Northeast spotlight: Shuga Records

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November 9, 2009 // UPDATED 10:02 am - November 9, 2009
By: Sarah McKenzie
Sarah McKenzie
// If you’re hunting for a record, odds are Shuga Records has it //


Adam Rosen got into the business of selling vinyl records by accident — literally.

He was hit by a drunk driver while living in Chicago in 2001. At the time, he was DJ’ing under the name “Shuga Rose” (hence the name for his business). He had amassed a collection of more than 5,000 records and started selling them on eBay so he could pay off bills that had piled up after the accident.

A few years after launching the online business, Rosen, 31, moved back to the Twin Cities with his wife Danielle Nester, 30, so they could be closer to their families.

Now the couple has as a new retail store on 13th Street in Northeast for Shuga Records. It’s the space that used to house the Minnesota Center for Photography.

The 7,500-square-foot space is overflowing with records. Their inventory is so big they’ve lost count of how many records they have these days. It’s somewhere in the ballpark of 400,000 records, Rosen said.

Shuga Records has more classical music than any other genre, but carries all kinds of other music, too, including rock, pop, country, jazz, disco and many other varieties. They also have a “strange and weird” category listed on their website (shugarecords.com).

One of the highlights of the collection is a record from the Minneapolis band The Litter — a psychedelic rock band popular in the 1960s. The records, depending on the condition, can go for $1,000–$2,000, Rosen said.

The record collection also includes many of the bands Rosen fell for while DJ’ing as a teenager, including Nine Inch Nails, the Future Sound of London and Underworld.

While Rosen says vinyl isn’t as popular as it was a few years ago — particularly among DJ’s who are all about computers now — there is still interest among customers who want something that feels like it has more value than a CD. One customer comes in to hunt for records with interesting artwork, he noted.

Rosen and Nester are doing work they love, but it’s not easy. They work 70–80 hours a week. “It’s hard. Nobody realizes, except our friends, how much we work,” Rosen said.

Nester also sells vintage clothing online, which helps support Shuga Records.

She has the following advice for folks considering launching their own business.

“Go for it with your entire heart and soul,” she said. “Be prepared to work a lot in the beginning. Don’t be afraid to ask your friends for help. It’s amazing how people come through for you when they believe in what you are doing.”

Despite opening the retail store in a tough economic climate, they’ve been very appreciative of the community support they’ve received.

“It feels really good to have the business. I can’t imagine a better location,” Nester said. “The neighbors and other businesses have been so supportive.”

The couple sells between 450–600 records a month to customers all over the world. The vast majority are sold online at shugarecords.com and their Ebay shop. They have a real-time inventory system that prevents people from purchasing the same item from their record collection.

Besides selling records, their Northeast store has become a venue for local music gigs. It also regularly features work by local artists. The backdrop of the stage features a mural by local artists.

The store also boasts a 50-foot mural on the exterior of its west wall designed by John Grider and Mike Fitzsimmons of Broken Crow — local legends in mural and stencil arts. The Shuga Records mural features a giant porcupine and a vinyl records pattern.

As for long-term goals, Rosen and Nester would love to launch their own record label and become a strong community asset.

“[We’d like] to become a staple of Northeast Minneapolis and to have tons of killer shows with local bands and musicians from all walks of life,” Nester said.