Todd Ploharski, owner of record store Low Yo Yo Stuff, describes its return to Athens, Georgia.
I started Low Yo Yo Stuff in Athens and then left to Atlanta for a couple years and then came back to Athens. In Atlanta we turned into a rap store. All our customers wanted records for sampling, but I think the whole song is good, not just three seconds of it. We were outside of Atlanta, and although we were on a bus and train route, it was hard for people to get to us.
About three years ago I realized I missed the small town and people were saying records were coming back again, so I thought people might start buying records again. I got a phone call from a landlord in [Athens]. He had a space that was open and he thought of me and said, “Boy, Todd should move in there.” I said, “That’s a pretty good idea.” I looked into it and thought about it and talked to him. An old friend of mine had moved back to town and I took him on as a new partner, though let’s just say things didn’t work out.
Athens is this hip, cool college town. Every few months you get new girls and dudes. Everything is always changing. There’s always new people coming by. It’s not old record collecting dudes, it’s fresh faces all the time. There’s a constant supply of new dates.
At first it was great. Everyone came in saying, “I’m so glad that you’re back.” Honestly, if everyone who welcomed us back had given us $5, I could have retired, but things change rapidly in this world. Music is everywhere now, so you’re hit with new music all the time, which used to be the record stores’ job. Nowadays everybody knows everything. I’m not being sour grapes, but everybody’s habits changed around the same time.
We have such a high variety of music. I have hundreds of thousands of records in warehouses. I tried to have a section for everything, so we have a blues section, a classical section, a modern classical section, a hip-hop section… We had the only metal section in town. We tried to bring in more and more CDs. We certainly have one of the best-stocked CD stores ever, but people were buying less CDs. I’m an eternal optimist, so I just figure we need to add this section or we need to get this thing going or we need to do that. I am one of those head down kind of guys, I’m always so busy working that I can’t always look around.
I decided to diversify and we opened a skate shop in our store. Now we’re opening a mini-gallery, Athens’ smallest gallery, in a closet in the back of my store. When you look at the store, now you see skateboards and now we have a gallery, all to bring people back into the store.
We’re now a antique store. We’re not a destination. People used to lineup in front of record stores to get stuff. They used to lineup on Tuesday mornings to get a new release. I still have the hopes and dreams that a great store with great people in it will bring in great people and will lead to great sales, but it’s just not enough.
Because of our weird hours, we get tourists. We still get customers, just a lot of time they are from New York. It’s like if you got to San Francisco, you might buy a T-shirt that says, “San Francisco,” but you’d never buy something like that in your own town. People come to Athens and decide they want to buy something from a record store.
Low Yo Yo Stuff is part of the Scion Partners program. See below for more articles.