New Record Store in Massillon Aims to Reignite the 'Joy' of Discovering Music After the Pandemic
A historic building in the heart of downtown Massillon is undergoing renovations and will open as a record shop called Erie St. Vinyl this summer.
Owners Samantha and Thomas “T.J.” Heaton bought the building, which is located a storefront over from their tattoo shop, Art Bomb Tattoos, on Erie Street.
The building is part of the city’s historic district. The site was once home to a music store, a cigar shop and various financial institutions over the past 100 years.
Samantha Heaton wants to keep the space as authentic and true to its original look and feel as possible.
When the building on Erie Street became available, the couple decided they wanted to share their joy of vinyl records and independent music with the region.
“I feel like it’s a real evolving kind of manifestation of our record collection. So we’re going for it,” Samantha Heaton said.
She wants to help connect the community to local, independent artists as the pandemic put the discovery of and connection to new music on pause.
Seeking out record stores in new towns
The Heatons, who are now in their mid-to-late 30s, traveled often in their early 20s.
T.J. Heaton is a tattoo artist and would do guest spots in tattoo shops throughout the country.
It can be a nomadic industry, Samantha Heaton said. She would tag along during these trips, and while her husband would be working at busy tattoo shops all day, she’d explore the city.
“You can go to a bigger city, and if you have the right contacts, work at a busy shop for a weekend, make some money, take in the scene. It’s fun,” she said.
Part of that, she said, was seeking out the nearest record store.
“That’s something we always did,” Samantha Heaton said. “By that, we just started accumulating a very special, curated, good collection.”
She said some of the best bands she found were from immersing herself in each region’s music scene and the local, independent record shops.
“You’d have to go down to the basement to get to the stuff my husband liked to listen to. The smell, the lighting, you get a total taste of what people are listening to there,” she said. “There’s something very romantic about that.”
The Heatons are parents to three daughters, ages 3, 9 and 11 years old.
They still make finding local record stores a part of their family vacations.
“When you find it so organically, it’s fun,” Samantha Heaton said.
She wanted to bring that feeling of physically finding new music by scouring through record shops to the Massillon community.
“If I can offer a space that brings all those shopping experiences together, I want people to have fun digging through our bins. And I want people to know they can find a really wacky ‘blind buy’ and have a really good conversation the next time they put it on with someone,” she said.
Curating a vinyl music collection
The Heatons have different tastes in music from one another, but they share a love of collecting vinyl.
They wanted to open a record store, in part, as an extension of their curated record collection at home.
“That collection grew into a real source of joy in our family, especially through the pandemic,” she said. “That’s why we’re feeling really good about how we’re doing this, opening this record store. We’re very different collectors.”
Heaton said her husband categorizes all of his records on Discogs and will be the “space creator” for Erie St. Vinyl.
She is the owner and operator of the shop and wants the business to spotlight independent artists and record labels.
“I buy albums to set moods. I like to put on an album while I’m entertaining, or when me and the girls are hanging out. I like to fill a room with that sound,” she said.
She said during the COVID-19 pandemic, she and her husband were both stagnant in their careers and looking for an opportunity.
"I feel like the small record stores really define the town."
“We were both shut down on both of our industries, so we were at home doing remote learning with the kids. But we always could turn to that record collection, cook a nice dinner. We were fortunate to have it,” she said.
She said it’s “scary” to open up a business during this time of uncertainty, but there has been a renewed interest and resurgence of vinyl, and she wants to ride that wave.
“I think every record store, if it’s done by someone with a passion for a genre, or sub genre, I think there’s space for everyone. Music is so vast,” she said. “Unless you have, like, a warehouse, I feel like the small record stores really define the town.”
Being part of Massillon’s downtown resurgence
Heaton said her husband purchased the building at 46 Erie St. N. when it became available. She said the price was right, and it was close to the couple’s tattoo shop.
High school students demo the buildings, Heaton said, then people can submit a business plan and timeline if they are interested in purchasing the property.
A committee votes on who it wants to sell the building to.
“One thing led to the next, and I was like, ‘We’re gonna open a record store there,’” Heaton said.
Erie St. Vinyl is slated to open in August.
Right now, the Heatons are waiting on contractors at the space and are sorting out the details of the retail side of the business from home until construction is complete.
They are restoring the entire building, which includes a first-floor retail space and a second-floor apartment.
Heaton said her husband is her “landlord,” and members of their family are involved with getting the space ready, but she will be in charge of running the business.
“And I feel good about that,” she said.
Heaton said she likes being able to put money into the city of Massillon and contribute to its rebirth.
“It feels good to purchase a building in a downtown area and be at a level in your life that you can actually kind of enter the Chamber of Commerce and help out in ways. It’s exciting to be a part of that side, too,” she said.
She said it’s nice to be able to add momentum to the city as business owners.
“I really want to deliver for everybody. It’s been such a positive start. I’m really gonna work hard to deliver with a great space and good stock of vinyl,” she said.
She said the store will also contain other products so they can support local artists.
“So when you need a break from digging through a bin, you can go check out some greeting cards or tote bags. I’m trying to be very conscious of all shoppers,” she said.
Heaton wants to have a balance of used and new records in the shop, but the primary focus will be on independent music.
“To me, it’s so much more important to shop independent artists and small labels,” she said “You can go into Target. You can go into Barnes & Noble. You can get Taylor Swift. That stuff’s easy, accessible. It’s the stuff that can’t make it into those stores, that’s the stuff that I want and I want to help get out there.”
Since getting the keys to the building, Heaton has been asking for record donations on Facebook, visiting Goodwill stores and sifting through records and collections people have donated.
Some have reached out to her as they’ve purged their collections, and she’s been taking care of the vinyl records, sorting through them and seeing if there are any standouts she’d want to carry in her shop.
Heaton conducted research through Reddit, blogs and podcasts to learn tips on stocking a record store.
She has started accepting wholesale accounts from record companies and labels she and her husband have been fans of.
“Because I am someone who honors independent music, these independent labels want to sell to independent, brick-and-mortar stores,” she said.
She said contacting the labels representing artists she loved has been a great experience.
“Everybody just wants to get music out,” Heaton said.
Opening a music-focused business during a pandemic
Heaton said with live music and concerts being put on hold over the last year, people are looking for attachment and intimacy with music.
“I think that’s why vinyl is like this whole resurgence. It’s a special connection to music. It’s a physical piece. I want to honor that,” she said.
She said streaming is here to stay, and Bandcamp and Spotify can be a quick and easy way to discover new artists.
Building a record collection, she said, can be a good way to connect with artists in place of live music.
“I think it’s a little bit more intimate than streaming, let’s be honest,” Heaton said. “It’s a different way to connect to an artist when you can’t see them live—that’s a physical piece of their art, that record.”
Heaton wants to host small, intimate shows in the record shop once the shop is open and she's sure it is safe to do so.
She said she wants the space to function as a platform for local artists to film social media content as well.
“I’d love to get into private livestreams. My husband and I are creating a space that I hope everyone’s gonna enjoy. We love decor, and we love to put a mood on a space, and that’s gonna be reflective at the store,” Heaton said.
"It’s a different way to connect to an artist when you can’t see them live—that’s a physical piece of their art, that record.”
She said Massillon is supportive of live music events and venues.
“We have big ideas, and I’d love to get live music in there. Absolutely,” she said.
Heaton said as a parent, she’s “elbow deep in "momming," so she doesn’t get to experience live music as often these days, so she tries to follow the wave of what people are listening to locally.
“I feel like when you talk about Massillon, you talk about Canton. I know it’s two very different cities, but it’s still Stark County. I know with smaller, little venues are starting to bubble … I think it’ll be interesting to see what everybody’s been working on. All those little bands that have kind of been in their shells, it will be exciting to see what’s next,” Heaton said.
She said it’s nice that Massillon doesn’t have a huge music scene, so she doesn’t have to conform to or cater to a certain style or genre of music in her shop.
This grants Heaton the ability to cast a wide net and make connections within the local music community.
“We don’t have the constrictions of, like, a hardcore scene. We can kind of navigate it at our own pace, and kind of let the people that are shopping push us to where local music is,” she said.
Heaton said she wants Erie St. Vinyl to be a destination spot for music lovers in the region, whether they’re long-time vinyl enthusiasts or are just starting to build their record collections.
“I’m not a purist. I just like to fill a room with sound and a mood,” Heaton said. “I’m not saying everyone needs to have a huge collection, but when vinyl had its heyday, that’s the only way we could really ingest music. And it’s so far away from it now that we’ve kind of circled back to it.”
Follow updates on Erie St. Vinyl’s construction progress and opening date on its Facebook page.