History Of Groove Shack, Columbus Ohio
Marty Jones and Mike Curry dreamed of owning and running a record store when they were best friends in High School. That was in the 80's.
For the next ten years the burning question "Wouldn't it be cool to own a record store?" was the topic of many conversations.
In 1991 Marty casually explored the idea of owning their dream record store and found it possible, but not likely, to happen. A year later they wrote a business plan to firm up their ideas and to see if it was feasible to go after their dream. During this era they both had been captivated by Hip Hop and could not believe the power the music held over them. Avid R&B fans since they were kids, they looked at their Hip Hop obsession as a natural progression to their musical tastes and interests.
The fact that the two were a couple of white guys from the suburbs was not a deterrent to their passion for this cultural phenomenon. Their friends thought they were crazy, especially Marty's fraternity brothers who made fun of his musical interest. Once the business plan was complete, Marty quit his job at the lumber company and went to work trying to get a loan for the start-up business.
Eleven banks turned him down.
What the business plan proposed was anything but normal. The store would be a vinyl record specialty shop in an era of massive CD sales. A place where customers could hang out and interact with each other was part of the plan all along. They wanted a couch and a coffee table to encourage longer visits – certainly an oddity for that time. So was the idea of specializing in Hip Hop, R&B, Jazz and Reggae – all forms of Black music that didn't quite fit the mold the banks were looking to finance. Knowing his parents wanted to help, in April of 1993, Marty made the pitch to them, and they agreed to co-sign for a loan. The amount was about half of what they felt they needed, but at least they could do it on a shoe string budget. An agreement was drawn up and a repayment contract was signed.
Marty called Mike with the news. Their dream would finally happen.
They immediately began scouting a location for the store. The Near East side of Columbus was too seedy. The Far East side was too generic and soulless. Downtown had its drawbacks and OSU campus was too expensive to rent.
Columbus' Short North area was the perfect place to land. They chose their location, 1122 N. High Street, because of the racially mixed neighborhood, the cheap rent, and the perceived notion that the area would improve over time. Rent was cheap as the area was thick with prostitutes and drug dealers, but also because the property was completely dilapidated and in need of massive amounts of work. So for one month, Marty, Mike and his wife Claudia, Marty's family (Dad, Mom, Camille and her boyfriend Kevin Smith), Marty's Fraternity buddies (Dave Warner, Eric Grace, Ron Engstrom), and a few others pitched in day and night to help build the Groove Shack. The first employees, Derek Baldwin (Intalec) and Jay Young (Jay Freeze), worked at the store before it was open, and contributed greatly. At minimum wage, they were a huge part of the process.
A week before the store opened, Groove Shack received their initial shipment of records, tapes, and CD's. At around $14,000 it was over half their loan amount, and a huge endeavor to catalog and place all the music.
May 26th, 1993. Groove Shack opened its doors for business – but not before a harrowing crisis threatened the existence of the store. No one could operate the cash register that had just been delivered. Finally at around 1 pm they figured it out and the first customers came through. Selling about $200 the first day, with about $8,000 in reserves, Marty and Mike felt like they had finally made it to the top of the world.
That first Friday, Marty and Mike were working in the store. It was around 5 pm – a hot summer day with no air conditioning. The sun beat in through the windows. The humidity level was off the charts. Yet it did not deter a group of kids from spending the afternoon in the hot little sweatbox that was the Groove Shack. These kids were there mostly as friends of the two employees, Derek and Jay, and they couldn't bring themselves to leave. Being a great DJ, Jay got up on the two Techniques 1200 turntables and began to cut up some records. Derek and his friends rapped to the cuts. A microphone was passed around. Soon everyone was in on the freestyle rap session. The energy and enthusiasm exploded. What started out as a benign freestyle session by a group of kids became the turning point of the store, marked its trajectory, and launched its place in music history.
These impromptu open microphone sessions turned into a weekly gathering simply know as the "Open Mic". Every Friday from 6-8 pm anyone could come to the Groove Shack and "jump on the mic". The sessions were free and the store provided the DJ. The word quickly spread, and soon the sessions were where names were made, and reputations were enhanced or smashed.
Marty and Mike decided to film the sessions and produce them for the local cable access channel. This fanned the flames. The Groove Shack quickly became known as much for its incredible vinyl selection, as it was for its open mic sessions. Marty and Mike branched out and held DJ contests that were also filmed for TV. In this way they had a unique way of spreading the word and advertising the store.
The store prided itself in promoting vinyl records. They founded the Vinyl Alliance that boasted of members from as far away as Australia. The store was written up numerous times in various publications. Soon the nation caught on. The Groove Shack was featured in Billboard Magazine, and an AP article ran worldwide. The Groove Shack became the go-to record store for the Rock-n-roll hall of fame in Cleveland for their Hip Hop display. An AP article ran worldwide. Some of the notable artists to visit Groove Shack included Arrested Development, 2 live Crew, Willie D, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, D.O.C., Dana Dane, and Mega Banton.
The Groove Shack existed until early 1997 when it became apparent the finances would not hold out any longer. During the four years the store existed it inspired a generation of young musical artists from Columbus to strive for great things. It brought people together and created an environment that helped artists to become better musicians and performers. Of the local people inspired by the store and its unique scene, the list is long. Among them are RJD2, Camu, Copywrite, Intalec, MHz, Funk Friends, True Skills, Poets of Heresy, S.P.I.R.I.T., DJ Drastic, DJ Phazo, J Rawls, Prime, UnRuly, Hardknoxz, Rashad & the 3rd, just to name a few.
When Marty decided to close the store he was exhausted, and ready to move on with his life. The store closed with a sell-off of all the merchandise and equipment. Due to financial obligations that money went to pay off debt incurred over the last year in business. The reasons for the closure are many; High costs of merchandise, CD wars, big box retailers selling below cost, increased costs of operation, the list goes on.
Marty and Mike went their separate ways. Mike stayed in the music business with an online record company, and kept in contact with a few of the artists. Marty went into Commercial Office Furniture and eventually moved to San Francisco in 2003.
In 2006, nine years after the Groove Shack closed, Marty had an idea to make a documentary film about the store and the people who made it a special place. He quit his job, again, in late 2007 and began putting the pieces together for a movie about the Groove Shack.
What started out as a small, personal project has burgeoned into a huge endeavor. Originally planned as a no-budget home movie shot on a cheap camcorder and mixed on a home computer, Groove Shack turned into a full-length documentary (shot in four states ) that chronicles a group of young artists and where they are today. The store, which was a brief shining moment in so many lives, has now morphed into a documentary film and a soundtrack eleven years later.
Discover the dreams that were made and broken at the Groove Shack.