Shooting for the Stars with Planet Score Records

prof planet-score“The ghost of Record Reunion is definitely here.”

 

 

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Not long ago, industry experts offered gloomy and doomy predictions that digital music would eliminate any consumer need for physical product. Why bother with a CD or vinyl record when you could just stream it on your phone? What the experts didn’t count on was that, for many audiophiles, it’s not just about the music; it’s also about the tangential experience that transcends it. Whether it’s popping open a new CD by a favorite artist, admiring album art and lyrics, or the simple joy of dropping a needle on a freshly-purchased piece of wax, there are passionate music fans for whom music has never been a disposable art.

Now, two of those music fans have opened their own record store.

Co-owners and good pals Joe Stulce and Tim Lohmann launched Planet Score Records, named after a Guided by Voices track, on October 30, 2015, in Maplewood’s thriving arts and business district. How did the former CD Reunion record slingers get the reigns to their own store? “I was at CD Reunion in Hazelwood for the past 16 years, working directly with Dan Kiser, who started Record Reunion back in the early ’80s,” Stulce says. “It was a pretty small business, just one full-time employee and a few part-timers that would come and go. Then, for the past 10 years, it was just he and I running the place.” As the North County location at Village Square started seeing neighboring businesses vanish, the writing was already on the wall.

“Later,” Stulce continues, “Tim and I met and played in a band called the Helium Tapes together. He was on guitar, I was on drums. We just hit it off immediately.” Those practice sessions led to late-night discussions about bands, and further cemented their mutual love of music. “Usually after practice, I would hang out over at Tim’s, where we practiced and we’d listen to weird records and talk about music and get drunk.” After the Helium Tapes were history, the pair continued to get together “and make weird psychedelic music that no one would ever hear.”

Kiser’s impending retirement from running CD Reunion caused Stulce to take a hard look at the future. “I knew he’d be retiring soon and I thought, ‘What are we gonna do?’ As fate would have it, Stulce’s wife Heather had the answer. “Heather said, ‘Just ask him what he wants for the business.’ I come up with ideas all the time but rarely follow through with them.” Knowing that Kiser was looking to change occupations as well, Stulce figured “I was going to have to either find a real job or try and get a job at another record store.” According to Lohmann, who had previous stints working maintenance gigs and doing freelance graphic design work, the timing worked out perfectly. “Every decade, I try and change careers,” he smiles. “This is gonna be my last one.”

Moving the location from Hazelwood to Maplewood has already paid dividends for the enterprising duo. Stulce points out “just how amazing the neighborhood and especially how great the other small businesses are. Everybody seems to want to know and help out everybody else. We’re even talking about doing some cross promotion. We just didn’t have that at all at our old location in Hazelwood, at least not for the last several years.” And it’s not just fellow merchants showing enthusiasm. As Stulce says, “The Maplewood City Council people come in here and introduce themselves and talk to us.” He is still somewhat stunned at this newly acquired positive environment. “Our landlord even pops in here at least once a week and is super friendly. You would never see that stuff at the old location, where it was more of a faceless corporation.”

As one might expect after meeting its owners, the actual experience of shopping at Planet Score Records is a low-key and hassle-free affair. Rows of vinyl, CDs, and cassettes of every genre, low-priced movies, and even some quirky and hard-to-find releases await the treasure-hunting aficionado looking for their next big fix. Even local artists are treated like rock stars. “We’re knocking around the idea of not having a local section and just putting the local bands in with everyone else.” To Stulce’s way of thinking, having a “local” section is kind of like saying “these guys are less than the big-time bands. So we’ll put them under whatever genre they belong to, with everyone else.” With an open area at the front of the store earmarked for live performances, as well as “friends itching to have barbeques, Record Store Day events, and sidewalk sales,” the future already looks bright.

At the back of the store, an old Record Reunion sign hangs proudly on the wall. Lohmann says, “We do miss our customers in Hazelwood. It’s great seeing all these new people, but I don’t want our old customers to think we just disappeared. We really want all of them to come over and find us.”

“The ghost of Record Reunion is definitely here,” adds Stulce. | Jim Ousley

Planet Score Records is located at 7421 Manchester Road in Maplewood, Mo. The store is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 12 to 5 p.m. Sunday. You can call the store at 314-282-0777.

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