Black Friday can pose agonizing questions: Do you choose family time or doorbuster sales? Do you protest workers' crazy hours by staying home, or do you go buy something because the clerks are going to be at the stores anyway? And what in the world should you think about the growing trend for stores to be open all day on Thanksgiving?
Fortunately, you won't have that kind of angst when shopping at St. Louis record stores this week. Cognizant of the value that local shoppers put on time, selection and employee happiness, our indie stores are turning Black Friday into something better than just a way to feed rampant consumerism. We chatted with the folks at Slackers, Vintage Vinyl and Dead Wax Records and hit upon four ways they're ensuring that Black Friday in St. Louis does not suck.
Increasingly, national stores are kicking off the shopping marathon even before Mom puts the Thanksgiving Day turkey into the oven Thursday morning. But local stores fully support your right -- and the rights of their employees -- to eat four pieces of pie and sleep it off in front of whatever football game is on TV.
According to our informants, Slackers' South County Center and Mid Rivers Mall stores will open at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving night (when you'll likely be sick of your relatives anyway), while other Slackers mall stores will open at 5 a.m. on Black Friday. All other Slackers locations will open at 9 a.m. Friday. Dead Wax opens at 9 a.m. Thursday, only slightly earlier than its normal hours. The store also will open at 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. Vintage Vinyl is electing to keep its normal hours all weekend, opening at 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. (Because holiday shopping hours often change, we recommend confirming the stores' schedles before you head out.)
"The whole Black Friday thing is kind of new to me," says Tim Hendrickson, co-owner of Dead Wax, which opened in May and will helm its inaugural Black Friday this week. "Black Friday becomes Black Thursday, which gets a little silly."
Evident during the springtime's Record Store Day, our independent record stores pride themselves on being part of the DNA of St. Louis, and that's continuing for Black Friday. Though none of the stores we spoke to are planning in-store entertainment this week, they're still highlighting musicians from the 314, 636 and 618. Many of the shops already carry shirts, stickers and albums featuring St. Louis artists, and there may be a few extra items on hand Friday.
"Our major local release we have right now is the Story of the Year 10 Years and Counting CD," says Luke Naliborski, marketing and promotions director for Slackers. "This is an exclusive item to Story of the Year and Slackers and is available at all Slackers locations."
And still-local artists are emphasized just as much as St. Louis' made-it-big musicians. Hendrickson of Dead Wax specifically mentioned having Bug Chaser's new album as well as works by Beth Bombara.
Continue to page two for more.
Just like its Record Store Day counterpart, Black Friday brings a ton of exclusive or limited-release albums and re-releases. While the list of collectable albums is long, local shops often have to wait until they unpack the boxes to find out what they'll stock.
"We order everything available and often don't find out exactly what we are getting until close to Black Friday due to allocations, shortages, etc. from labels and distributors," says Jim Utz, who's in charge of marketing and promotions for Vintage Vinyl.
Still, what's available is pretty cool.
"I am looking forward to the Vince Guaraldi Trio's Linus and Lucy seven-inch," Naliborski says. "How cool is it to have an exclusive Snoopy vinyl during the holiday season?!"
The special releases also present a way to tick off a few names on your music-lover gift list.
"Black Friday releases have been a great boom for Vintage Vinyl. It is nice to have releases that people can't get at a mall and have to visit an independent record store to purchase," Utz says. "Music has always been a great last-minute stocking stuffer, so Black Friday releases help put indie record stores in people's minds as a gift option that isn't so 'last minute.'"
Local record stores have sales and exclusive items, but what will really push a discerning shopper to choose them over, say, the bargain bin at Best Buy? Easy: knowledge. The owners and employees at St. Louis indie shops are music aficionados with long histories of following bands, collecting vinyl and performing themselves. They've got insight that a sixteen-year-old kid at a national store hasn't yet attained, and they're happy to introduce you to outstanding local acts or debate the finer points of the David Lee Roth vs. Sammy Hagar versions of Van Halen.
"Our biggest edge, as with all indie-music stores, is our employees' knowledge of the product lines," Naliborski says. "You can't get that kind of knowledge and help at the big-box stores.
Of course, loving what you do has a few consequences -- especially when you accumulate that which you sell. We can't help but wonder what our record-store owners are anxious to grab for their personal vinyl collections.
"Stuff that comes in -- new stuff, old stuff -- part of the reason we're doing what were doing is because we love it," says Hendrickson. "At the same time, my life would be a lot simpler if I didn't collect at all. But it wouldn't be nearly as fun."
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