Store Owner interview with Dave Bookout of Two If By Sea Records
Store Name: Two If By Sea Records
QRD – Why did you start your store?
Dave – I originally opened Two If By Sea to hock my friends’ records. Growing up in L.A. there were a fuck lot of bands that I was associated with in one way or another & I just wanted to help them out. Five years later I still mainly focus on bands &/or labels that I know &/or love.
QRD – How does your store particularly appeal to your city?
Dave – Being a web based store we try to appeal to the entire world. We’re based in California’s Sierra Nevada Foothill’s, but no one here knows we exist. We use the internet to get the word out about our store.
QRD – What’s a mistake you’ve made with your store that you’d warn others against?
Dave – Hmmm, were do I start? I guess the biggest mistake that we’ve made was filling our store up with CDs during the first couple of years. In my very humble opinion compact discs lost their relevance with the advent of digital downloads & file sharing. I should have followed my example & stocked only vinyl records. I don’t buy CDs, so why would anyone else?
QRD – What do you think indie record labels could do to best help both themselves & indie stores?
Dave – That’s kind of a Catch 22 isn’t it?
QRD – How was the representation of indie storeowners & customers in the movie High Fidelity accurate & inaccurate to your experience?
Dave – I appreciate the fact that Rob aka John Cusack kept it real. What the hell am I talking about? I was shit faced drunk when I saw that movie & barely remember it.
QRD – What type of research do you do to decide what to put on the shelves?
Dave – If I like it then I stock it. If not, I don’t. That’s the extent of it.
QRD – Is it ever difficult to find the right distributors to get something you want to stock?
Dave – Hell yes! We buy mainly from 5 distributors plus tons of direct sales from the labels & bands. In a perfect world a store owner would be able to buy everything from one source so as to save on shipping cost.
QRD – What do you wish labels or bands or distributors did more of to work with you?
Dave – Keeping up to date stock levels would be a good start. Nothing pisses me off like placing a 200 piece order only to receive 50 pieces.
QRD – What do you think is your store’s all time best seller?
Dave – It’s Bright Eyes - Motion Sickness 7”.
QRD – What do you think most leads to a particular record being a good seller in your store?
Dave – For us it’s accessibility. I love to find a great vinyl record that has a limited run & buy up most of them. Do that & keep the prices low & you’ve got a sure winner.
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?
Dave – All they have to do is ask. We’re not financially stable enough to stock every release that is sent our way. But if they want to send us a few copies on consignment we’ll hock it & give it week or two on our front page.
QRD – How do you feel about so many stores closing & how does it affect you if at all?
Dave – It’s sad & if it affects us we haven’t noticed. Two If By Sea is & will always be a hobby for me. It’s never been my primary source of income & it likely never will be. In fact 95% of our profit goes into expanding the inventory, so fluctuations in the market don’t really matter.
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?
Dave – People come to Two If By Sea because they like what we have to offer & the speedy service we provide. Sometimes our prices are a bit higher, but that’s only because the distributors we use sell a given release to us at a higher price. Profits have never been something that we care about. We mark each title up just enough to cover the cost plus small profit. We are run by myself & my wife, with virtually no overhead. Big business can’t compete with that.
QRD – With portable MP3 players & iTunes, is the concept of the album (in any form) dying?
Dave – Yes. See my comments above.
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?
Dave – A bit of both, but vinyl records can never be replaced by downloads.
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?
Dave – Hell no, as I said before, we’re all about vinyl!
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?
Dave – I have no idea.
QRD – What are the biggest misconceptions people have of record stores in general & yours in particular?
Dave – That “We” are actually “We”. In our case “We” are actually just my wife & I. That said, every order they place & every question that they ask is answered by “Us”. We’re not a bunch of people working for minimum wage at a warehouse.
QRD – What is the most frustrating &/or frequent question you get from customers?
Dave – What color vinyl is “blank record”? There’s nothing frustrating about it, I like to know the same thing before I buy.
QRD – How do you decide who to hire as an employee & when you need one?
Dave – I have no answer to this.
QRD – If you weren’t in the music business, what would you do?
Dave – The same thing that I do now. I’m a fireman by trade; Two If By Sea is simply a full time hobby.
QRD – How did your schooling & previous work experience prepare (or not prepare) you for your store?
Dave – It didn’t. I did have a clue what running a business entailed when we opened up.
QRD – Have you ever refused to sell something purely because you disliked the music, even if it was popular & would sell?
Dave – Everyday.
QRD – What is your personal “holy grail”? (i.e. the one rarity you’ve been looking for forever.)
Dave – Slowdown Virginia’s Dead Space CD released on Lumberjack Records (Now known as Saddle Creek). I have 2 personal copies, but would love to be able to stock it.
QRD – What makes you feel like you had a good day at the store?
Dave – When we get an email or call from a satisfied customer.
QRD – Anything else?
Dave – Yes, remember this, selling music on a small scale is a labor of love!
Official Website - www.twoifbysearecords.com