At the end of June, Peter Dale retired from the first job he ever had when he closed Encore Recordings, one of campus’s most beloved used-music shops. Longtime employees Jim Dwyer and Bill McClelland immediately reopened the store as Encore Records.
Dale, sixty-two, started working at what was then called Liberty Music Shop when he was still in high school. After graduating from U-M with a bachelor’s in English and a master’s in Russian (neither of which he’s ever used professionally) and serving a stint in the army, he left Liberty Music to work at the Ecology Center. After a couple of years, he moved to Detroit, where he ran his own record store for a decade until he became a stay-at-home dad.
In 1993, Dale heard Liberty Music was up for sale, so he came back to Ann Arbor, bought the place, and renamed it. “I consciously decided not to carry new things,” he says. “Big-box stores were selling CDs for less than [independent music stores] could buy them wholesale. It’s why most record stores have gone out of business. I learned that the hard way at my old store.”
Dale says that in the 1990s his customers were mostly U-M students, and most of his sales were CDs. With the advent of music downloads, “that completely dried up.” Now used vinyl records make up the bulk of Encore’s sales, and most of its customers are older and come from out of town.
“It’s a destination store,” Dale says. “We get people from all over the world, literally.” Last year, Rolling Stone magazine voted Encore Recordings the seventh-best record store in the country, and Dale says it was the best year they’d had since the early 2000s.
Jim Dwyer, who works full time teaching literature at Huron High and works at Encore evenings and weekends, says vinyl records are the reason sales have stayed strong. “Lots of things set them apart,” he says. “A record is tactile–you can hold it in your hands, look at the cover, read the liner notes.” CDs are much smaller, and even if they duplicate the artwork it’s tiny and details are lost.
Dwyer says the main reason he and McClelland decided to carry on was because of “the devastating effect the absence of the store would have on our personal psychic well-being. Second, the effect on the community to have this place disappear.” Though they plan to turn a back room into a performance space, the new owners stress that most things–including the staff’s incredible collective knowledge base–remain the same.
Meanwhile, Dale is keeping busy with volunteer work. Since his retirement, he’s been working in a soup kitchen and a homeless shelter, helping out with a community garden project, and doing adult literacy work. “That’s really what [retirement] was all about. It was about meeting my social obligations.”
Encore Records, 417 East Liberty, 662-6776. Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Sun. noon-5 p.m. www.encorerecordsa2.com