On November 1, 2013, less than a month after announcing its imminent existence online, Underdog Records opened its doors at 3443 Robinhood Road. It began from nothing but a lifelong dream to operate my own record store and 7 1/2 years of experience in music retail. In September 2014 the business relocated to Burke Street in downtown Winston-Salem, moving into the same neighborhood where I originally envisioned the store many years before but in doing so sacrificed size for location.
Now, in July 2015, Underdog is presented with an exciting opportunity to more than double its size -- taking the store all the way to the corner of Burke & Brookstown -- which would make it larger than even the original store on Robinhood Road, and is asking for your kind support to help take the store to the next level.
Burke Street is in the process of being revitalized, just like other divisions of downtown i.e. The Innovation Quarter, Liberty Street, and before that Trade Street and 4th Street. There are several developments planned in our immediate area, and potential re-zoning in the works as well, which would permit more restaurants and bars to open in our vicinity. Underdog Records doesn't just want to reap the benefits of such development, it wants to be a benefactor.
Purely on the surface, this expansion will allow Underdog to more than double the size of its current retail location, which will permit us to also more than double our inventory as well as diversify our reach, expanding into such peripherals as music books & magazines, posters, stickers, patches, memorabilia, and more, not to mention more used stereo equipment. Underdog will also begin carrying new selections of turntables, high quality headphones, and related products.
The record bins in Underdog have been full for awhile and stock is rotated in daily as other sells. We have thousands of albums in storage to enter into inventory upon expanding. Our new LP selection has more than doubled since February and Underdog seeks to continue to grow that selection exponentially with this additional space while also transforming the reach of our new selection with more imports, indie releases, and genres including a much larger soul/funk section (a personal favorite) as well as jazz, afrobeat, reggae, and blues.
A record store should be a place where you can lose an entire afternoon, and that's still our goal.
But there is a great deal more inherent with the expansion as well, including a return to hosting regular in-store performances such as we did at our Robinhood location.
In 2014, we had in-store performances by such favorite local bands as Aquatic Ceremony, Unfortunate Gentlemen, and Cactus Black, the latter of which also released an exclusive 7" in accordance with the performance. After relocating to Burke Street, our smaller space prevented us from having full-band performances. This expansion will allow us to once again have a performance space in the front corner of our store, and part of the funds we seek to raise will go toward purchasing a PA system for the store, which will also free us to host touring acts passing through the area.
Something else Underdog customers have asked me for countless times is beer. Underdog strives to provide a relaxed atmosphere and many of our customers like to cruise the bins, grab a stack of vinyl, and take a seat on the couch by one of our two listening stations for some exploration. Implementing beer in the store, however, is not inexpensive. To do it right we'll need a cooler for the bottles & cans, and a kegerator for the couple drafts we'd like to have on hand, which will cost us as much as $1500-$2000 combined. If we are able to afford the supplies necessary to make a beer license prudent, we'll also bring Vinyl Night into Underdog Records as well as other events, such as Game Nights, and possibly hosting folks for baseball-related events (something I feel is drastically lacking in Winston-Salem; a work in progress), seminars/talks by folks in the industry, and other such events. As part of the expansion Underdog is also going to add more couches to our store with additional listening stations for more places to simply lounge on an afternoon or evening.
There are improvements to be done to the new space as well, including painting, lighting, the construction of shelving & more record bins, and some flooring. I want to give Underdog a personality that is tangible the moment you enter the shop, something that's lacked a bit since taking over the Burke Street location, but the property owner has approved painting the space after extending the lease (something she resisted the first year), so it's time to truly make the shop our own.
What else will the expansion allow? Underdog plans to devote an entire room in the new space to stereo equipment. Vinyl collectors are often looking for the perfect combination of turntable, amplifier, and speaker to maximize their listening experience. Come in and try out Underdog's used turntables, receivers, and speakers, and buy/trade for them individually or in combination. Don't just take my word for it, come by and give everything a test run, and mix & match at your leisure.
Underdog doesn't just envision being a better record store than it is now. It wants to be your favorite record store in town, a familiar name throughout the state, and a name recognizable to vinyl collectors around the country. This spring Underdog was voted the best record store in the Triad by readers of the Triad City Beat. The more the Underdog name becomes familiar, the more folks looking to sell used albums will find out about us as well, meaning the better our inventory becomes. There is a reason stores such as Amoeba, Waterloo, Bull Moose, Redscroll, etc. seem to have an influx of amazing used vinyl at all times. And the more success the store realizes, the more opportunities I'll have to get on the road and dig out records from other regions and not just our immediate area, something I've considered an integral part of the shop since before its inception.
For all the years I dreamed of having my own record shop, it was that: a dream. "Unrealistic," I told myself, but never gave up on it. When it came to fruition in late 2013, I joked maybe I'd have one good year. I am so unbelievably thankful to everyone who has patronized Underdog, whether you come by once every three or four months, or to those who come by every week, even if purely to talk, hang out, and share a laugh. Underdog is truly an independent record shop by every definition of the word, and your support means everything. We have traveled a greater distance in our less than two years of existence than I could have imagined, and am very excited about the prospect of taking it further still.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support of the shop, and for your contribution if you see it fit. The excitement and enthusiasm for our growth by the Underdog Family, our customers, lets us know we're on the right path. Thank you!!
Risks and challenges
Upon successful funding of this project, the implementing of beer in the store will likely still take some time as forms must be approved by several different offices, suppliers arranged, and equipment procured. Even if the expanded store opens in September, which is the latest we hope for it to occur, the serving of beer in the store may not begin taking place until the fall or even winter.
The expansion of our inventory will also still be a gradual process as thousands of used albums cannot be processed in a month (almost every used album which enters inventory at Underdog is hand cleaned, which slows influx but greatly raises the quality). I am already pricing and storing albums for the extra space but it may take 2-3 months after opening the expanded space before all additional record bins are fully stocked, and expanding our new inventory will be an on-going process.
If, on the other hand, we're able to raise well beyond our goal, all extra funds will be used to more quickly expand our new inventory as well as to explore other means of growth for the shop.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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