Since Satellite Records moved from West Main Hill to the Vine neighborhood in June, business has been “awesome,” says the store manager.
“Every day someone comes in and tells us, ‘I’m so happy you’re here,’” says Manager Sean Hartman, 25.
“The neighborhood has good walking traffic, and there’s more of a crossover feel with businesses next to us, especially Crow’s Nest and Fourth Coast,” he says. “We’ve always tried to make it more of a community-oriented record store, and I think that’s been embraced here in the Vine neighborhood.”
Satellite Records sells vinyl records, DVDs, BluRay discs, cassettes, CDs, VHS tapes, laser discs and 45s. It moved to 808 S. Westnedge Ave. from the Tiffany’s shopping complex on West Main Street, where it was located for six years and known as Corner Records.
The store is owned by John McIntyre, of Grand Rapids. Hartman says McIntyre doesn’t keep in-store hours but talks to Hartman and the other employees almost every day. Hartman, who has worked at Satellite Records for about five years and been the store’s manager for two, says he notices that, in addition to the store drawing heavier foot traffic during normal operation, the in-store, all-age shows it hosts have been better attended.
“Again, we’re just easier to access here,” Hartman says. “A lot of the Vine neighborhood houses run all-age shows already so it’s easier to pull that same crowd.”
Closer proximity to college students, who make up a large portion of the customer base, has contributed to the increase in business, says Hartman, who points out that students who live in or around campus often don’t have their own transportation. It was out of the way for them to make the trek to Corner Records on West Main, but now Satellite Records is right in the thick of the college foot traffic.
“Right here we’re neighbors with everyone,” he says.
Hartman knew relocating to the Vine neighborhood was going to be a good move for the record shop, he says, but he assumed there would be a transitional period during which the shop would have to gain new footing, get the word out and reestablish itself. He says he thought it might take a few months to get back in the groove.
“The traffic came in almost immediately, though,” Hartman says. “It was really overwhelming how much people embraced the place. It’s been a really good feeling.”
Local disc jockey Erich Kupferschmidt, who hosts Orpheum Lounge at 7-9 p.m. Fridays on WIDR 89.1 FM, has been a customer of the store since its Corner Records days, having grown up close to the old location.
“I saw it driving by one day,” he says. “I probably spent way too much money on records at the store.”
Kupferschmidt, who has moved out of Kalamazoo and come back, says he likes the new location better. “It’s just a really good location, and it’s more lively than the other location,” he says. “I usually stop in and see if they have something new when I go to Fourth Coast. I’m back at Western so I don’t have the spending cash I used to, but I still stop by all the time to see if they have anything new.”
Kupferschmidt says it’s the people who work at Satellite Records who make it a go-to record shop. They have good taste but aren’t snobbish or intimidating, and they’re interested in all different types of music so no particular type of music dominates, he says.
“They have a lot of stuff I’ve never seen or I don’t know what it is too,” he says. “And they have a listening station where I can listen to it. I just like the vibe there.”
That’s exactly how Satellite Records staff members want people to feel, says Hartman, noting that the store’s three full-time employees (there are also a couple of on-call employees) are always on the lookout for improvements to the store and development of its concert functions and retail stock.
“Never do we sit back and say, ‘It’s done. It’s time to relax and let the money come in.’ Any time there’s extra profit, it goes right back into the store,” Hartman says. “You can really tell there’s a high level of care and attention here.”
Hartman says he and the staff are busy developing the show schedule and open jam sessions and buying used collections and records to expand the in-store repertoire. They recently purchased a 6,000-piece jazz collection, for example. They also want to start fixing turntable equipment for resale in order to provide a cheaper, higher-quality option for people breaking into vinyl.
With the success of the new location, Hartman says he’s just excited to see what the rest of the first year brings.
“There is just something really special about the way Kalamazoo operates,” he says. “We’re really proud to be here.”