With its five-year anniversary approaching in November, The Groove is one of the youngest of Nashville's record stores. But in many ways, it is the one that most resembles classic record stores of the past. Squeezed into a cozy clapboard bungalow at 1103 Calvin Ave., just off Gallatin Road in East Nashville, it invokes the atmosphere of archetypal post-hippie era record stores that were direct reflections of their owners' personalities. Co-owner John Moore sums it up: "We like customers to feel like they're hanging out at a friend's house."
On any given day, The Groove is the primary hangout for co-owners Louis Charette and John Moore, but its present friendly form has been the result of some dramatic evolution since its opening in November 2007. The Groove "Side A" originally opened a few blocks from their current location, on the corner of Woodland and 11th, in the heart of Five Points. Charette, a native of Murray, Ky., opened the original store despite the prospects for brick-and-mortar music retailers being at their nadir at the time.
"It was definitely not a get-rich-quick scheme," Charette says, "but records have always been a passion of mine. I was still young enough and didn't have any car payments. I was able to get a small loan, so I thought why not?" Like many music-loving Nashville transplants, Charette spent some time working at The Great Escape, an experience that only increased his desire to enter the record retail business — despite the doomsayers. But while the Five Points location was prime real estate, the rising popularity of the area soon worked against the store — rent increases resulted in The Groove closing in June 2010.
"I don't regret being there, but it was more space than I really needed," says Charette. Although Side A of the store had found itself stuck in the run-off groove, circumstances were coming together for a flip side.
Moore, a native of Savannah, Ga., came to Nashville as a teenager with his musician father, and quickly discovered The Great Escape and Phonoluxe as sources for new discoveries. "My dad would also take me to thrift stores, and I always headed for the used record section," Moore says. Eventually he would also spend time working at The Great Escape, an experience that also pointed him in the direction of opening his own store.
Moore's original plan was to return to Savannah to open a store, but his plans changed when he sought some advice. "One day I thought about emailing Louis to see if he had any suggestions or if he would just say, 'Get out! Don't even think about!' " Moore says. The email arrived just as Charette was considering his options for the future of the store. "After talking," Moore continues, "it made more sense that we work together and come up with some really good ideas to reinvent The Groove."
In November 2010, The Groove "Side B" opened in its present location on Calvin Street. "It was like starting over completely," Charette says. "Even today, people will come in and say, 'I thought you guys disappeared.' ''
The new version of The Groove provided the chance to reinvent and redefine the personality of the store. "Moving into the smaller space turned out to be a good thing," Moore says. "We were forced to pick the cream of the crop and weed out the stuff that was filler. We could barely fit all the bins in here. We tried to beef up some of the smaller genres that you don't see a lot of selection in other stores."
That's where the new Groove found its focus. While the store still carries a full variety of genres and new releases, Charette and Moore have been able to zero in on specific genres and cater to a loyal customer base. "We get people that come in specifically for punk, metal, electronica, hip-hop and non-indie-rock type genres," Charette says. "One thing that helped us a lot right after we reopened was that we bought a huge metal collection."
"We have to be very picky on what we buy, what we put out and how we put it out," Moore says. "It would be very easy for the space to be so cluttered that we can't even move." Earlier this year they were able to expand the store by knocking out a back wall and moving into the former kitchen. The new space is devoted to more vinyl — the format that accounts for more than 80 percent of the store's sales.
"We occasionally think maybe we should just get rid of CDs," Charette says, "but as soon as we say that someone will lay a big stack on the counter to buy. There are still a lot of people who prefer CDs, but we are definitely a record store first and foremost."
With a staff consisting of just Charette, Moore and one part-timer, The Groove has managed to find retail success by keeping themselves lean and responsive to what their customers want. This year's Record Store Day backyard concert was the biggest event yet for The Groove, and they are planning more special events. But just like the records they stock, they're choosing carefully. "We want to find a happy medium," Charette says. "There are people that just come in just to shop, and there are other people who want to check out bands — and there's room for both."