For the Record (Store)
On Saturday, Fat Cats Music & Video is celebrating its
April 17 is Record Store Day, a newfound holiday that invites independent record stores to celebrate the subject of their passion and livelihood - music - with the community.
Typical Record Store Day festivities include live music, giveaways and discounts, and Fat Cats' is no exception.
The store will feature live music outdoors, while giving away the annual Record Store Day album on vinyl, collectible vinyl picture discs, including titles from Jimi Hendrix and Them Crooked Vultures, along with some 45 rpm singles from The Rolling Stones and other stalwarts of rock.
To boot, customers can receive Record Store Day tote bags and a 20-percent discount on all of Fat Cats' diverse inventory. And if customers buy three used items, be it music or video, they get one free. A rent two DVDs, get one free offer also applies.
"It's just a way to support independent media," Fat Cats co-owner Kevin Fritch said, "those who keep up despite the corporate record industry shooting themselves in the foot."
Fritch admits the independent market, too, has been wounded over the last decade, especially considering the advent of iPods and all things digital, but ingenuity and a fervent focus on customer service have kept his store and others spinning on the turntable.
That's why Fritch's inventory is increasingly diverse - new and used albums on CD and vinyl; new and used books; and DVDs, both new and used and also for rent, with the occasional VHS for those harder-to-find titles.
Then again, harder-to-find is Fat Cats' specialty, especially when it comes to new video releases, many of them independent titles not typically found in big chain video stores or RedBox vending machines.
"There's a uniqueness to this store," he said. "We have a really good customer base, and it's always good to see people come in and say, 'I haven't seen a store like this in a long time.'
People like to support us, since no one dictates to us or tells us what we can or can't have in the store."
He also attributes success to a knowledgeable staff - all his employees are musicians or band members, and if one can't answer a customer's question about a certain album or film, chances are another employee will.
"And we don't have that arched-eyebrow independent record store attitude," Fritch said. "Frankly, people are quite surprised when they're approached appropriately - not to intrude or impose a conceived attitude of what's cool."
"We get everyone here, from grandparents to the edgy, to people who've heard something on NPR and can only pronounce it phonetically. The cast of characters that walks in keeps it really fresh for me."
On the other hand, Fritch must keep his business plan fresh, as well. Since opening in 1995, Fat Cats has strived to offer products that chains do not, its latest being Fat Cats Media, sort of an independent nod to the digital, by way of affordable computer repair.
"If it'd been chicken dancing, then I'd include chicken dancing," he said. "You just have to change and be flexible, get your own niche and develop it."
Fat Cats Music & Video is located at 965 Rivers St., near Mellow Mushroom. For more information, call (828) 265-2287 or visit http://www.fatcatsmedia.com.
On the Record Store Day
Record Store Day was conceived by Chris Brown, an employee of a New England independent record store chain, and officially founded in 2007 "as a celebration of the unique culture surrounding over 700 independently owned record stores in the USA, and hundreds of similar stores internationally," according to the event's Web site.
Celebrated the third Saturday of every April, the event regularly features special vinyl and CD releases, along with exclusive promotional products custom-made for each year's celebration. Various record distributors participate, as do hundreds of artists - Metallica kicked off the 2008 Record Store Day in San Francisco.
Independent record stores are defined "as a physical retailer whose product line consists of at least 50 percent music retail, whose company is not publicly traded, and whose ownership is at least 70 percent located in the state of operation," the site reads.
"In other words, we're dealing with real, live, physical, indie record stores - not online retailers or corporate behemoths."
And this hasn't been lost on some of music's biggest names.
Bruce Springsteen was quoted, saying, "I hate to see record stores disappear, and I'm old-school in that I think you should pay for your music. But what my kids do is download a lot of things, pay for them, and then if they love something, they'll get the CD. That may be the future."
But according to Tom Waits, record stores offer something considerably less tangible.
"Folks who work here are professors," he said. "Don't replace all the knowers with guessers. Keep 'em open; they're the ears of the town."
For more information on Record Store Day, visit http://www.recordstoreday.com.