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The Record Store

The Record Store: Need Some Furniture With That Vinyl? 

Today we’re profiling St. Pete’s Records in Chattanooga, Tennessee
Mary Kate Sherer with St. Pete's Records owner Keith Wilson. (All photos credited to Charles Moss.)
Mary Kate Sherer with St. Pete's Records owner Keith Wilson. (All photos credited to Charles Moss.)

“I have a customer who sets up and services aquariums…” says Keith Wilson, of the large fish tank adorning his office at St. Pete’s Records, ironically located in Chattanooga, Tennessee. “The fish are African Cichlids. They’re one of the most territorial species of fish. They basically chase each other around all day.”

St. Pete’s isn’t hard to find. But when I went there for the first time about a year ago, I was confused by two things: that it was surrounded by industrial parks and the large red-lettered sign on the building that read Furniture & Records. I questioned if I was in the right place.

“You know, there’s a saying…” Keith says. “The way a shop treats its records is how customers will look at them. The more you can organize, the bigger your sales will be. Having only been up here [in Chattanooga] a little over two years, I’ve just watched sales keep going up.”

He’s right. St. Pete’s is one of the cleanest, most-organized record stores I’ve ever seen. It’s also one of the most colorful, with pastel blue walls filled with yellow, pink, and purple squiggles, and bright orange and green shelves filled with hundreds of records; an homage to his previous home of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Before owning St. Pete’s, Keith was a claims adjuster in upstate New York, but was laid off in 2015. He moved to St. Petersburg to work at his brother, Todd, and sister-in-law Jackie’s furniture shop, Furnish Me Vintage. 

Though he had very little experience collecting or selling records, he was inspired by Todd’s record collection. He opened St. Pete’s Records in 2016 with one small rack in the corner of the 30,000-square-foot furniture store. His first real break came about a year in when a guy called up and said his dad left him 5,500 jazz and rock albums after he passed away. All he wanted in return was $1,500 in Furnish Me Vintage store credit.  

Owner Keith Wilson

By 2018 Keith had outgrown the space inside Furnish Me Vintage and moved to a stand-alone location with two part-time employees. “Those no-sale days from the beginning were turning into $500 and $600 days,” Keith tells me. “Things were moving along and we were growing steadily until March 2020 when COVID hit.” Keith shut down the store and both of his employees quit. The rest of the year he sold strictly online.  

Todd and Jackie moved to Chattanooga in late 2020 and invited Keith to visit. He loved it and eventually moved there himself. Talking with his brother, they decided to reopen both the furniture and record store, once again in the same building. “It’s worked out really well,” he says. “They sell mid-century modern furniture and come to find out, the people who buy their furniture, many of them are into records, too.”

One of the reasons Keith decided to reopen St. Pete’s in Chattanooga was the lack of extensive metal sections he noticed in local record shops. “They had a couple of Black Sabbath albums, maybe some Iron Maiden scattered about, but not a true metal section,” he says. “I have nearly one full bin of strictly true metal, and I think it’s one of the things that separates us from the other shops in town.” 

How do you find your records? 

For the most part, it’s people bringing their records to me; smaller collections, usually between 50 and 200 albums. Either people are done with their records or they’ve inherited some and just want to get rid of them. The majority of my customers are looking for used records. They’re looking for first presses and harder-to-find albums. And my new records, I have four distributors that I use, and I just try to bring in the best stuff possible. 

What’s the most expensive record you’ve ever sold? 

About five years ago, I purchased a first-state Beatles Yesterday and Today, the Butcher Cover. I wound up selling it for a little over $3,000. Since then it’s jumped in price quite significantly, but at the time it was great because it kept me going for the next couple of months.

The rarest?

The rarest record I ever sold was a 45 of Prince’s “Purple Rain” on one side and Dio’s “The Last In Line” on the other. I didn’t even notice it at first. Both albums were being pressed at the same plant at the same time.

Who’s the most famous person who ever came into your store?

Brian Wilson and his band. This is when we were down in St. Petersburg. He came in with his two band members who were really into records, and I guess they were all hanging out that day. And so I got to meet him…super nice. You could tell Brian was getting older but was still on top of things. 

Your first concert?

Metallica’s Master of Puppets tour up in New York around ‘85 or ‘86. I was in sixth grade. The reason I went was because Ozzy was opening for them. It wound up being an insane concert. I listened to a little Metallica at the time, but I was way more into Ozzy. Metallica blew Ozzy off the stage. And I became a huge Metallica fan after that. 

Favorite album?

My favorite album of all time is probably Tool’s Undertow. I still consider that to be the high watermark of their career. I’m looking forward to the next album, which supposedly won’t take 12 years like Fear Inoculum. I have my fingers crossed. 

Advice for someone who wants to open a record store?My main advice would be if you want to own a record store, before you do anything, find out if you like selling records. Either open up an eBay or a Discogs account and start selling albums. It’s a great way to test if you’re going to like doing it. Also, if you’re selling online, you need to know the Goldmine scale for selling records. That takes some time to learn and can be one of the more difficult things.