Adventures In The Vinyl Trade: Doc's Records' Dave Howard
Dave Howard: "It's a great working environment. We can swear on the clock."
All photos by Kat Shimamoto
Every so often, we get to wondering what people in the local music community do all day. So, we asked them. Today, Ken Shimamoto checks in with Doc's Records employee Dave Howard, and learns a little about the life of a record store clerk in 2012.
I grew up in record stores: from the musty, dusty spot where my dad used to buy his opera records, to the Sam Goody's in the mall that seemed like it must have had every record ever made, to the "underground" record store where I worked as a teenager. I learned a lot thumbing through the racks and listening to the chatter of the people who worked and shopped in those stores - probably as much as I did from perusing rock mags.
When I moved to Dallas in '78, I briefly worked at Peaches Records and Tapes at Cole and Fitzhugh, then moved to Fort Worth to open a record store at 6393 Camp Bowie Blvd., which the man that brought me here would run for the next 25 years under four different corporations (Peaches, Sound Warehouse, Blockbuster Music, and Wherehouse Music). I worked there, off and on, under three of those logos.
Back in July 2009, I was thrilled to learn there was a record store opening in my Fort Worth neighborhood. Doc's Records and Vintage is a mom 'n' pop - or, more precisely, dad 'n' son - that retired dentist Jerry Boyd and his son Jenkins Boyd operated in Hurst for several years before relocating to 2111 Montgomery St. I was able to experience a thrill I hadn't expected to enjoy again in this lifetime: walking home with a vinyl LP under my arm. It was like being 14 again.
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I was sad when Doc's moved to a more distant location at 9522 Camp Bowie West last year. But business has been good, and Record Store Day 2012 was the busiest in Doc's history. The bins are well stocked, with a stage at the back of the store, adorned with some of Jerry Boyd's original paintings, that's played host to a number of bands and solo artists.
Dave Howard, 35, who's worked at Doc's since October 2010, is a former Half Price Books employee, bassist in the Satans of Soft Rock, and doorman at Dan's Silverleaf. I recently interrupted him while he was shelving soul LPs to ask him about the current state of the vinyl trade.
What's a workday at Doc's like for you? I come in, open up, turn on the black light hallway. You've got to turn on the Christmas lights, turn on the AC. I do ordering, so I'll order new stuff. I'll check and see what sold. Go through back stock to see if we have multiple copies that need to be replaced. It usually takes a while for things to pick up. Sometimes there are people waiting outside, sometimes no one will come in for the first hour. I think people are just catching on that we carry new stuff and we're not just a used store. We carry stuff we think will sell, and stuff we think is interesting and want to turn people on to.
Who shops at Doc's? We get people from all over DFW and all over the world: Japan, Europe, South America. We get young kids that got their first record player. They're picking up "my first album" type stuff -- Zeppelin, Stones, Beatles - and then maybe delving a bit deeper. We get people that tell us they're glad we're here. The people that shop here the most are older white guys that collect records and have been for a long time. They've been doing it forever, and they don't ask a lot of questions.
What are your interactions with customers like? There's a lot of reminiscing. People come in well informed. They know what they want, or maybe they're just looking for something rare. There are people who collect white-label promos only, or Japanese pressings only, or people that just want the original release. People that only collect 45s, people that collect 78s. They're the biggest weirdos among record collectors.
What's the worst experience you ever had with a customer? Once, at the old store, we had a tweaker come in that really made me nervous. He started talking about white supremacy and prison. He thought because I had tattoos, I'd been in prison and was racist too. You don't want to push some guy that's in the middle of some weird thing you can't even understand. He took off, and we never saw him again.
What do you like most about working at Doc's? I'm not cut out for a lot of corporate American jobs. The Boyds are really fair people, and have a good understanding of what a record store should be. It's a great working environment. We can swear on the clock. We don't take ourselves seriously. There's no backstabbing because there's no ladder to climb.
What's your take on the Record Store Day phenomenon? Record Store Day is great, but it can be frustrating for record store employees. As soon as [labels] announce the titles [of Record Store Day releases], the calls and emails start: "Are you going to have this? Can you hold it for me? I'm going to be out of town. Can you mail it to me?" We've been debating whether it's worth the hassle to participate in that. We could use the money we're using to buy all those limited edition releases to hire a great national act to come and play. We have great records here already.
Besides the new stuff, where do all these records come from? We have people showing up all the time with records [to sell]. There are estate sales, some garage sales, but you've got to get to those early, because the collectors go through Craigslist every day, and they can be aggressive. Someone will call and say, "We have 20,000 records here," and Jerry and Jenkins will go out and spend a whole day going through them.
How do you feel about downloads? I like previewing stuff on the Internet. I buy a lot of albums, and I don't want to spend 18 bucks on an album with two good tracks. But if a band makes a good album, you should support them, because they're trying to make a living.
Do you think the "romance of the artifact" is dead? There's people that hear music and just go, "Oh yeah." And then there's people that obsess over it and need to know everything about that band and that album, and they want to hold it and look at it and put it on a turntable and listen to it through headphones, and they're the people that come here and buy records. They need more than just some invisible thing.
What do you think the future holds for independent record stores like Doc's? The future doesn't look too good. You're not going to get rich. People seem really busy these days, and don't want to go out of their way. But I believe places like this can be therapeutic. I know when I'm on my way here and it's a crazy day and just getting to work's a hassle, I'll show up and turn on the lights and just smile because this is where I work. I love this place.
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