolling, Tyson opened the store by placing much of his own collection in the bins as the seeds for growing his business.
After hearing so much doom and gloom in the media about the dire business of selling records, why open a record store in 2014?
For reasons that travel over well-tread ground: Because I love sounds, music, and art, and I dig talking with people about those shared interests. I was lucky enough to come up working in a lot of great record stores and I guess the idea of opening my own shop has never quite left me. The opening of Pallookaville Fine Foods across the street has had a huge impact on the city and the surrounding businesses. They were a big pull in helping us to decide to take the plunge. More folks are visiting this neck of the woods for sure. It also doesn't hurt to be close to the MARTA line.
Does it strike you as a risky venture?
Of course. There are already a bunch of great record stores around Atlanta. And it's difficult to compete with the Internet. But I'm willing to give it a try. I'm not anti-technology, but most folks I know, myself included, prefer to hunt for records in physical locations. I seek out and buy records online, too, but there is little love in the act. Conversely, there is a distinct joy in flipping through stacks and discovering a record you've been looking for or an even better one you never knew existed.
Vinyl has a certain allure that keeps people interested in searching for it. Even in the face of digital convenience, with so much information and music at one's fingertips, I like the idea of a record shop. It's engaging to walk out of a shop with a record that you really want to hear and you don't have to stare at a screen to do it.
Were you apprehensive about selling your own collection to start the store?
A little bit, yeah. But it doesn't sting too bad. I'm keeping some records that I have a sentimental attachment to or ones that I think I'll have a hard time finding again. There is an absurd amount of compelling music that's constantly being created or that already exists and is seemingly being reissued in perpetuity, and I doubt I'll get to it in a lifetime.
Are you participating in Record Store Day?
I ordered a handful of small-run titles that I think would be good to have in the store, but RSD is not a big focus for Sunbrimmer this year. That said, I would like to reciprocate to anyone that helps support the shop, so as I get to know more customers and their preferences, maybe in the future I can preorder RSD records given specific requests.
Have you made any observations about people's record-buying habits?
Depends on who walks through the door, but people are definitely into buying records. Collectors of varying stripes, listeners on a budget, audiophiles, folks that just want to hear old favorites or find something new. I like that a lot of people are asking about 45s lately. I'll be introducing some to the shop soon. 78s are next!