Heights Vinyl Celebrates One Year Slinging Wax
This weekend Heights Vinyl celebrates its first year of life with a big party at their shop on White Oak, just blocks from Fitzgerald's, featuring beer, food, giveaways, and performances from Electric Attitude, Brandon West, Come See My Dead Person and the Heights Boogaloo All-Stars, a band brought together by store owner Craig T. Brown.
Photo by Allison McPhail Craig T. Brown at Heights Vinyl
In an age when record stores are supposed to be shuttering, Heights Vinyl has proven industry numbers wrong by thriving, with brisk sales, great weekend crowds, a decent location and in-store performances almost every weekend. Along with Cactus Music, Vinal Edge, Sound Exchange, Sig's Lagoon and Black Dog, the shop a couple of doors down from Fitzgerald's is showing that Houstonians are still mad about vinyl and actually buying music.
This weekend's anniversary festivities are a bit late. The shop opened in early December 2011, but with the holiday shopping season in full swing, the party was moved back to a more hospitable date for everyone.
I talked to Brown about Heights Vinyl's first year in the Heights and some of the challenges that they faced over the past 12 months.
Craig T. Brown: A whirlwind. The whole year, really. I didn't expect for the Houston community to be ready for a store like ours so quickly. I thought a nice slow start was gonna be the reality, but we've had to hit the ground running. It's been a good problem to have.
RO: How did the Houston scene treat you?
CTB: Having just been back in Houston about three years now, it has been a full-on educational process to get to know the scene and the recent history, what is happening now and who is doing what. And though there's an amazing amount of progress, as a somewhat outsider, I'm surprised at how "distant" the music scene here can be from itself.
Every day I meet fantastic musicians and other creative types who have never heard of each other. I get a real kick bringing these people together and seeing what starts to cook.
RO: It's pretty exciting to be a local music fan right now in Houston...
CTB: The thing, though, that excites me the most right now is how amazingly fertile Houston is at this point. I believe this town has just started to evolve into something I never thought I would see here. The talent that's around, the new pillars of creativity being created, the willingness of collaboration for greater good.
I lived in Austin in the early '90s, and I tell people the vibe feels very similar. The scene, in my opinion, isn't really defined yet. Yes, there has been fantastic progress by some fantastic people, but I think we're just at the cusp of something special.
From a music and creativity scene, Houston is about as opportunistic as you can get. It's ripe to shape it and mold it how we want it. And to me, it doesn't get more exciting than that.
RO: Was there a point where you were worried about the store?
CTB: From day one, the community has supported us in ways that never cease to amaze me. It's been a learning process for sure this first year. We've definitely had to stay flexible, listen to customers and of course make adjustments.
RO: It seems like the turntables have been a big hit, too.
CTB: The equipment aspect of the store has been one of the biggest and best surprises of the year. From starting out just wanting to give people the option to compare a quality vintage turntable to some of the newer, plastic models offered at large retail outlets, we now (by customer demand) have expanded to carrying vintage amps, speakers, headphones and other accessories.
All our equipment is refurbished and warrantied, but at times we've become a bit overwhelmed and not provided the customer service I think is vital. My biggest fear is for people to lose trust in what we do and have to offer. It's the one thing we keep working on to make it better; there is no road map and we're making it up as we go.
In general, I think we are running so much smoother than in the past.