MASSILLON While traveling in their 20s, Sam and TJ Heaton sought out record stores in the towns they visited.
Their time inside the stores became a litmus test of the community.
"You can get a taste for the scene," Sam Heaton said.
So when an opportunity to purchase a new space in downtown Massillon came up, they jumped at the chance to enhance the city's retail landscape with something different.
The Heatons, who also own and operate Art Bomb Tattoos, purchased the historic building at 46 Erie St. N to bring to life Erie Street Vinyl.
Massillon Development Foundation and Massillon Main Street
The building, built in 1916, is part of the city's historic district that includes 91 buildings and one site, Veterans Memorial Park, located along Lincoln Way, First Street and Erie Street. The area is on the National Register of Historic Places.
It most recently was home to The Music Shoppe, but it also housed financial institutions as well as a cigar shop during the past century.
The Massillon Development Foundation and Massillon Main Street partnered to rehab the vacant downtown structure last year. They had plans to quickly "flip" the building to entice new business to the area.
The foundation purchased the vacant building in March 2020 for $50,000. Massillon Main Street chipped in $12,000 for demolition work.
The group asked interested parties to provide business plans and start and finish dates.
Phil Elum, volunteer director of the Main Street group, said the venture was a pilot project for the two non-profits. Despite the setbacks brought on by the pandemic, they are pleased to have found deserving owners.
Elum said there were several parties interested. It was important to find someone willing to restore the entire building, which includes the first-floor retail space and a second-floor apartment space.
The two groups cleaned out the structure and updated it, including repairing the roof. They also removed the 1980s storefront to reveal the original.
The new owners were asked to keep the historical storefront intact.
"We wanted to make sure we found somebody who had the creativity to restore the entire building and who had the financial resources to buy and restore the entire building," Elum said. "Main Street used its limited budget to clean out and make the infrastructure safe. We cleaned up the exterior of the building."
Through donations, including ones from local businesses such as Advanced Industrial Roofing and Hilscher Clarke for service and materials as well as help from Washington High School building trade students, they were able to get the building "hammer ready."
"This is a win-win for everyone," Elum said. "The MDF gets their money back and Massillon Main Street gets their money back. We're not looking to make a profit. We're excited to have someone willing to invest in downtown Massillon."
According to the Stark County Auditor's website, the sale price was $77,500.
Elum said the groups are looking for their next investment property, adding if there are any owners wanting to dispose of their downtown property at a fair price, they should contact him.
The process to find another space takes time, he said. They want to ensure they find a property in the historic district.
A good fit for the Heatons, Massillon
"We put together a plan and they liked our proposal," Sam Heaton said. "Massillon has been really good to us and we are really happy they are letting us have this opportunity."
The Heatons have been a part of the downtown culture for more than a decade with the addition of Art Bomb in 2007 at 32 Erie St. N, just a few doors down from their new storefront.
"As much as we've been a part of Massillon socially and through the business, we've been quietly running a solid business and taking care of our beautiful building," Sam Heaton said. "We are good for Massillon and it's nice that we can bring another business to downtown."
While demo work was completed by Washington High School building trades students when MDF purchased the building last year, more work is needed to transform the space, Heaton said.
They are in the process of securing contractors, she said, adding her husband will do a lot of the work to transform the space.
"We want to do the building justice and restore some things," Heaton explained. "As soon as the structural renovations are done we can kick it into gear and get in there ourselves."
In the future, they have plans for the second floor, she added.
Heaton said the living room of her Wayne County home is filled with inventory for the store.
The store will focus on newly released albums, mostly from independent record labels, but also will carry a selection of used records.
Heaton said the independent labels have great working relationships with brick and mortar shops.
"That's why we love record stores," she said. "There is a really close connection between independent artists and a lot of times it is direct from the label. There is nothing better than supporting independent musicians, especially in a time like this."
Records are making a comeback and there are several places in the area that offer vinyl records, she said, including small shops as well as bigger stores like Target.
A community space
Heaton is focusing on making the new space community-friendly.
It will have a boutique vibe that will allow them to get to know their customers.
"There will be a more personable shopping experience," she said. "We've traveled a lot and seen a lot of great stores and boutiques out there. We are going to curate a nice shopping space for people."
She also hopes to bring in some other items including candles, greeting cards, T-shirts, local art and maybe some home decor.
"It will be a fun store that people want to walk around and look at the things," Heaton said.
Heaton already connected with Washington High School art teacher Emma Unsworth to see if her students would be interested in providing art for the storefront.
"This was a new creative endeavor and she was really interested in collaborating and making connections with the community whether it be teachers or other businesses or students," Unsworth said.
About 30 students in two of Unsworth's drawing classes brainstormed ideas for the project. They wanted it to be visually appealing and represent the record store.
The kids settled on creating their own records showcasing their work. Some students recreated classic albums while others put their own take on the records.
"Some went back to the Rolling Stones, others used Ariana Grande," Unsworth said. "There was old and new and some in between. They were very excited, and I was excited to get the students' artwork outside of the classroom. It makes them feel so good and empowered that their artwork is out in the community."
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