Squidco • 1003 N. 4th Street
Mon. – Fri., noon- 6 p.m.
When Phil Zampino first got into the record-store business back in 2002, he definitely didn’t know what he was getting into. With then-business partner Kurt Gottschalk, he almost quit by the second year. Starting out in Manhattan had its perks, but certainly made it more difficult.
“In New York City, you’re just banging your head against the wall because there’s so much going on all the time,” Zampino says. “We weren’t some big entity—we were just starting from square one.”
Still, the city was the birthplace for Zampino’s business, Squidco, which distributes eclectic, obscure music, in store and online. Starting out in a small residential in Washington Heights and 189th Street, Squidco didn’t have many walk-ins and struggled for customers. Eventually, Zampino and Gottschalk set up a successful online catalog with over 2,000 items, along with a magazine, “The Squid Ear,” which includes music news and album reviews. Three years in, Gottschalk left to pursue other endeavors, and five years in, Zampino felt like he finally had a business.
Manhattan, or specifically The Knitting Factory, is responsible for turning Zampino on to obscure genres of music. Although improvisational jazz is his favorite, he includes avant-garde, noise, experimental and electro-acoustic improv in Squidco’s selection.
“I really like difficult rock forms because there’s so much diversity in it and so much potential,” he says. “Europeans really appreciate improvised music and jazz more so than us, which is sad since we started it. To me, it’s America’s greatest invention. Maybe the light bulb is just as good, but improv came first.”
For Squidco, time in New York had eventually run its course, so Zampino brought the business to Wilmington after a family emergency and falling in love with the building that is now housing Squidco on 4th Street. Opening only a few months ago, between Harnett and Davis streets, Squidco’s new home in the Brooklyn Arts District is far from its northern roots.
“We have no problems with our decision [to move] here,” Zampino says. “There are no parking issues, no noise complaints—the neighborhood is fine! As far as safety and all, it’s downtown, and strange things happen all the time in any downtown area. Our neighbors at Big Thai and Alkali Screen Printing are friendly, and the people in Wilmington are very friendly. Everybody’s relaxed, [which is nice] after being used to New York, where there’s a more intense and defensive attitude.”
While the shop has a small, impressive collection of new CDs, LPs and DVDs, the business is booming online. The Squidco staff doesn’t see a lot of walk-ins, but are patient and normally busy setting up packages to be sent across the States, and even to countries like Columbia, Japan and Ukraine.
“Half our business is international,” Zampino notes. “We got Japanese buyers who are meticulous but great, consistent clients. We also deal with Lithuanian businesses, and have customers who book in Columbia and pitch our shows. I like to think we have a very East European-bent catalog. We definitely try to have a Pan European perspective as much as possible, because the music is so interesting.”
Squidco already has hosted small shows in the shop. In March, there were noise and avant-garde artists from Wilmington, Chapel Hill, Washington DC and even from Moscow playing after hours. Zampino assures that as long as musicians are interested, Squidco will continue to coordinate shows and bring in new, unique performers from all over the world.
When asked about the troubled times record store businesses go through, thanks to corporate stores and Internet downloads, Zampino doesn’t express much worry for Squidco. “If you’re smart about the record business, you can survive,” he says. “We’ve met the guys at Gravity Records, who are great and very nice people, and they run their business the same way we want to: with good, friendly people around. Even though it’s a dwindling world for record stores, there isn’t really any competitive vibe here. We’re not cut throat, and I feel that the music we sell is really cooperative. . . . Music isn’t competition; it’s about who made the best music, not who won the Grammy.”
With Record Store Day coming up this Saturday, April 16, it’s imperative for communities to support local, independent record stores. What began in 2007 to promote special vinyl, CD releases and other promotional products made exclusively for the day, where live shows, festivities and fun puts focus back on the independent stores continues with a new kid in town. Squidco will open on Saturday for the big day, which will include a “yard sale” of used, discounted CDs.
Gravity Records will be offering exclusive limited-edition releases for sale.
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