Grimey’s cleans house in record store realm

Whether the clock reads 4 p.m. on a Saturday or 2:30 p.m. on a Sunday, cars filled the tiny parking lot. The square sign reads “Grimey’s Too Tangible Musical Artyfacts.” Two other logos support it from below – Frothy Monkey and Howlin’ Books.

Not too far up the street, another, less noticeable, sign points out the location of the first Grimey’s – well, second if you want to get into technicalities.

In 1999, Grimey’s opened its first storefront in Berry Hill and joined the ranks of the numerous other record stores in Nashville. Five years later, in 2004, it moved to Eighth Avenue – where it stands today.

Because Nashville runs on music, Grimey’s needed something to make it stick out. With more vinyls than CDs, Grimey’s just needed some way to get people to buy them. What did Grimey’s have to set it apart? Great prices and great people. The prices found inside Grimey’s often outdo the prices found on the Internet.

“We want our records to go,” chuckles Tyler Glasner, one of the workers.

In 2011, it attracted national attention by being listed in Rolling Stone’s “Best Record Stores in the USA.” Eventually, Grimey’s attracted more customers and more stock – more than the building could handle. The visual over-stimulation combined with enough stock to fill two buildings meant the overcrowded Grimey’s became hard to walk through without running into someone or something.

“It was so packed you’d walk in and trip,” says Glaser.

The solution? A new building, of course.

Grimey’s Too became the home of Grimey’s used records and CDs in 2013. Two doors down from the original Grimey’s, the record, book and coffee shop practically serves as an embodiment of Nashville in a single building. Even though the store only houses part of the stock Grimey’s offers, people often wander in first because Grimey’s Too’s sign attracts more attention.

Originally the home of the used record store, Howlin’ Books and Frothy Monkey, Grimey’s swallowed up the bookstore after the owners decided it would be best for them to step back and concentrate on other things. Frothy Monkey continues to offer the music-loving population of Nashville its daily coffee fix when they walk through the front door.

The patio outside is filled when the weather allows it, but when Nashville weather decides to suddenly take a turn, the two small rooms inside still let the coffee and conversation continue as people talk about their great finds.

“My roommate’s going to be real tired of me this week, because this is all I’m going to be playing,” said one shopper.

The employees embody the mellow feeling of the music store. Tyler Glaser wears a red letterman jacket and blue jeans. Jason Bennett dons a black T-shirt and a black leather jacket. Dillon Jones wore a black button-up shirt and a tie one day, and the next a gray beanie and black T-shirt.

And they all seem to fit.

The smell of the plastic-wrapped vinyls and CDs hits as soon as the door to Grimey’s opens. Makeshift aisles created by shelves of music direct the flow of traffic, but “organized” doesn’t describe Grimey’s.

Organized chaos, maybe.

As far as the music, Grimey’s doesn’t discriminate – country, rock, jazz. Except if you were looking for Top 40 hits, Grimey’s won’t have it.

The floors and walls share the same dark brown wood. Posters take up any potentially empty spaces on the walls. As the cashier rings up the next customer, he pauses in his low singing of the music to say, “hey, how can I help you?” and compliments the customer’s wallet before continuing to bob his head to the beat of the song.

“The pace over there is a little slower, generally,” Jones says about Grimey’s Too as he finished checking out a wave of customers with a small sigh of relief. “We usually don’t have that many people in line next door. We also have more beer over here.”

Two storefronts down the street, Grimey’s Too creates a different kind of feeling. As soon as you walk in, you feel like you’re in a bookstore or a cafe – and for good reason. In the back right corner, just visible through a set of shelves overlooking a small turquoise table prime for sitting and reading, sits a coffee shop. It may be about the size of your average college apartment dorm room, but it does its duty – serving caffeine to the music lovers in Nashville.

The cafe perfumed the store with the smell of coffee, and it became the first place customers stopped. The music overwhelmed the constant sound of the espresso machine, but every so often the sound of the milk steamer broke through.

Instead of dark brown, bright colors adorn the walls – mostly red and green. The same posters hang on the walls and the coffee counter advertising someone who needs a band or the next great convention. Behind the front counter, piles of boxes get sorted through as new – well, new to the store – music constantly comes through the door.

The new music finds its way onto shelves labelled “Preloved,” which displayed rows upon rows of CDs, and, in a small room tucked away in the back left corner, vinyls filled up bins lining the walls. The handwritten labels on every shelf seemed to help welcome and invite the customers to take a seat with a record and a cup of coffee – which many people do.

“We create an atmosphere where people can relax and be comfortable,” Bennett said, leaning against the counter at the front of the store.

Grimey's Wall of Sound

The prices don’t define Grimey’s. The welcoming attitude defines Grimey’s. Employees greet customers by name and many customers say, “hey” in return. During slow times, they talk to customers inside the store about music, artists or what kind of headphone works the best. And, usually, the employee started out in the same position as the customer. Jones shopped at Grimey’s before he got hired two and a half years ago.

“A lot of what keeps a lot of record stores open are those regulars who come in and always shopping and always looking for collectible stuff. At any given moment we may know half of the people in the store,” Jones says. “People come in three or four times a week.”

He didn’t go to many other record stores in Nashville, so he knows Grimey’s more than he knows anywhere else. He saw Grimey’s Too expand, open and become its own store. Now, he rotates between both stores.

By spending five days a week inside one of the Grimey’s stores, Jones keeps learning something new about music.

“I think this is one of those places where, apart from it being a music store, everyone who works here really cares about their jobs,” Jones says. “We’re all super into music and genuinely enjoy helping people find stuff. I thought I was really into music before I started working here, and I had the passion, but I had no idea how much there was out there. Every day I’m still learning so much.”

Whether new vinyls or used CDs make up your collection – or if you don’t even collect music – Grimey’s welcomes everyone. So find out for yourself if fighting for a parking spot in the tiny lot pays off.