One Reno business survivor is David Calkins at Discology. He opened a CD shop when CD shops were closing. The lifespan of his store encompassed the recession and yet he thrives.
The last time I interviewed you for this feature was seven years ago. I’m afraid I was kind of condescending or skeptical. I used the term “foolhardiness” in the intro.
You opened the store in 2006. The recession started in 2007. Not expecting that, were you?
Definitely not. Why would I be that able to look into the future? No, I wasn't expecting the housing crash, the economic downturn, everything.
How much did it hurt you?
In my original location I was in a 600-square-foot storefront, upstairs, off the street—which, at the time, was the best I could do. In the months leading up to that, from the start of the store, my business was ramping up. I had more sales, more and more people knowing about it, more and more people coming in on a monthly basis. But as soon as the recession came, the numbers started falling backwards. And I started realizing pretty quickly I had better start making some changes. I started thinking about moving to a smaller location, because over the course of the next year or so, a lot of vacancies started opening up. Businesses were coming in and going out quickly, and I needed something with more visibility, all the things I was having issues with in an upstairs location on California Avenue. I started looking, but I had really kind of amazing landlords. Nobody does this. They actually cut my rent every year, which kept me there for another two years. And I'm grateful for that, but there came a point of diminishing returns. … And I'd always wanted this location [[adjacent to the Riverside movie theatre box office].
You did as well as you could where you were?
I think I did, yes, considering the obstacles. But people were giving up CDs more and I started carrying vinyl after the first year. I sold vinyls sometimes more—more vinyls in one day than I did CDs, depending on the client base that came through. [At the new store] I certainly have more special orders for vinyls. But obviously I carry a lot more used stock than I do new stock for those types of buys, for vinyl. The one thing I understood early on in being in business is that you have to move with the market as much as you can, or as much as you can predict, and as much as you can put your ear to the ground and work it out. So I did—I made some changes pretty quickly, adapting to what was going to be more popular. All I cared about was, Is it flat and round and can I sell it? Because at least it keeps in context with the name Discology. So that's all I cared about, and in which case within about three years, I had finally moved down to this location, and I just turned over six years here. … It's definitely been a much better move. I would not be in business if I had stayed at that location. I'm dead sure about that. … Not that this location hasn't had its own set of challenges. … When I came down here back in 2009, I believed things were going to be greatly different because there was a variety of shopping that was still available. … There isn't a lot. It doesn't bring people down here, because I have always found that while you can see hundreds of people an hour walking up and down the walkway, they're going to an event, they're going to the river, they're going to a restaurant, they're going back to their cars. They're not here to shop.
How many people order vinyl from you the way I did—“I used to have this record. Can you find it for me?”
Nobody. Not that constantly. They go in cycles.
So it’s not a nostalgia thing?
Not currently. Not in the same way, because the majority of people buying vinyl are … that 25 to 35 range, and they don't have that nostalgia. It's still a brand new idea to them.