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My Mind’s Eye

PHOTOS: ORIANA BELAVIC | Music writers salivate when dumping a thousand words on a page about the trends of Record Store Day. Are the major labels too involved? How does the ordering work? Do small stores really get fucked over in favor of bigger “independent” retailers? Is it “good” or is it “bad?”

But what if the politics are put aside? What if stores just took that day for what it’s worth, ordered stuff they thought their customers would want, and tried to make it as enjoyable as possible?

This is the story of one store, on one day, and how that day doesn’t make or break the store.

My Mind’s Eye opened in Lakewood, Ohio in 1999, and has spanned two locations (it started on Madison Avenue and now is located on Detroit Avenue). If you can picture the ideal of a “traditional” record store, this would be it. Racks upon racks of records and CDs, stacks of god knows what behind the counter, and an owner that you like, but you can’t put your finger on just why.

Enter Charles (last name withheld… apparently a man of mystery). He’s the owner of the shop and when you see him, you can guess what’s in the stacks. He often wears t-shirts of metal bands and has something about him that’s a little terrifying, but oddly inviting. Based on taking Charles at face value, it would be easy to peg the store as a punk and metal heaven. And it is! However, that’s not what it’s limited to.

“I think people say we specialize in punk and metal because we carry it and some other stores don’t,” Charles said. “But I think of us more as a Little Richard, Bo Diddley, Eddie Cochran, and Jerry Lee Lewis store. That’s what I think we are. We certainly carry their offspring which is heavy metal and punk bands, which I love—don’t get me wrong—but I consider us a rock ‘n’ roll store. I’ve had people come into the store and complain because they think we’re a heavy metal store and I’m playing country music or something. They want to know where the guitar is and I’m sorry but this is just something I like too.”

This is the store where I was lucky enough to get a first pressing of Sonic Youth’s Goo for $20. Charles is a man of principle who orders/ stocks/ prices things as he deems fair, and beyond that, he just wants people to enjoy the experience of shopping in his store and treat his customers with decency.

“I am somebody who buys things and marks them up to make a profit. Something is worth what it’s worth,” said Charles. “If I feel this record is worth $3.25, then that’s what I’ll price it at. If it’s worth $148,000 to you? Then that’s what it’s worth to you. That’s fine, but do I have to think so? No.”

It’s clear his customers appreciate Charles’ approach to running a shop. After arriving at 6 am on Record Store Day morning, the vast majority of people in front of me and behind me not only had experienced a Record Store Day at My Mind’s Eye before, but are loyal customers to the shop year round.

“Every time I buy something here, no matter what it is, Charles always has something nice to say and knows something about the record,” said Kel Arroyo, who arrived early to be fifth in line for Record Store Day. “Last year on Record Store Day people were buying the Cypress Hill record and Charles was like ‘there’s some awesome Black Sabbath samples on there.’ So no matter what you buy, he knows it.”

Charles has participated in Record Store Day since 2009 and his laid back approach to the business has rubbed off on customers. Through experience and observation, I saw no fighting or arguing over records. There weren’t any flippers hoarding the “good stuff” to throw up on eBay immediately. What I did see were people who have a similar interest helping each other out. Need a record and you’re trapped between people? Call it out and someone is bound to help and pass it down to you.

For all the horror stories you hear about how people conduct themselves on Record Store Day, My Mind’s Eye is just different. It might have some cheapest contact lenses on.

“I try to make it a cool thing, try to make it nice and trying to show people who don’t like coming into record stores that this is an alright thing,” Charles said. “I don’t know what my goal is other than for people to be happy.”

It’s hard to point to anything other than the tone Charles sets through his demeanor. He has taken a crowd-friendly approach to what he decides to stock and has seen a gain of repeat business outside of Record Store Day.

“On Record Store Day and Black Friday, I used to see 99% of those people those two times a year,” Charles said. “Now it’s closer to 80 to 90 percent of those people I only see twice a year. That’s an improvement to gain 10 to 20 percent of those people to come back and shop here again. But I don’t think there’s anything you can do to hook people into coming back. I’m certainly not a sales person and I’m more likely to talk someone out of buying something. I don’t think you can or should convince someone they should do something. I don’t like recommending stuff to people. I just think people are going to like what they’re going to like and discovering music is a natural thing.”

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