Skip to content
The Record Store

The Record Store: Owners Recall Rare Pressings We Never Knew Existed

A profile of Spoonful Records in Columbus, Ohio
Inside Spoonful Records (All photos credited to Jaelani Turner-Williams)

Owning a record store can be a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it. It’s the message that Brett Ruland and Amy Kesting—husband-and-wife owners of the Columbus, Ohio music shop Spoonful Records—embody in their auto mechanic-inspired work attire. But nestled in the city’s downtown, adjacent to plant-based diner 4th & State, Spoonful Records is exactly in its element, providing locals with must-have vinyl finds. At their third location overall, the 144 E State St. digs feel just like home to the couple and record-digging regulars.

On a Wednesday afternoon in early-April, Ruland and Kesting have a bit of a break from a traffic of customers that scour vinyl from the “Used Rap” to Soundtracks sections. Kesting’s paintings surround the shop, replicas of iconic album covers for Maggot Brain and the eponymous KISS LP, a hobby that she picked up in her spare time after retiring from pinball tournaments. As the couple prepares for the upcoming madhouse that is their thirteenth Record Store Day (and predict that LPs from The Ramones, Sabrina Carpenter, and Mitch Rowland will be first to sell out) they briefly look back on the journey that brought them to their spot on the Near East Side, opened in 2010, followed by a short period on 183 E. Rich St., and now, where they currently belong.

Owners Brett Ruland and Amy Kesting.

“We had incredibly cheap rent there and we always knew that they were planning something–they would never give us a long lease. But it was cheap,” Kesting says about their first location at 116 E. Long St. “So we just stayed there and we got nine years out of it.”

Not only was stumbling across their third location divine timing for Kesting, who was merely walking to the bank when she came across the vacant shop, but Spoonful has become commonplace for foodies that search for new music after dining next door.

“We were by the hot dog place before and it was small, so people–when they were waiting for a table–would come over and they’d be like, ‘Oh, people still listen to these? Then they’d be like, ‘Do you have any CDs?’ says Kesting. “But the vegan kids are all like, ‘My friend likes vinyl. I’ll buy them a record.’”

Perhaps one of the coolest Columbus heroes to frequently stop into Spoonful is author, essayist and poet Hanif Abdurraqib, whom the store has even honored with an illustrated sticker with his likeness.

“He’s always come to the record store, especially the original one. Some people will just come on Record Store Day, but he was somebody that would come in all the time and he’d visit with friends,” says Ruland. “We got to know him through that. He has such a wide variety [of records]; his tastes are all over the map, so that’s [why] I think he was drawn to our stores, [the] different genres that we carry.”

“He’s come by a couple of times to do photo shoots for magazines and stuff,” Kesting adds. “When he calls and wants to do something we’re like, ‘Yeah, of course.’ We love him. His books are great. Everyone should read the new one.”

Can you tell me about some notable artists that have stopped in?

Amy: Well, Billy Corgan’s been here twice and that’s really cool. He eats next door at the vegan place [4th & State] and then comes to Spoonful. The first time was kind of shocking for us, and it was a really busy day. He had this big bodyguard with him and he had so many records that he had his bodyguard holding his records for him. 

The second time that he came by was, I think, two years ago. He has Saturday shows in Columbus and he comes Saturday at like two o’clock, so right before soundcheck. The second time, Brett was in the UK, so I was there with our other staff and he showed up, and his son was along, and they were in matching tracksuit outfits. I just got this amazing collection of late 80s, 90s rock and lots of rare stuff, and he just spent tons of time looking through and sorting through really rare records. He bought so many records I had to give him a whole box.

Brett: We had Taylor Hawkins of the Foo Fighters who passed away recently. He’d stopped by our original location and we overheard my father, who was working in the store at the time, [saying] ‘So are you here to see the Foo Fighters or are you in the Foo Fighters?’ To have him ask that, even the record jumped. So that was something, especially now that he’s gone. To have had him stop by was incredible.

Amy: Ben Gibbard from Death Cab [for Cutie], Postal Service… It was on a Monday and I didn’t know that it was him. I checked out a bunch of people and then there were two guys left in the store. I was like, ‘Hey, you guys, I’m gonna go use the restroom. Don’t steal anything.’ When I came back, one guy goes, ‘I think that guy is Ben Gibbard.’ I was like, ‘Oh my God, I told him not to steal anything.’ But he was really nice.

Brett: [At] the last location, we had Fred Schneider of the B-52’s. He was buying a lot of records and it took us a minute to realize [it was him]; he was a little bit older. So I walked him down to Dirty Franks. I told him everything that was available on the menu, what was listed on my phone, and he was like, ‘I’ll just get the Plain-Ass Wiener.’ I thought that was pretty funny coming from Fred and he ended up coming back to our store after that to pick up his records. You just never know who might show up.

Where do you get the records that make it to shelves?

Brett: The new records come through distributors that sell wholesale to shops around the U.S. Daily we’re putting in orders to restock or order new releases that are coming out. That’s how we get the new ones, but the used…

Amy: A lot of that is listening to customers and paying attention to what’s going on.

Brett: I think people are like, ‘How do you know what to get?’ We know what we think people will want but our most important thing is to listen to what the customers ask for. If it’s something a couple people asked for some that we don’t have, we want to make sure we can try to get it. Sometimes it’s something that you can’t get, it might not be on vinyl or it might be out of print. But other times it’s something that you just have to get on order.

Amy: There’s really two different things that are happening in the store: Brett is the new vinyl buyer, and [associate] Elijah, and I am the used collections buyer. I deal with all the people who are dealing with estates, are moving out of town, bought a storage locker and there’s records. 

There’s a lot of customers but they just get to a point where they have a couple thousand records and then bring us five crates of records. They’re like, ‘Oh, these are my duplicates or I’m not gonna listen to these anymore.’ I spent a lot of my time cleaning records.

Well let’s talk about some of those records. What is the rarest one that you guys have on hand right now?

Brett: There’s a Royal Crescent Mob test pressing [with songs from Midnight Rose’s].

Amy: That was a local band. It’s not even a test pressing, it’s an acetate [master disk]. This record never came out as a full-length album. There were singles made from it and vinyl was never pressed on it and acetate is not vinyl, it’s a different material. 

Brett: It’s sort of like a piece of metal with plastic on top of it that the machine could etch into. So you could get something that you could play maybe not 100 times… Well, you probably could, but [it’s] something that is not meant to last forever. So it’s just meant for the band or the execs to hear it to make sure it sounds good. After that they would make the records. For some reason though, this record never got a vinyl reissue. 

Amy: It came out on CD. It was a CD-era thing, and they didn’t really make a lot of vinyl at that point.

Brett: I guess why it’s special…it is a band that I would go see when I was in college. It’s got a similar vibe to bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, sort of like Fishbone, getting that kind of old school funk sound. Just the elements of funk and soul hybrid and rock, that was very popular in the ‘90s. We have some people that have shown some interest in it, that are fans of the band and everything, but we haven’t sold it.

Amy: Also, it’s really hard to put a price on it because there aren’t any other ones.

Brett: Yeah, we couldn’t find it online. It’s amazing that it survived and we ended up with it. It’s nice that it’s Ohio-related. Sometimes with vinyl records, it’s not the Elvis Presley or the Michael Jackson record that sold a bunch of copies that become the rarest. It’s something that for whatever reason like this didn’t come out or it’s that band that never quite made it but had a falling [out] later on and their record becomes rare and sought after.

Is that the most expensive record?

Brett: I think right now that is. We’ve sold more expensive ones.

Amy: It’s usually Blue Note. The community for rare jazz is huge. They have money. They don’t make first presses anymore. So when you find one that’s in immaculate shape, you can really get good money.

What was the first concert you both attended together?

Amy: One of our first concerts together was at The Southern [Theatre] and it was Magnetic Fields.

Brett: Oh, yeah. There’s a band called Magnetic Fields that has sort of a cult following. That might be the first one together, actually.

Amy: Then there were a lot of local bands at Carabar. Probably the first concert was me going to see your band.

Brett: I was playing with some groups. 

Amy: That’s pre-record store by, like, a year, a year-and-a-half, two years.

The most expensive record you’ve ever sold?

Amy: It was online, I sold it on eBay. It was a rare Sun Ra record, A Fireside Chat with Lucifer [for] a grand, something like that.

We have a story [that] we call “The Divorcer.” We had a still-sealed original copy of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here. It had never been open and it was absolutely the first pressing.

Brett: It was a blue shrink wrap instead of clear shrink wrap, so it looks weird. It was blue so you can’t see through it but it had a sticker on it. We had never seen it in that state before, like, still sealed and everything. It had a pretty hefty price tag on it.

Amy: I think it was $500 and one of our customers bought it. He was recently engaged and took it home and his fiancée was like, “No. What are you doing?”

Brett: He messaged us and when I saw the message, I [said] “Oh gosh, here we go.” I just knew what was coming. He was like, “Man, I hate to do this, but is there any way you could take this back?” And we did; we didn’t want to break up a possible upcoming marriage. But it immediately sold the same day to somebody else.

How can customers make the most out of their visit to Spoonful?

Amy: Bring a friend. It’s so fun to hear the conversations that happened in the record store and I think people who come with a family member or friend or spouse are having maybe a slightly better time than the solo shopper.

Brett: I think they might spot something that you miss. It’s hard to look at every single record when you come in. We tell people if they don’t know where to go, check out the used new arrivals first, because those are the things you can save money on by getting a gently used copy.

Amy: It is a very hands-on experience. Put your phone away, put your keys away, have two hands and flip through. Look at the backs of things, look for other names that you like and ask questions.

What wisdom do you have for someone who wants to start a record store?

Amy: I think a lot of people, a lot of kids, want to have a record store. I think that there’s this notion that “Oh, that’s cool. [You can] sit around and listen to music all day,” and it’s so much talking to people. Like, do not open a record store if you do not like talking to people. It is about customer service, about listening to what they want and trying to figure out how you can get it.

Brett: I think that’s the biggest shock because I can think about when we first opened and what I put in the store. I guess it’s like, I think Kurt Cobain said that you don’t get to pick your audience. You create this place and the people that show up, show up. Through your curation you might steer them a certain way, but I think they’re going to ask you for what they want. If you can help them out and get them what they want, they’re going to keep coming back.

So I think the store sort of evolved from the beginning to carrying some new items and carrying things that we might not be a fan of. But the thing about the store is that the customers have turned us onto things we didn’t know existed. So always listen to your customers. Treat people how you want to be treated…

Amy: And clean your records, people.