Stepping into the building, visitors see the colorful light illuminating from the stained glass windows above the front door. The concrete walls and arched wooden ceiling lead them down the aisle to the stage. It’s time for church.
This is a place for gathering and adoration, but not for any god or saints. The dedicated congregation assembles eager to learn. The wooden pews do not provide hymnals, they provide Abbey Road and Houses of the Holy.
It’s not a traditional church, it’s a record store and not a traditional record store. It’s Grimey’s.
Grimey’s New and Pre-Loved Music is a music lover’s heaven on earth. The record store came from the humble beginnings of a small house in Berry Hill, Tennessee but has transformed into a Music City destination located inside an old church in East Nashville.
“The old Grimey’s was small and a little gross with its stained carpets, but this new place is fresh and clean,” says employee Joseph Mooradian. “It seems like it’s become more of a staple now than when I was growing up. It’s got its hooks in the tourist industry.”
Grimey’s expansion and recent location change can be credited to its transformation into a leading independent record store over the past few years. It is one of the independent stores that has come up from the ashes of the war between digital music and big name record shop chains.
“We sell a lot more vinyl than we used to. The bulk of our sales are vinyl now whereas it was mostly CDs when Grimey’s first opened in ‘99,” says employee Will Orman, who has been working at Grimey’s since he was 17-years-old. “There’s a lot more mainstream artists because there aren’t really big box stores anymore. We’re catering to a much wider range of customers than when we first started.”
Grimey’s has reaped the benefits of vinyl’s widespread comeback over recent years.
“Part of the reason records are so popular right now is not just because they’re cool, but is actually because people really want that connection. They want to have the long format, and they wanna go on a journey with the band and the way they decided to put those songs in that order. Not just to have them pop up here or there when you’re at the grocery store, doing your laundry or whatever you might be doing with your earbuds in,” says longtime manager Anna Lundy glancing at a stack of jumbled CDs on her desk.
Lundy, Orman and Mooradian work hard to keep this music appreciation alive and well within Grimey’s. Each brings a different piece to the complex puzzle of representing a diverse mix of music.
“I’ve started to try to represent a more alternative side of people’s taste here,” says Orman. “I realized how important it is to represent a variety of voices,” he says over the blaring of Crowded House’s hit Fall at Your Feet through the store. “Especially female voices which are so underrepresented in the music scene in general.”
Together, the employees are an encyclopedia of music knowledge, ready and waiting to help customers on their journey of artist discovery.
“We always have something playing that we sell, and we all like different things. Customers can come in, and the record shop can change vibes totally depending on who’s working. There’s some days when it’s all classic rock and singer-songwriter stuff and days where it’s experimental, so it’s different every time,” says Mooradian. He turned to ring up a customer at the register while admiring their album choice.
Their friendly dedication to finding music for people of all ages and tastes has noticeably attracted customers from all walks of life.
A teenage boy with shaggy hair and worn out Vans may be sifting through the stack of Grateful Dead albums alongside a 60-year-old man taking a curious look at Bon Iver discography.
Tourists gather around the Nashville postcards, keychains and shot glasses while regular customers look through the local music section.
“We have Nashville natives, people new to the city, we have people visiting from all over the country and from other countries. People make Grimey’s kind of a main stop in their Nashville visit. Anyone who still likes to buy physical media is welcome here as long as they are respectful to other people,” says Orman.
It’s a melting pot of smiling music lovers spread out between rows of genres while diligently concentrating on the backs of albums as they nod their heads along to the latest Jeff Tweedy album playing out loud.
Grimey’s also frequently invites customers to come and enjoy live music. Fans cram themselves like sardines into the upstairs room eagerly anticipating their favorite band.
“We host free and all ages in store performances and events,” says Lundy. Coincidentally on the line is a band manager calling to discuss an upcoming in store performance for Record Store Day, Grimey’s busiest day of the year.
“We like to have people play in the store because it’s a great way for kids who are not old enough to go see musicians who are important to them. There’s also a disconnect when you see a band in a big club or venue when they’re up on a stage on a pedestal looking out at you, and it’s just black. There’s no real connection,” says Lundy.
Grimey’s performances allow for wholesome crowd and band interaction. The musicians can look out into the store and make eye contact with their fans. It creates an intimate experience for both the audience and the bands.
“It really helps us foster a sense of community which in Nashville is super important because there’s so many people involved with music. So we really want to make it accessible to everyone and break down some of that mystique,” says Lundy.
During these events old Volkswagen and Subaru cars pile into the parking lot and spill over into the grass as a line of fans wraps around the building.
“I’ve definitely heard from people in the past when we have long events like signings when they’re in line for a long time, and they make friends. Everyone’s here to see the same thing. You can connect in real life with people that maybe you might even follow on Instagram, and you like their pictures but you’ve never even met them you just have this commonality, and
all of a sudden you’re actually in a real space where you can make those connections. We do try to do events for that reason,” says Lundy.
Grimey’s consistently looks for more ways to bring more people into its store to enjoy everything it has to offer, even advertising “Free Beer EVERY Saturday at 5 p.m.!” under a Jerry LaCroix album taped on the refrigerator.
“It’s really made me realize how important places like this are. I made a lot of friends just from working here, and I feel more connected with my community by helping put on shows here,” says Orman.
Before leaving the store, customers gaze upon the 18 different Nashville concert posters taped to the front of the register. Now it’s their turn to explore Music City and find new music to bring back and share with the store.
April 30, 2019