Down to One Hoodlum

“Have you ever thought about opening a record store?”

“Uh, not really.”

The question was posed by the Assistant Director of Arizona State University’s Student Union, and although I had been managing record stores for over ten years, my answer was truthful.

“Well,” he said, “The store that is in here now is leaving suddenly, and we’re going to need to find a new tenant.  We’d like it to be another record store.”

While my initial response had been truthful, my situation had changed drastically over the past week: A week prior, my wife and I didn’t have any kids, and I had a good job.  A week later, I sat in my living room holding our newborn son… without a job at all.  I was what you might call desperate.

So the rest of my response went like this: “… but I’m going to start thinking about it now.”

Can’t Do It By Myself

I hung up the phone and tried to control my already-racing mind.  I had spent a weekend of sheer joy (new kid) and total anxiety (having my position “eliminated”) all at once, and it had been pretty tough to figure out why I was suddenly in such a situation (the no-job part, not the kid part, I knew how I did that).  Perhaps this was the way the universe was taking me.

I have always believed in myself, but I wasn’t exactly sure about opening my own business.  However, if necessity is the mother of invention, she was nagging me to move forward.

But wow, what a huge task.

The ASU area was loaded with record stores.  Napster was exploding.  The corporate appliance stores were giving away hit CDs and DVDs for under cost.  More specifically, the current ASU record store had not been doing well (I knew, because it was one of eight stores under my general management just one week earlier).

One thing I knew for sure: I couldn’t do it alone.

We’re Gonna Need Another Hoodlum 

So I started thinking about potential partners.  Wow, what a huge thing to think about suddenly.  What a monster relationship.  Who did I know that possessed the talent, drive, and trustworthiness necessary to even have a chance at helping pull off such a task?

Luckily, I had just the guy in mind: Lloyd Hummel, my very good friend and the chief buyer and promotions wonderboy at my now-former employer (that’s Lloyd and I in L.A. meeting B.B. King).

Lloyd and I had worked together for the past six years, at two different employers.  He didn’t just have the characteristics needed, he had them to spare: Intelligent, creative, likeable, innovative, you name it… Lloyd had it.

The question was would he be interested.  We’d had many conversations about the direction of our current company, and I hoped that he would be.

When I approached him about it, to my relief he was instantly ready to go.  We talked about how to approach it in terms of selection and service, and what we felt would be a general business strategy necessary to succeed in such a seasonal environment.  We both had worked closely with the store over the past few years, but we were restrained within the corporate structure of our employer, and we felt like we had some great ideas to make the store fun and profitable.

Then we talked about what it would take in terms of money.

We didn’t have enough.

Better Make That Two Hoodlums

We needed another partner.

Amazingly, we both knew one other guy that was intelligent, hard working, ethical, musically-knowledgeable… and cool to boot: Kristian Luce.

Kristian was also working with Lloyd and I at the time (and at our prior employer as well).  He was our friend and we both believed in him.

However, we once again faced the question of whether or not he’d be interested.  It was a lot bigger mystery than it had been with Lloyd.

You see, Kristian was a laid-back kind of a dude. He did things his own way, and although he was a dependable, efficient worker in every sense of the word, he was a young man who preferred to spend his time following his muses… like the Grateful Dead.

As his manager in our previous store, I had offered to promote him into management on numerous occasions.  Even though the job meant more money, he had turned me down each time.

In short, he did things that made him happy, and he was more than happy with his below-the-radar responsibility level.  Lloyd and I were pretty sure he’d pass.

But we had to ask.  We needed one more partner.

A Key Moment in Hood History

I remember standing in my garage and proposing the idea to Kristian… essentially waiting to see which direction my own life might be moving.

He didn’t just like the idea.  He loved it!

It turns out that Kristian was the only one of us that had ever previously thought about opening a store.  Who knew?

So we formed a company and submitted our proposal to ASU.  It was accepted on August 17th.  On August 24th, 1998, we opened Hoodlums New and Used Music (that’s the original picture from the New Times article about it).

Lucky For Me, We Needed Three Hoodlums

The store started strong, and it was obvious very early on that although we already had roughly 25 years of collective experience, we had a lot to learn.

It was also obvious that it was a damn good thing Lloyd and I had needed one more partner.  Kristian, the once “reluctant-about-work-pressure” Deadhead, was a machine.

It turns out in addition to all the music-biz qualities we had already known about, the kid was super sharp with numbers and financial planning.  We soon scrapped the idea of sharing bookkeeping duties, and our puka-wearing pseudo-accountant, and turned the money matters over to him.

From Three Hoods Down to Two

While the store continued to grow, it was obvious that it might not be a big enough footprint to support three partners.

However, that was OK because our partner Lloyd had grown restless.  He had spent most of his life in the Valley, and he and his lovely wife were ready for a change.  Universal music was ready to give him the opportunity to let his inner label guy out, and he was ready to move on.

We negotiated a buy-out, wished our old pal the best of luck as he headed off to L.A.… and the next thing you know Hoodlums was just Steve and Kristian.  That was the year 2000.

Twelve Wild Years

Over the next twelve years, Kristian and I were part of a co-dependent relationship second only to the relationship I have with my wife.  We put every bit of our heart and soul into making Hoodlums a great record store.

We expanded.  We joined the Coalition of Independent Music Stores.  We broke sales records and we hosted tons of different musicians and artists.  We became part of the ASU community.  We saw flooding.  We were part of a fire.  We closed.

Hoodlums New and Used Music & DVDs became Hoodlums Music and Movies.  We reinvented.  We reopened.  We joined a new community.  We won some awards, made some more money, and made some new friends.  We closed again.

During that time, although we always had to maintain a safe distance with respect to the business partnership, we became better friends.  We helped each other through some bad personal times, and celebrated through some great ones.

Down to One Hood

Now, after fourteen years in business together, Kristian has decided to move on.  He’s ready for a change, and it’s the right time to do it.

Hoodlums Music and Movies will give way to something else.  Our little record store will be no more.  Whatever direction the company takes, whatever reinvented entity emerges, I know one thing for sure: I’ll never be able to make up for all of the amazing things my partner brought to the table.

He worked like a truck.  He came up with some of our greatest ideas.  He drove us, and planned for us, and kept us in line in so many ways.  He allowed me to be my Record Store Geek self (which can occasionally be controversial) in spite of whether or not it was the way he would have done it.  Together, we used the different parts of our different personalities to run a successful business.

I can never thank him enough for helping me live such a great life over the past fourteen years, selling something I believe in with all my heart.

Back to Just Being Friends

The record store we built together may have closed its doors, but we’ve got a ton to be proud of, and our friendship will live on.  That’s a beautiful thing.

Stay tuned.

 

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