Too tough to die

Ten years in, Record Lounge finds peace in REO Town

It’s 11 a.m. in REO Town, not early enough to feel like the living dead, but not too late to feel the fading warmth of a Michigan winter sunrise. Record Lounge owner Heather Frarey flips her closed sign to open, as she’s done for 10 years now. There are smiles all around to the tune of old soul and funk albums. An air of positivity has rested over the Record Lounge since its relocation to REO Town in April.

Following a very public rent dispute, Frarey couldn’t be happier with where her business has landed. Now the decade milestone gives the vinyl veteran a chance to recollect the tribulations her shop has endured.

The Record Lounge wasn’t always a brick and mortar fixture. Frarey began by trading records on digital marketplaces such as Discogs, a popular website that acts as both the de facto eBay and Kelley Blue Book for vinyl albums.

“I didn’t get a loan or anything, I just started buying vinyl up. That was when you could still go to Goodwill and get good stuff,” Frarey said. “I started selling records at Replay, and it got to the point where I was outselling what they were selling. The owner, Ted Wilson, kind of gave me that push to get my own place.”

In 2008, Frarey partnered with fellow vinyl trader Mark Voldeck to open the first Record Lounge on the second floor of 210 Abbot road in East Lansing. Voldeck left after just three months to focus on his own record company, leaving the reins to Frarey.

Frarey moved the store to 503 E. Grand River Ave. in East Lansing, where it stayed until 2010, then to 111 Division St., its home for seven years.

“It was the right time. That’s when everything started to get put on vinyl. A lot of small labels like Sub Pop, Matador and Polyvinyl were champions of vinyl,” Frarey said. “They kept it going and made it big again. Record Store Day started in 2008 as well, and that was the stepping stone for vinyl in general."

The Record Lounge’s Division Street location made it a short walk away from Flat, Black & Circular, East Lansing’s famously stalwart music dealer.

“We knew it was going to be hard to compete, but that’s why we went in a different direction,” Frarey said. “We knew they did CDs, DVDs, the whole thing. So we just stuck to vinyl, and we did OK.”

East Lansing summers were a drag for Frarey, regardless of the competition from Flat, Black & Circular. When the students disappeared, so did the foot traffic. But by March 28, 2017, Frarey would have a bigger problem to deal with.

That’s when Frarey received an eviction notice. Cron Management told local media the eviction was a matter of unpaid rent.

Cron had taken Frarey to court a few months earlier, when she paid the pastdue rent. What she didn’t pay, however, was Cron’s legal fees, which ultimately led to the March eviction.

Frarey was lucky enough to quickly receive word about the vacant space in REO Town. With a handful of friends and volunteers, her entire store was packed up into a U-Haul and moved across town in a single afternoon.

Nearly a year later, Frarey’s frustration over the situation has softened considerably.

“It was kind of a blessing in disguise,” Frarey said. “Finding this place, the way it’s worked out to our advantage, and how well we’re doing is great. It’s wonderful.”


No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment

Connect with us