‘We’re busier than we’ve ever been’: Twin Cities record store grooving along despite COVID-19 closures

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Inside Mill City Sound on Main Street in Hopkins, the vinyl is stacked, the volume always up and, surprisingly, during what has been a challenging year, so are the numbers.

"The store is busy, it’s kind of amazing," said Mill City Sound owner Rob Sheeley.

The record store has dealt with forced closures from COVID-19 and they’ve had to cut back hours this spring and summer, yet it’s still on track to hit record sales this year.

"We’re busier than we’ve ever been. We’ve been making more money than we’ve ever made with this — our sales are up about 17-18% over last year," Sheeley said.

The store used to be open on Sundays, but not anymore, and for seven weeks this year, it was closed due to the coronavirus.

"We were shut down once (for six weeks) and then we shut down again because we had a COVID-19 outbreak at the store with this," Sheeley said.

Sheeley thinks customers are coming in for the social connection.

"We have a lot of people that come here, it’s funny, on a Saturday the same people will come in every Saturday because they want to talk to everybody, it’s kind of like their place to meet and hang out and say, ‘Hey, how’s it going?" Sheeley said.

Peter Del Greco is here at least once or twice a month.

"I like looking at the new arrivals. It’s fun to go through, sometimes you find some gem you’ve been looking for and can’t find someplace else," he said.

Once inside, customers say it’s hard not to leave with something.

"I’ve definitely been in many times and leave with more than I come in with," added Peter Schulzetenberg.

Sheeley said it’s a good sign for business — and mental health — in what has otherwise been a trying 2020.

"The amazing thing about small retail, it’s all about the experience, it’s not about the stuff we sell," Sheeley said. "Everybody’s got records. It’s really about being able to give that experience to the customer. They feel a part of it, they feel compelled to come, they feel like it’s something they’re doing well."

Record Store Day in Minnesota was postponed in April due to COVID-19.

It was rescheduled for three days this fall, the second of which happened on Sept. 26. The last date is scheduled for Oct. 24.