Store Owner interview with Roland Peloza of Cheeky Monkey
Store Name: CHEEKY MONKEY
Year Established: 1982
Address: 130 Christina Street N. Sarnia, Ontario, Canada N7T 5T6
Store Hours: 9:30 - 5:30 Monday - Saturday - Friday till 8 - closed Sunday
Phone Number: 519-332-0978
Do You Have a Listening Station: yes
Musical Styles You Specialize in:
Musical Styles You Exclude: none
Other Items You Sell:
Do you do special orders: yes
Do you do mail order: yes
Do you do web orders: yes
Number of Employees: 2
How often do you have in-store performances: 1-4 per month
Number of New CDs in stock: 30,000
Number of Used CDs in stock: 3,000
Number of New LPs in stock: 1,000
Number of Used LPs in stock: 5,000
Number of New 7”s in stock: 100
Number of Used 7”s in stock: 500
QRD – Why did you start your store?
Roland – Following the dream.
QRD – How does your store particularly appeal to your city?
Roland – We accept all music & video as valid & important to someone. Everyone is made welcome & comfortable walking in & we’re always full of surprises. We will do whatever we can to track down & deliver for our customers - even if the effort takes more time than it’s worth.
QRD – What’s a mistake you’ve made with your store that you’d warn others against?
Roland – When you’ve been doing this as long as we have, you make many mistakes. We tend to be over optimistic when we order product in & are often disappointed. The biggest mistake may be in continuing in the face of a changing marketplace & an uncertain future. This is not a business you want to be in for the profit - it’s definitely a labor of love.
QRD – What do you think indie record labels could do to best help both themselves & indie stores?
Roland – Indie labels are doing a good job - they use the internet well & care about their artists. What the industry needs to do (indie & majors) is educate the public in the value of owning music. There was a time when the consumer demanded quality audio - now they tolerate the poor fidelity of 128 kilobits per second because it’s convenient & cheap.
QRD – How was the representation of indie storeowners & customers in the movie High Fidelity accurate & inaccurate to your experience?
Roland – The representation was somewhat exaggerated, but we definitely saw elements of ourselves & our customers in that movie.
QRD – What type of research do you do to decide what to put on the shelves?
Roland – We listen. To play copies, our customers, label reps, web sites, & any other source of information that we can access. If we think it will appeal to our customers, we will stock it.
QRD – Is it ever difficult to find the right distributors to get something you want to stock?
Roland – Not usually. We use the internet to track down the label & from there we can usually find out who distributes it. There are several resources online that help us with finding the most direct source.
QRD – What do you wish labels or bands or distributors did more of to work with you?
Roland – Over the past years there has been a slow decline in the number of posters & other advertising materials that come in our door. Posters, stickers, play copies, & other swag help promote & sell music - especially if we can hand it out to customers.
QRD – What do you think is your store’s all time best seller?
Roland – Top selling band is Pink Floyd. Top selling title is Nickelback - All the Right Reasons (we don’t have to like it to sell it & in the case of Nickelback we don’t).
QRD – What do you think most leads to a particular record being a good seller in your store?
Roland – When we like something we will sell it. Touring locally will generate sales. TV appearances. Certain artists have very loyal followings & their releases are usually a guaranteed good seller (Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Nick Cave, etc.).
QRD – How does one get an independent release into your store such that it’s recommended to the clientele instead of just sitting on the shelf?
Roland – Play copies - if we like them they will get played a lot.
QRD – How do you feel about so many stores closing & how does it affect you if at all?
Roland – When stores close it does concern me. They guys running those stores are like me, they have dedicated themselves to the business & despite their hard work, the numbers sometimes get the better of them & I wonder sometimes how much longer we will be able to keep it going. As profits decrease in the industry, I am hopeful that the big box stores will soon abandon music for more profitable items & that the business will someday return to the independent specialists.
QRD – What type of competition do you get from the big box stores (Wal-Mart, Best Buy, etc.) & is it difficult to compete price-wise - i.e., do you find that potential customers will shop at the chain because they can afford to charge less for the same discs or do they support you if the disc is a dollar higher in price?
Roland – We are very competitive with the big box stores in terms of price & they can’t touch us when it comes to service & product knowledge. We are located in a downtown area & not near a major shopping mall, we lose a lot of sales to the big box & chain stores because of location. Some of our best advertising comes from referrals from those same stores however. If they get asked for something they don’t have their staff will often send the customer our way because of our reputation, often they will call us on behalf of the customer from the store.
QRD – With portable MP3 players & iTunes, is the concept of the album (in any form) dying?
Roland – Sadly the MP3 player & the short attention span of most of the people that use them have hurt the concept of the album.
QRD – How has the downloading scene impacted your sales - do you find that people buy less CDs now because they can download them for less or do you or do you think illegal downloads are more of a culprit?
Roland – The importance of music & its place in the lives of the public has changed. When you see documentaries & movies about the 60’s & 70’s the music was very much in the forefront of the culture. There were major landmark events that focused on music like Woodstock & Monterey. The Vietnam has its own unique soundtrack of the Doors, Hendrix, CCR, & others. The Iraq was has no soundtrack, only sound bites. Video games have replaced music as the activity that bonds young males. Music has become largely disposable & something pushed to the background - it no longer defines youth as it once did. In the midst of this cultural shift, the MP3 arrived & became a viable delivery system of music. Technology makes it easier to “steal” music & we are now left with a shrinking market for quality hard copies of music.
QRD – Record & CD buyers tend to be of a certain age (21-34), as the upcoming people who will be of that age group are mostly download-buyers, would you like stores to eventually have “iPod filling stations” hooked up to an indie network that stores can be part of?
Roland – While the 21-34 year old group is a significant portion of our customer base, it no longer represents the majority as it once did. One of the reasons we have been successful is that we no longer cater to that demographic & sell to a broader group. I sincerely hope that we never become a MP3 hookup station. I can’t imagine there being enough margin or dollar value in that activity to sustain a specialty brick & mortar business. I am more hopeful that eventually encryption technologies & rights management software will reduce the number of people downloading “free” music.
QRD – With the increase in digital downloads, low prices in mega-chains, & so many online specialty stores; what is the job of the local indie shop now compared to in the 1990s?
Roland – The role has not changed much over the past 30 years. Indy stores were always the places where the new acts were stocked & the staff were passionate & could deliver customer service. There have always been department stores & other outlets that would stock & sell the top sellers.
QRD – What are the biggest misconceptions people have of record stores in general & yours in particular?
Roland – That they cater to 21-34 year old males. I can have a meaningful conversation with virtually any customer over whatever style of music they care about.
QRD – What is the most frustrating &/or
frequent question you get from
Roland – In these days of instant gratification, everyone thinks that you can have anything in within a day or two. We deal with all of the major labels, several independent distributors, a couple of one stops, & other sources. Sometimes it takes weeks to get a special order in & some customers get very upset over the wait time.
QRD – How do you decide who to hire as an employee & when you need one?
Roland – We are the true mom & pop store. Years ago we made a commitment to drop the dead weight, reduce our hours of operation & work without staff. We do occasionally need a hand, especially at holiday season & when we do we approach customers that we feel would suit our needs.
QRD – If you weren’t in the music business, what would you do?
Roland – I got into this as a frustrated rock star, so there was never a consideration of anything else. I did work in a factory for several years prior to opening the business, but those were years of waiting for the opportunity to open a record store to arrive.
QRD – How did your schooling & previous work experience prepare (or not prepare) you for your store?
Roland – No special schooling - no preparation. We fell into it naturally & learned as we went.
QRD – Have you ever refused to sell something purely because you disliked the music, even if it was popular & would sell?
Roland – I would never assume to make those judgments for anyone. There is music that we don’t stock because we don’t think it will sell in our store, but if someone wants it we will get it.
QRD – What is your personal “holy grail”? (i.e. the one rarity you’ve been looking for forever.)
Roland – I pretty much find that I can track down most of what I want. The one thing that hasn’t surfaced yet is the DVD collection of a TV show from the 80’s called Night Music. It was produced by Lorne Michaels & was shown after Saturday Night Live for I think 3 seasons. David Sanborn & Jools Holland were the hosts & they managed to attract the most interesting & diverse musical acts. They also had most of their guests to play with each other, making for some of the best music in television that I have ever seen. A lot of the footage is available on YouTube, but I would love to own a good quality set of DVDs of this series. So far Lorne Michaels has refused to release these programs.
QRD – What makes you feel like you had a good day at the store?
Roland – When I introduce an unsuspecting customer to music that will change their life.
QRD – Anything else?
Roland – I have the greatest job in the