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Jim Dwyer and Bill McClelland of Encore Records

For Encore, Less Is More

A record shop takes a smaller spot

by Sabine Bickford

From the October, 2019 issue

Its new space on N. Fourth Ave. is about half the size of its original Liberty St. location, but Encore Records feels surprisingly spacious there. When owners Jim Dwyer and Bill McClelland first checked out the N. Fourth Ave. Kerrytown spot, "we were like, it's a little small but it could totally work," says Dwyer. "Now that we've got all our furniture, it looks bigger than it did when it was empty. Which is weird!"

Adding to the spacious feeling are the wide, sunny, white-trimmed windows and wooden floors. It also helped that they sold or donated about a third of their inventory before the move.

The purge hit Encore's CD collection hardest. The old store was lined tightly with tall shelves of CDs (lit up by fluorescent lights in true basement-college-radio-style); the new one showcases only a few CD shelves, spread out around the store. In August, the classical CD shelf was still being installed. "People keep complaining: 'where's the classical music CDs?'" says Dwyer. He tells them, "Please be patient!"

The wooden cases that house the store's vinyl collection all made the move. They were custom-built when the old location was a new-music store called Liberty Music. A regular customer who frequented the original shop told Dwyer and McClelland that Liberty's owner could afford to have only one shelf built at a time. "It took him years to build those up," says Dwyer. "So when we moved, we took them all."

Dwyer and McClelland were working at Encore in 2011, when then-owner Peter Dale retired. Rather than see the business vanish, they bought it--and eight years in, Dwyer says they were doing just fine there. What they weren't sure of was where they stood after landlords Douglas and Dolores Nollar put the site on the market as a prospective student high-rise, and negotiated a ground lease with an investment company.

"They said that they were unable to tell us [anything] because of some legal restriction on them

...continued below...

... That's not my world, so I don't know how those things work. It seems strange to me, though," Dwyer adds, "that they couldn't give us any information." In the end, he says, the investment company expressed disappointment in Encore's departure to Dwyer and McClelland and apologized for the miscommunication. But with "no information to base a decision on," Dwyer says, "we had to go with what we knew was a sure thing."

They've maintained the majority of their diverse collection, particularly jazz and rock--"rock'n'roll pays the bills" Dwyer says. For those with more eclectic tastes, he recommends new albums by electronic musician Kedr Livanskiy and the avant-garde jazz Art Ensemble of Chicago. If customers don't find what they're looking for, they have a lot more stock in the basement, as well as access to the Discogs online database and marketplace

"We couldn't be happier with the new location and the building itself, the neighborhood we're in," says Dwyer. "We get a few parking spots out back; I feel like an executive!" McClelland, now joining the interview, chimes in: "Now we have trees out the window!"

Encore Records, 208 N. Fourth. (734) 662-6776. Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Sun. noon-5 p.m.     (end of article)

[Originally published in October, 2019.]


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