Indie music store has evolved with the times
Roadrunner Records, the small, new-and-used music store at 43rd and Nicollet, was unusually crowded on the last Saturday in April. Aisles choking with instruments, food and beer, swelled further as dozens of patrons thumbed through discounted LPs and jockeyed for a better glimpse of the several bands that played throughout the day. The neighborhood store was celebrating - heartily - its 20th year.
“It just couldn't have turned out any better,” mused John Beggs, the store's owner, a day later. “Everything went exactly the way I thought it would.”
Which is to say, the party was packed, loud, and left him and his family - particularly his toddler son - pleasantly exhausted.
There was much to celebrate: 20 years in business is something of a feat for a locally owned independent store, particularly a record store, which faces strong competition from big-box electronics giants, the Internet, and the advent of mp3 players and CD-burners.
Beggs has owned Roadrunner for the past eight years; he bought it in 1998 from his friend and onetime boss, Todd Adams. Adams, who was at the celebration, opened the then-even-tinier store on a shoestring budget, he said.
The store has since grown, expanding several years ago to encompass the space next door, and it's changed somewhat with the times.
“At one point, we were more of a general type of store,” Beggs said. “Now it's become more specialized. We really go out of our way to find something unusual.”
Beggs said he makes an effort to look for interesting used and rare discs and records to stock in the store.
It's about survival, really, he said. “There's always some obstacle to overcome in having a small store. I'm always looking for new ways to make the store interesting without compromising the integrity,” Beggs said. “Selling incense or pipes - I think that's cheating. If you have a record store, you sell records.”
The store does sell a small selection of rare DVDs, though it is far outstripped by the vinyl.
Both Adams and Beggs got involved in the music business, they said, because, frankly, they loved music, loved buying and selling it. Before owning a record store, Beggs worked in several. Beggs, too, got an early start making music - he was in middle school when he formed his first band.
Adams started playing music about the time he sold the store to Beggs. Both played in their respective bands at the party. Adams' is a folksy, acoustic type of music, Beggs sings in a rock band called the Floorshakers.
Eight other bands played at the party, all of which included at least one Roadrunner employee on their roster. One by one, they crowded into a small area in the back of the store, playing 20- or 30-minute sets. Nearby, a couple of display cases filled with old beer cans - art, perhaps? - fell apart shortly after music began spewing from the amps.
Unexpectedly, local columnist Jim Walsh showed up and played a few songs, to the surprise and delight of many attendees.
Lingering rain kept the party mainly indoors, though a regular rotation of patrons found respite from the sometimes tropical air of the packed store on the front stoop.
Conversation there ranged from music to politics to literature to food. But it was also the site of several energetic hellos and goodbyes; the sounds of neighbors and regulars paying homage to a well-worn and thoroughly loved local business.