Posts Tagged ‘Kristian Luce’

Down to One Hoodlum

Friday, October 12th, 2012

“Have you ever thought about opening a record store?”\n\n“Uh, ambulance site not really.”\n\nThe question was posed by the Assistant Director of Arizona State University’s Student Union, recipe and although I had been managing record stores for over ten years, cure my answer was truthful.\n\n“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.”\n\nWhile 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.\n\nSo the rest of my response went like this: “… but I’m going to start thinking about it now.”\n\nCan’t Do It By Myself\n\nI 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.\n\nI 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.\n\nBut wow, what a huge task.\n\nThe 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).\n\nOne thing I knew for sure: I couldn’t do it alone.\n\nWe’re Gonna Need Another Hoodlum \n\nSo 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?\n\nLuckily, 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).\n\n\n\nLloyd 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.\n\nThe 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.\n\nWhen 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.\n\nThen we talked about what it would take in terms of money.\n\nWe didn’t have enough.\n\nBetter Make That Two Hoodlums\n\nWe needed another partner.\n\nAmazingly, we both knew one other guy that was intelligent, hard working, ethical, musically-knowledgeable… and cool to boot: Kristian Luce.\n\nKristian 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.\n\nHowever, 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.\n\n\n\nYou 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.\n\nAs 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.\n\nIn 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.\n\nBut we had to ask.  We needed one more partner.\n\nA Key Moment in Hood History\n\n\n\nI remember standing in my garage and proposing the idea to Kristian… essentially waiting to see which direction my own life might be moving.\n\nHe didn’t just like the idea.  He loved it!\n\nIt turns out that Kristian was the only one of us that had ever previously thought about opening a store.  Who knew?\n\nSo 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).\n\nLucky For Me, We Needed Three Hoodlums\n\nThe 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.\n\nIt 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.\n\nIt 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.\n\nFrom Three Hoods Down to Two\n\nWhile the store continued to grow, it was obvious that it might not be a big enough footprint to support three partners.\n\nHowever, 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.\n\nWe 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.\n\n\n\nTwelve Wild Years\n\nOver 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.\n\nWe 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.\n\n\n\nHoodlums 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.\n\nDuring 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.\n\nDown to One Hood\n\nNow, 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.\n\n\n\nHoodlums 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.\n\nHe 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.\n\nI 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.\n\n\n\nBack to Just Being Friends\n\nThe 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.\n\nStay tuned.\n\n 

Why I Own a Record Store: Are You a Hippy?

Friday, September 24th, 2010

As Kristian and I celebrate our 12th Anniversary with Hoodlums (it’s a loose celebration, store cialis we’re gonna milk it), and continue to navigate a ever-changing waters of record store ownership, I’ve been doing a little reflecting on just why exactly I do this.  The first one was Goosebumps.\n\nIt was Tuesday morning, and I answered the phone, and the nice lady on the phone explained that she has some LPs she would like to bring down.  I began to explain the procedures for used LP buying and selling, and she said \”No, you don’t understand, I want to give them to you\”.  \”That’s great, I said… we appreciate it\”.\n\nShe went on to explain that she was coming all the way down from Scottsdale because she had read the article in the Arizona Republic that morning.  Now usually I read the newspaper every morning (that’s right, I listen to CDs and read books and newspapers… cause I’m old school, and I can only mainline so much digital info), but I hadn’t gotten a chance to do so that morning, thanks to some sort of kid-related morning excursion. Because I had sent out a press release about our free J.J. Grey show, which was the next day, I assumed she saw something about that.\n\n\”I didn’t see the Republic this morning, was it something about our show tomorrow?\”\n\n\”No, it’s an article about Social Networking.  It’s on the front page of the Arizona Living section\”.\n\nCool.  There had a been a story about Valley record stores using social media to reach customers on AzCentral about two weeks earlier, but we had no idea it was going to run Valley-wide.   Anyway, she went on:\n\n\”There’s even a picture.  Is it you?\”\n\n\”I don’t think so… they didn’t take any pictures during the interview… but they could have some sort of shot on hand\”.\n\n\”Are you a hippy?\”\n\n\”Uh, yeah… sorta\”\n\n\”Do you have a beard?\”\n\n\”Hmmm.  Not officially, but I don’t like to shave very much.\”\n\nAt this point, I just figured it was Kristian (that’s his cartoon, although the boy has shaved off the beard recently) because, well, we are both kind of hippies. It wouldn’t be the first time.  Kristian once had a customer tell him that he was referred to Hoodlums with the reference that both of the owners look \”a little like Jesus\” (who’s pretty much the most famous bearded hippy of all time).\n\nA little later in the day, our friend Brandon from Changing Hands brought a copy of the paper in, so I was able to check out the picture.\n\nIt wasn’t Kristian or me.  It was Dario from Stinkweeds, our central Phoenix indie colleagues, the other store featured in the article. I guess most (I say \”most\”, because we must remember Joe) of the remaining record store guys fit the profile (although Joe has a different record store guy profile).\n\nLet’s face it: I am a bearded hippy.   I have been ever since I was old enough to grow a beard and do the things that hippies do.  Which is just another reason I own a record store. There’s just not many jobs where I can be my bearded hippy self.  Kristian either.\n\nBoth of us hippies thank you for your support.