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Wednesday, December 8,2010

A new spin

FBC owner Rosemont departs after 33 years

by Rich Tupica
To local music lovers and musicians, Flat, Black and Circular is the holy grail of vinyl, CDs and other music artifacts.

The independent record store, nestled atop the Campus Town Mall in downtown East Lansing, has been in business for just over three decades; now, a big part of the store’s history is moving on.


Dick Rosemont, who founded the store with Dave Bernath in September 1977, is moving to Santa Fe, N.M., with his wife, leaving behind the store he has co-owned and operated since he was 27. Rosemont’s last day working at FBC will be Dec. 18.


“He’s working here every day next week, then he’s getting in his car and driving to Santa Fe,” Bernath said. “After being with a guy for 33 years it was like a long marriage. He’s got knowledge that no one else has as far as oldies, ‘60s music, Beatles trivia, Michigan 45s — there’s hardly anyone else in the world that knows as much as he does. It’s going to be a major loss of knowledge and information. He is one of a kind.”


Growing up in Birmingham, Rosemont became enamored with music and records. In 1968 he moved to East Lansing to attend Michigan State University where he studied in the Television and Radio program (now the Telecom department).


Rosemont and Bernath, both 60 years old, first met in 1975 while Rosemont was hosting a radio show called Audio Aftermath.


“I met him when he was a DJ on WKAR I called up one night and asked some trivial question,” Bernath recalled.


“It led to meeting him and going to each others’ places to see our record collections. We had mutual interests, like the same kind of music. We even traveled a lot together, we were best buddies when we started out."


Bernath and Rosemont even went to Los Angeles and New York to check out various record stores as research for their own business. "We said, ‘We can do it, and do it better,” Bernath said.


In 1975, WKAR was faced with budget issues and Rosemont was laid off. That same year, Wazoo Records opened in East Lansing. Rosemont got a job at Wazoo and began taking mental notes on how to run a successful independent shop.


“When Wazoo opened it was a perfect opportunity to hang out and see how a business could operate with standards,” Rosemont said. “There is no selling involved — all you have to do is have the stuff and maintain standards.


"In those days a used record store was a new idea to most people. Most people equated ‘used’ to ‘scratched and worn.’ We had pretty high standards. I got to see how a business could operate relatively simply and people were happy you’re there.”


Two years later Rosemont left Wazoo. He and Bernath officially opened FBC on September 26, 1977 — a few weeks after Elvis Presley died.


“I thought, I’ll just take this idea and try to improve upon it. As soon as Dave and I decided we were going to do this, I was out making my rounds buying things,” Rosemont recalled.


“We were stashing things all summer in ‘77. I lived in a house on Burcham, I filled one of the rooms with boxes of records.”


In
1977, albums were selling by the millions: It was the year of Fleetwood
Mac's "Rumours" and the "Saturday Night Fever" soundtrack. Rosemont
said it was a grand time to be in the vinyl business.


“There
were a lot of music stores in East Lansing. There were probably eight
or 10 places that sold albums. It was a big part of peoples’ lives, it
wasn’t competing with video, computers, cell phones and video games. We
had a pretty good selection of records, we also sold cassettes, we knew
8-tracks weren't doing well, we had some 45s and some old Rolling Stone
magazines.”


In its
genesis the store was strictly a used store. However, when other retail
outlets began to fold, a demand for new records arose at FBC.


“We
never carried the new Bob Dylan or Neil Young … but when most of the
sources for new releases started disappearing in East Lansing, people
started coming in and asking us for the new this or that,” Rosemont
said. “Now, all of a sudden, we are trying to be everything to everybody
—which is impossible.”


A secret of FBC’s success, according to Rosemont, is the store’s willingness to change with the times.


“There
was a day in the early ’80s when we were all records and cassettes.
Then someone came in and sold us a CD, so then it was a logical
progression to sell CDs,” he explained. “We never dropped vinyl records.
Most other stores phased out records, we just added CDs. There was a
time when we bought VHS tapes; now, it’s DVD. It’s not like there was
ever a grand plan, for the most part you just add more than you
subtract.”


Along
with the compact disc, the ‘90s also brought about the arrival of
longtime FBC employee and music aficionado Jon Howard, who was hired in
1994.


“Dave and I
were there since the beginning and Jon was an enthusiastic customer. We
used to give him tasks and he would whip through them while hanging out
at the store,” Rosemont said.


"We’ve
never had any major disagreements, I don’t even think we’ve had minor
disagreements. That makes it really comfortable. The fact that we all
have our areas of expertise is great.”


Rosemont and his wife, Jane, a photographer, have bought a house one mile from downtown Santa Fe.


“We’ve
been going there on and off for the past eight years, and we had a
small rental home,” he said. “Jane just got more and more enamored with
it. It’s pretty amazing.


"Being
a photographer for decades in mid-Michigan is a frustrating experience.
There she has an outlet for her photos. She is not quite as entrenched
in this community as I am. I’ve been here longer, I’ve been here 42
years.


"As I used to say, I didn’t choose to stay, I just haven’t left because this is a pretty transient community.”


Rosemont, he isn’t sure what's ahead for him: Santa Fe will be a completely new beginning.


“I
hope to be involved in music. This is a little unusual because
typically when people relocate they are either going to something or
fleeing something,” he said. “I’m leaving something and going to a big
question mark. It’s hard to go from being self-employed to not. It’s
also hard to leave the flexibilities that Dave and I afforded each
other. I guess we are lucky we’ve been able to do it for all of these
years.


“Coincidentally
I will be back in East Lansing in January to help wrap things up
year-end wise, when it will have been 33 and 1/3 years. So, apparently,
that is appropriate.”


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