Closing time

Treehouse Records’ Jeffrey Hermann and Thomas Sutton and the storefront that holds a million Minneapolis musical memories. Photo by Jim Walsh

There has been a record store on the corner of 26th & Lyndale for 44 years, but in two weeks time the hallowed ground that currently houses Treehouse Records will be an empty storefront.

“People have been coming by to pay their last respects,” said Jeffrey Hermann, standing behind the storied counter of Treehouse, formerly Oarfolkjokeopus Records, Monday afternoon. “Word got out of the pending closing in May, and now the last few weeks people have been coming in more and more. One woman came in, and she was just staring at everything, and I said, ‘Can I help you?’ She said, ‘I’m just soaking it in. I’ve lived in this neighborhood for 40 years, and it’s just one more thing that’s going away. I wanted to see it one more time.’”

She’s not alone. Regular customers and former employees have been making the pilgrimage to a place that literally changed their lives, including former owner Vern Sanden and managers Peter Jesperson, Jim Peterson and Terry Katzman, veteran record hounds who, along with current owner Mark Trehus and crew, provided the intersection with a heartbeat that gave life and vibrancy to the entire city.

“South Minneapolis was kind of where everybody lived, and 26th & Lyndale was the Ground Zero for all of it — kind of the Haight-Ashbury thing,” writer/publicist P.D. Larson told me for my 2007 book “The Replacements: All Over But The Shouting: An Oral History.” “The after-bar scene in that area was pretty ferocious.”

And how. I walked into Oar Folk for the first time in 1975 as a budding 16-year-old music junkie. I got off the bus going from De La Salle High School on my way to my home in South Minneapolis, walked in and bought Bob Dylan’s new album “Blood on the Tracks” and a poster of Elton John. From there and into the pivotal punk rock years, I and many others made lifelong friends while browsing the aisles, digging for vinyl, reading the music magazines and talking with friends old and new about records, gigs, life, death.

Never mind all the great music we discovered via Oarfolk-Treehouse, that intersection has been a treasure as an indie music-punk rock community hub, and the mere presence of a vibrant record store on that corner has been a hopeful sign of humanity, it’s massive picture windows touting the tastemakers’ latest finds via band posters and flyers.

Time marches on, bands now make Facebook event pages and not posters and neighborhoods get more and more gentrified — a fact ironically illustrated Monday by the deafening sound of a massive drill pounding out the foundation for more apartments across the street from Treehouse. (Future plans for the store’s space haven’t been announced.) Similarly, the art of music listening and the act of discovery has changed drastically, living as we do in a time when people rely on impersonal technology to shape personal tastes.

“Wanna hear some rock?” goes the new Apple commercial. “Hey Siri, play some rock.”

“When I would come in here as a customer and ask the guys for a suggestion, sometimes you could just tell they had a smirk on their face,” said Hermann. “They might want to recommend something, they might want to play something, but they’d be trying to withhold their emotional response to see how we would react. It’s like, you can’t get that sense of humor and sarcasm and context from an electronic voice-activated thing. I mean, there are people who come in here, and they still know the names of the guys who worked here in the ’70s.

“The perspective of how much stuff happened through the ripples of the enthusiasm of the people that worked here, particularly in the ’70s and ’80s, the enthusiasm that they had… I can trace everything back to the guys who were working here and what was going on on this corner. Whether it’s local or national or international scene, it’s been aware enough to bring in things at an early stage.”

Thankfully, Minneapolis is rich in record stores, including Roadrunner, the Electric Fetus and Know Name. But the corner of 26th & Lyndale will always hold a special place in the hearts of Minneapolitans, who came to Oarfolk and Treehouse to swap information with some of the best listeners and most curious people on the planet.

“It’s cool hearing stories from people who maybe don’t collect records anymore or don’t live in the Twin Cities anymore but they have all these memories from coming here 10, 20 or 30 years ago, talking about how they had to make a point of coming back to see the place where they got all their records,” said clerk Thomas Sutton, as he stacked boxes of records for one of the last times, not far from the corner of the store where, as many old-timers have noted in the last few weeks, Jesperson heard the Replacements’ demo tape for the first time.

“In the Yellow Pages, the store’s ad used to call it the ‘Rock and Roll Midwest Headquarter’ or something like that, and we really saw that this summer in particular, when people found out we were closing,” said Hermann. “How many people came in from Fargo, Duluth, Madison, Milwaukee, Chicago, Winnipeg, all these people come here to buy their records? It’s not just this city, but a lot of people from around the Midwest have a lot of memories of coming here, and it’s been nice to be able to talk to them and let them know what’s going to happen, so when they come by next spring, they’re not going to be shocked that the store is gone and something new is here. They had their last time to visit.”

Treehouse Records’ last day of business is December 31. A holiday sale and poster sale are on now. Hours are 11 a.m.–7 p.m. Monday–Friday; 11 a.m.–6 p.m. Saturdays, and noon-5 p.m. Sundays.


Jim Walsh lives and grew up in South Minneapolis. He can be reached at [email protected]