- Parker Yates
One thing that's quickly becoming apparent is that there won't necessarily be a return to "normal" after this coronavirus affair has passed us by—or at least not a clear path back to "normal." Not only will our economy likely be vastly changed, but the businesses and people left to adjust to it will have been forced to change, too. The business of selling music has been uniquely impacted—record stores, generally places to go and linger while crate-sifting, have gotten crafty in the face of COVID-19. They're also now considering what changes are worth keeping for the future.
Downtown record shop Diabolical Records has made the decision to stay closed to the public, while keeping up with their new method for making sales by delivery. Since lockdown started, Diabolical has been operating (with the efforts of owners Alana Boscan and Adam Tye) by allowing customers both to make regular orders of records and purchase the shop's "drop bags"—a mystery deal, priced between $20 and $100 depending on how many records you want, and selected by Diabolical for you based on a note about your interests and preferences.
Along with drop bag collaborations with places like Normal Ice Cream, Ken Sanders Rare Books, Atelier and local artists who supply prints to add on to orders, the new deal has been quite lucrative for the shop. "The community has responded so incredibly to us switching to a delivery-based system and so we are fortunate that we are able to maintain this current model," Tye says. "We are working on a few others to team up with [for drop bags] and it's been so successful, it may be something we continue doing even after we do reopen our store."
When that reopening will happen is still unknown, despite some recently-loosened restrictions. "We decided to close and to stay closed because we think the state and country are acting rashly," Tye says. "Our mayor said that we are almost at a plateau as far as case rate and death rate. Almost at a plateau means we're still ascending, so to loosen restrictions because people value our economy over human lives is absurd and offensive. Alana and I both have immuno-compromised parents, and the idea of us opening being more important than their lives—or anyone's loved ones life—boggles my mind."
But, just as Diabolical has had to adapt and made decisions that are best for them, Tye recognizes that businesses that do intend to stay open aren't in the wrong. They're simply doing what is necessary to keep themselves running, or keep a payroll going. In this way, small businesses more than big businesses seem to be adapting more easily, playing by their own rules and making them up as they go along.
Another local that is adapting as it goes is Peasantries & Pleasantries, near the 9th & 9th neighborhood. The shop has mostly seen little pandemic-inspired change in operation, because of its already-unconventional model of "appointment-only" customer visitations. Additionally, the shop—which owner Parker Yates just relocated to a space across from his original one—is zoned as a home, and he lives there as well. "I moved in the week before all of this happened, and I couldn't take any time off of the bar, so it took a whole week to move," Yates says, referencing his part-time job at the Twilite Lounge.
As soon as Yates was ready to open up the new space to visitors, everything shut down. But the switch to deliveries, curb-side pickups and online orders has been an easy one for him, with Instagram posts featuring his for-sale records turning out handy for him, too.
"The only thing that really hinders the record store is that you have a lot of stuff for people to look through," he notes. "People set out to find one thing, and then get in there and end up finding something else, too, which always helps sales, so that's probably a hindrance. Other than that, the curbside thing changes very little. The music's still getting into people's hands."
That is what's most important to Yates, anyways. He's taken the time during quarantine to be "quiet," and consider what future operations for him will look like—which turns out to be digging deeper into his model of a music-focused, curatorial and conversation-friendly environment in his homey shop. He also hopes to begin plans to launch a record label along with the shop, which will no doubt spur our scene.
As for reopening, Yates is paying attention to predictions, but doesn't anticipate opening the new space until July 1. "I don't understand how they're starting to try to open up things, as much as people need the business," he says. "I feel like the gravity of the situation is more important than [opening]. I'm just some guy trying to sell records and this is people's lives."
While we all keep living our lives in this situation, don't hesitate to seek out some rousing records to keep you company from Diabolical Records (Instagram @diabolicalrecords) and Peasantries & Pleasantries (@pleasntlyslc).