One thousand boxes. That is how many moving boxes Squeezebox owner Tim Peterson and his devoted staff needed this summer in order to pack the inventory of books, LPs, CDs and DVDs in preparation for a trip six-tenths of a mile south to the new location, 743 Main St.
Squeezebox Books and Records, an Evanston mainstay for secondhand books, records, CDs and DVDs, is thriving in the larger location and customers could not be happier.
Mr. Peterson fell in love with the hunt for and marketing of secondhand books and records in the 1980s. He had followed his then-girlfriend (now wife, Martha Hoyle, a talented graphic designer responsible for the store’s logo and clever signage) to Chicago after college and was working in a branch of a chain record store downtown.
His boss at the time gave him some excellent feedback, saying Mr. Peterson was “too creative to be truly happy following orders from a corporate office.”
That advice eventually spurred Mr. Peterson to go into business for himself, first with Hi-Fi Records in Lincoln Park and after that venture closed, with Squeezebox.
As Mr. Peterson is first to acknowledge, “The stock defines the store. It’s a mix of highbrow and lowbrow. There is an eclectic mix in each category, and it is constantly evolving. Every day we are buying and selling, so most items are not on the floor too long.”
The larger space, three times the size of the previous location, allows more stock to be displayed and encourages browsing. It is the perfect spot to shop for gifts, especially for people with very specific tastes in music or literature or those who have an appreciation of older things in good condition. Except for special new records, cards and tee shirts, most of the items in the store are gently used.
One of Mr. Peterson’s favorite things about his job is getting to know his customers, learning about their tastes and interests and letting them know when something that is just perfect for them arrives in the store.
Many of those customers are looking forward to Record Store Day, an international promotion that celebrates the unique culture of independently owned record stores. The next Record Store Day is on April 13, 2019, but the past few years the organization has also partnered with Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, creating essentially a second Record Store Day. This year the tradition continues, starting the day after Thanksgiving.
The mystique around Record Store Day is the release of hundreds of limited-edition albums for sale. Record Store Day albums are produced in small batches and cannot be reordered, as each production run is “one-time only.”
To accommodate the anticipated throngs of eager customers, Squeezebox will open at 10 a.m., two hours early, on Nov. 23-25. Mr. Peterson and his staff, including store manager Brenda Quarles and salespeople Max Abner and Laura Wilson, make the weekend a fun happening by dressing up in costumes – this year’s theme is a surprise at this writing – and playing appropriately themed music. It keeps the mood in the store lighthearted as shoppers scan the shelves in search of must-have albums. That perfect gift, must-have item for a collection or unusual addition to a library is likely to be available. This is a store that truly has something for everyone.