The vinyl stacks keep spinning at Flat, Black & Circular


WEDNESDAY, July 28 — East Lansing record shop Flat, Black & Circular has been open for retail since the start of June, and manager Jon Howard said that business has practically returned to normal. 

“It’s kinda slower foot traffic, but people are buying a lot,” Howard said. “A lot of people traveling through town, people who used to live here, some regulars.”

He noted that some regulars haven’t come back around yet, but he acknowledged that they may just be afraid of catching COVID-19. When news broke about the outbreak at Harper’s Bar, East Lansing gained an unfortunate association with the virus.

“I’ve had regulars that I usually see daily or weekly, and they have not come out yet,” he said. “There’s one guy that I’ve only seen once since the news about Harper’s was revealed.”

Despite the pandemic, Howard said that it basically feels like a typical summer at the shop.

“We have sanitary wipes. We’re wiping down everything a few times a day. The counters the doors. Even my phone,” he laughed. Flat, Black & Circular also asks that all customers put on a mask before they enter the store. Howard said a few people have come in without masks, but when he asks them to put one on, they comply.

With no students in town, Howard said the store rarely has enough people inside it for him to have to enforce social distancing. “It’s not ever really elbow to elbow,” he said.

Howard said that both parties and Harper’s are to blame for East Lansing’s outbreak. He called it a “double-sock of stupid.”

With students coming back this fall, Howard acknowledged that he may have to re-evaluate how he runs the store. MSU typically has 50,000 students. An influx of that many young people will drastically change the ecosystem of East Lansing.

“I think we’re prepared,” said Howard. “At that time, I’m going to re-think about how many people I can have in the store at the time, maybe instate some more protocols.”

Howard has been the only one working at Flat, Black & Circular since it reopened. The store has reduced hours partially because of the decreased foot traffic and partially so Howard can have a sense of safety. “It just makes me feel a little better to work fewer hours,” he explained. Owner Dave Bernath is staying away as much as he can, making sales and phone calls.

“I’m keeping my mask on 100 percent. I’m not getting super close to anybody. I feel safe. I’m never less than three feet away from anybody,” said Howard. “It’s a lot of things that I already did before all this.”


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