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Even as they work to raise enough funds to purchase the property The Groove resides on, co-owners Michael Combs and Jesse Cartwright want their supporters to know they are “pursuing all options available” in their efforts to save the record store. The shop’s owners, who took over the longtime East Nashville staple from founders John Moore and Louis Charette in 2017, found out at the end of October that their landlord will be selling the Calvin Avenue building that has been The Groove’s home since 2010.

Combs and Cartwright are certainly not the first to experience this challenge — especially in Nashville, where real estate prices have been skyrocketing for an extended period of time. Just this year, the property home to Exit/In changed hands, and the proprietors of the Mercy Lounge complex announced they would be looking for a new place to open up shop after their lease expires in 2022, making the future of those venues less certain.

One key difference for The Groove, however, is that Combs and Cartwright have received the right of first refusal, giving them the opportunity to purchase the building before it goes up for sale. But this requires them to raise enough funds by the end of January, and the price is far beyond what they could afford on their own.

“If we can’t and don’t purchase the property, they plan on immediately putting it on the market,” Combs tells the Scene. “And once a new buyer purchases it, we would then either have to vacate or try and rent it back from them, but we don’t think that would be an option.”

The Groove could potentially relocate if they find a new property to rent, but Combs says that even though they’re actively searching, this option seems unlikely to pan out. He points to the current rental market in Nashville and the difference between updated rental comps and the rates they currently pay. Even with the limitations on space and parking at the current location, Combs and Cartwright host an array of events there every year, like Record Store Day concerts, benefit shows, signing events with artists and horror-movie nights around Halloween. They announced the news of the potential sale on Nov. 15, sharing the details of their situation on social media and launching a GoFundMe with a $500,000 goal. At press time, the total was above $16,000.

“We didn’t want handouts, we just need help,” says Combs. “This whole thing is moving very fast. There’s a fast timeline, and the GoFundMe is only one part of that, because we are pursuing all available options to us, but we couldn’t wait till the last minute to start a GoFundMe.”

At the same time, Combs and Cartwright are working with a broker, a real estate agent and a lawyer to explore other possible solutions that might allow the shop to stay open if they are unable to purchase the building.

“We’re not ready to say everything yet, but there are different scenarios for how this could work out,” Combs says. “Ultimately we’d love to be the sole owners of the building so this couldn’t happen to us again down the road, but there are other options as well.”

Combs and Cartwright are committed to finding a way to keep The Groove open. The shop is one of a relatively small number of LGBTQ-owned record stores. As they said in their initial Instagram post: “We love that our customers can walk through the door and feel comfortable and welcome and appreciated. No judgment here, just music for all.” Since launching the GoFundMe and asking their community for help, Combs and Cartwright have received an outpouring of support, encouragement and donations that has only strengthened their resolve.

“The response has been overwhelming in a great way,” says Combs. “We’ve had so many messages and comments and emails of support and love, and people determined that us buying the building is the only [acceptable outcome]. It makes saving The Groove even more important, because it’s an important piece of Nashville and East Nashville and the community.”

As people continue to donate and spread the word, Combs also encourages supporters of the store to keep checking their social media for updates, as multiple fundraising events are currently in the works.

“A lot of our friends are putting on benefit shows and pop-up shows and Twitch shows and things like that,” says Combs. “And as the dates start getting firmed up, we’ll start announcing them on our social media so people know.”

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