15 Questions For… John Kass
When did you open GoJohnnyGo Records?
Opened retail store February 2013, although I’ve been selling at record shows, flea markets, antique shows, and (mostly) via mail for 30 years.
White Bear Lake is a small town in the middle of Minnessota with a little over 24,000 citizens. How does that impact your business?
White Bear Lake has the largest concentration of 3M Company (Scotch recording tape, Wollensak tape recorders) retirees in the entire world. Lots of wealthy older folks with a pension and large record collections to buy. We are ten minutes from St Paul and 20 minutes from Minneapolis; downtown White Bear Lake is an idyllic space with lots of small town charm in a large metropolitan area.
How many record stores are there in the area?
There is one about five miles away, another few within ten miles.
What genres do you specialise in?
We sell everything, including a fair amount of choir records. I’m most knowledgeable about punk rock, new wave, and indie rock. I have a soft spot for soul/rhythm & Blues & 60s garage/psychedelic rock, and especially Minnesota music of these genres (Haze, Husker Du, Replacements, The Litter, C.A. Quintet, etc).
Do you feel positive about the music industry and records sales at present?
re: The Music “Industry”, I worked for Alternative Distribution Alliance for 12 years, so I have LOTS of opinions about that. Record sales are really good right now, retail and online.
How do you feel about digital downloads?
I’ve never bought one myself, but I can understand the convenience, esp if one listens to music on their phone. I’m OK with advancements in technology.
At a guess, what is the demographic of customers coming to your store? Do you notice an increase in younger customers visiting your shop due the new popularity of vinyl?
Two different kinds of people buy records: a.) young hipsters, and b.) old burnouts. I’ve been seeing LOTS more female buyers over the last few years.
What’s the most important thing that a good record shop can provide their customers (especially when compared to online shops or download platforms like iTunes)?
An eclectic selection of bargains to dig through. Remember the days when one could “take a chance” on inexpensive unknown records, because the cover looked cool, etc.? That’s what GoJohnnyGo Records provides- a good digging experience.
What advice do you have for someone who is thinking of opening a record store?
LOW OVERHEAD is the key to making it work. Without it, don’t try.
What’s the one record that you know will always sell?
The Replacements ‘Let it Be’. I bought the Twin Tone Records warehouse three weeks ago, and I scored a bunch of sealed copies in there.
What is the first record you ever bought?
“Sugar Sugar” by The Archies!
What is the one record on the shelf that makes you cringe every time you see it?
Jumpstreet ‘Follow Her Home Tonight’. HORRIBLE! Ex- Gypsy leader James Walsh hires the musicians with the worst haircuts of the 1980s & creates the worst album ever made.
What is the most annoying thing that customers continually ask you?
“How much do you pay for records?” The answer: “It depends”.
Obviously GoJohnnyGo is your favourite record store, but do you have another? Why?
Euclid Records- St Louis/Jazz Record Mart- Chicago/Domino Sound Record Shack- New Orleans/Record Graveyard- Detroit–way more jazz, soul, & rhythm & blues than is available in Minnesota.
What record are you listening to at the moment?
v/a ‘Mountain Music of Kentucky’ Folkways Records 2317.