That snobby pretension you’d expect to encounter at a local record store is nowhere to be found at Bay View’s Rush Mor Records (2635 S Kinnickinnic Ave). In fact, owners Dan DuChaine and Bill Rouleau go out of their way to make you feel welcome. It’s this positive, friendly attitude that makes the store such a joy to browse on a nice afternoon. You may just end up hanging around talking with them for a half an hour.
We catch up with DuChaine to discuss the more than two-decades-old store, the approaching peak of the vinyl record resurgence and, naturally, the vitality of the local music scene.
How’s the business going? Is summer usually a good time for sales?
Business is good—very good at this time. Like the season itself, summer brings a wave of exuberance and positivity to get out, explore and enjoy our resources.
Life needs a soundtrack, and we’re thankful that individuals from not only our community but visitors from great distances, far beyond just our city and state, make our little shop a destination point. We talk often about Frank Lloyd Wright and the kindness of our land’s livestock.
According to a recent Wall Street Journal piece, vinyl record sales are slowing (there’s only been a 2 percent increase in 2017 compared to last year, according to Nielsen Music). Do you see the enthusiasm for new vinyl records waning at Rush Mor?
Not at all. If anything, it’s become a greater interest. Limited releases or vanity pressings being made as well as physical vinyl not being released synchronized along with digital markets upon a release date cause a reaction of demand also. This sometimes also hurts the LP sale.
The lack of the physical LP availability with the material being digitally listenable has sometimes satiated listeners’ demand for the actual vinyl upon arrival. The listening audience is over the music by the time the record is finally released.
Also, if the release itself isn’t strong enough to conjure the demand of the physical release, the record demand bleeds out. But, on the flipside of that situation, albums can sometimes enjoy a rejuvenation, or another spike of interest.
Without the growth in these physical sales over the past decade, do you think Rush Mor would still be running today?
My business partner, Bill Rouleau, and I shook hands over a quarter of a century ago, and on that handshake we vowed to take what we do as a day-by-day situation.
We accept doing this business as a love of labor—to learn more, to do more, do good things and reflect a positivity.
Some storms were weathered without their acknowledgement (CD burning, downloading, file sharing, the economy, lack of creativity) because we were entrenched with the ‘doing’ and not being so worrisome. But along with an unhealthy obsession of time itself, it’s been the people who visit us here, who support Rush Mor, that have kept the store and culture itself alive.
We could not do anything channeled though the brick-and-mortar of our shop here if it weren’t for all the kind people and spirits that continue to stay on this journey with us. We can’t thank, nor name them all, enough. We’re very grateful.
If vinyl record sales keep tapering off, is the future of the local record shop as dire as it would seem?
I can’t answer this properly. I have no tarot, no magic eight-ball; we have here/now. The future is an illusion anyway, and we remember the past so much differently than what we really lived.
Milwaukee itself has so much to offer, so many talented individuals. If we all stick together, we can’t fail. I have hope that food will get better and we can stay strong to do more and stay creative; nutrition is important. If Rush Mor is still needed, and wanted, we’ll keep on keeping on.
There seem to be more local releases on vinyl than ever and Rush Mor stocks and displays them well. Are there any new local albums that you are currently digging?
Yes, it’s a very exciting time here in Milwaukee. I consciously repeat myself here when I say that this is the healthiest time in Milwaukee’s music history.
There are so many great bands, it’s impossible to acknowledge all of the players, bands, poets and labels who are producing noteworthy material. It wouldn’t be fair to those not mentioned here but yet so deserving. I, myself, choose the live experience of witnessing music, especially with all the venues hosting this exploding musical girth. Hear… here and now.