When it comes to buying vinyl in Northeast Ohio, Blue Arrow Records has become one of the area’s popular destinations for millennials discovering its warm sounds, as well as baby boomers and GenXers looking for, say, that original copy of The Stooges’ self-titled debut.
One step inside of the store — which currently has roughly 12,000 albums, 2,000 seven-inch releases, a couple hundred cassettes/CDs and hundreds of vintage magazines (Creem, Rolling Stone, Circus) — conjures up a sense of familiarity from the past coupled with the excitement of unearthing a long-lost gem.
Considering the North Collinwood location is celebrating its 10thanniversary, CoolCleveland talked to Blue Arrow Records co-owner Pete Gulyas about the Waterloo Road venue, which started in earnest during the ’90s with a few crates of records at the Coventry vintage clothing shop Renaissance Parlour owned by his wife Debbie.
CoolCleveland: Wow, 10 years of Blue Arrow Records. Congrats.
Pete Gulyas: Thanks. It’s hard to believe, but I guess I thought it would last. I was hoping I would pass it onto my nephews, but they lost interest so I had to carry on. We’re hanging in there.
CC: So a decade ago the country was coming out of the Great Recession and you decide to open a vintage record store.
PG: Yeah, and 10 years ago records weren’t even that popular. When we opened up, Gotta Groove (Records) hadn’t even opened up yet. So there wasn’t even a pressing plant here. I was strictly going to sell vintage records, At the time, there were a lot of gray beards like myself coming in. That’s who the customers were. And then it started catching on with the younger people. So it’s a different animal now; it’s really out of control now. I’m known primarily for vintage records. I tried to supplement with newer stuff, and that doesn’t always go over well. People just want the vintage stuff.
CC: Was there a turning point when you realized Blue Arrow Records had a chance?
PG: I guess it would just be the popularity of Record Store Day that helped, even though I don’t participate in those anymore. We do our own thing, but when I did participate — which was five years ago — that’s when you’d see all of these young people coming in. They just got the buzz. So it was five years or so ago when it really took off. That’s when the new product started coming out. When I first did Record Store Day, which was probably nine years ago, there was probably maybe at most 50 records or something. Now it’s blossomed into like 450 or something. It’s just unwieldy now.
CC: It seems night and day compared to the past. As if today you have an abundance of riches.
PG: Yeah, totally. Most of our stock consists of vintage records. By “vintage” I’m referring to the original classic rock, R&B and jazz records — used — as opposed to when I order reissues of records originally issued in the ’80s and ’90s, including acts such as Sonic Youth, Galaxie 500 and Spacemen 3. Since those original records are particularly hard to find, I have to order reissues of them. And yes, given the rarity of those records, it does surprise me that a lot of customers choose not to get the reissues and hold out for originals.
CC: Early on what was your vision for Blue Arrow Records?
PG: What really happened was — and this is before the street here blossomed as well — we were looking for something to fill this space in the building we now own. Nothing was coming through. So I just really stepped up trying to fill a void here for the street, trying to bring Waterloo back around. I said, “I guess I could start a record store just offering vintage vinyl.” Obviously, I spent my youth there. I love the old feeling of going in and looking for records.
CC: So looking back, what was harder: opening a vintage vinyl store or helping to put Waterloo on the map?
PG: Oh, at that time, it was probably helping Waterloo because it was pretty sketchy at that point.
CC: Now Blue Arrow Records had grown to include its own record label, which includes artists such as Jonathan Richman, Ethan Daniel Davidson, Stutter Steps, Bad Luck Jonathan and Part-Time Lover.
PG: It was an idea of Jonathan Richman. He asked us to do it. I really had no desire to do such a thing. It was never on my radar. When he asked us to do it, we said, “OK, we can try that.” And now, it’s really taken off. It’s coming to a lot of fruition right now, so we’re very happy about that.
CC: Perhaps the most obvious question is whether you think Blue Arrow Records will last another decade?
PG: Good question. Do I have another decade? (laughs) I hope so. Again, I have to find the youth to take over. I’m 59, so I suppose there’s another decade in me, God willing. And we’ll see if the record market holds on. I think it will, but we’ll see. You know how things go through phases.