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Convolution Records continues to buck the odds
“Indie” record store opens after two month shut down
By Jim Fester
Fort Wayne Reader
We first did a piece on Kimberly Seslar, owner of Convolution Records, back in February, 2004. At the time, Convolution Records had been open a few months, and Seslar was still working her regular day job while trying to increase the selection of CDs she offers.
Starting your own business is always tough, but there were a number of factors about Convolution Records that made the road seem even more difficult.
For one, Convolution Records is in the basement of building #5 on the YWCA campus on Wells Street, with only a sign outside the building and a handmade sign in the parking lot to indicate it’s there.
For another, the store’s hours are a little strange: 4 pm – 9 pm on weekdays, 11 am – 9 pm Saturdays and 11 am – 5 pm Sundays.
Also, Convolution Records specializes in independent labels and artists, the kind that don’t trouble the upper reaches of the Billboard Top 200 too often. There are some mainstream selections there — as well as a hefty offering of used CDs, local acts, and even vinyl — but for the most part, Convolution features “underground” and off-the-radar artists.
All this, at a time when received wisdom says that the traditional record store is going the way of the dodo as people download their music, or at least buy from online retailers.
Yet Convolution Records is still going strong, with a wider selection and increased public recognition. Recently re-opened after a two-month shut down for building maintenance, Seslar is anxious to get back into the swing of things. “When I was closed, I just kept thinking, ‘when I get back, I have got to put a lot more effort into this, even more than I was before,” she says. “I’m trying my damnedest to get this place open full time.”
Actually, Seslar was hardly sleeping on the job before the enforced shut-down. In fact, she was hardly sleeping at all. Seslar still works at a factory, going straight from her day job to open Convolution Records at 4 pm every week day. “I work about 80 hours a week,” she says. “It’s like having two full time jobs. Sometimes when I get home, I’m exhausted, but I’m so dead set on doing this that it doesn’t really matter.”
“I want Fort Wayne to have an awesome underground record store,” she continues. “Especially with the expansion of IPFW… you know, we have so many colleges in this town, you’d think we would have a store like this. I know it can sustain itself, I’ve been doing it for two years, and new customers just keep coming.”
When Seslar opened Convolution Records in September of 2003, she had never owned her own business or even worked in a record store. A huge fan of all kinds of music, Seslar used to sell CDs at local music shows, and organize and promote concerts and other events. She started Convolution Records with the idea of one day turning it into the kind of unique, eclectic record store you would find in a big city or a college town.
Seslar would be the first to say that it’s not quite there yet. But even though the space and the hours might not seem ideal, Seslar says that Convolution Records has been able to survive by turning what many might see as negatives into assets. Yes, she would love a traditional store space, and she would love to have the store open full-time, but… “Obviously, one of the reasons I’ve stayed in business so long is that I’ve been in this space, and it’s cheap,” she says. “A store front would cost me twice what I pay here.”
In short, she’s been able to grow Convolution Records by sticking to her original business plan — slowly but surely expanding her selection rather than trying to become a gigantic mega-store overnight.
Despite working two jobs, Seslar also finds time to help out with the recently formed Built To Shine arts collective. The group’s goals are still in the formative stages, but right now Seslar says they’re trying to raise enough money to buy or lease a building to use as a concert venue — something she tried with Convolution Records that didn’t quite work out. “Our model is the Firehouse in North Manchester,” Seslar explains. “We want something like that for Fort Wayne. There are so many good bands that just sort of skip over Indiana altogether. It’s nice that we’re just two or three hours for a lot of major cities, but I’m sick of going out of town to see a good show. We want to see something like that here.”
Right now, though, Seslar is concentrating on taking Convolution Records to the next level. “I would like to get it open full-time by next year,” she says. “I’ve got to do something, because 4 – 9 during the week? They’re decent hours, but there’s a lot of people who go to class, or work these hours.”
And as far as the death of the traditional record store goes, Seslar believes that has been greatly exaggerated. “Just from seeing my store expand, I know that that’s the case,” she says. “People still want to buy CDs, still want to buy records. They still love the experience of coming into a record store and browsing.”
2000 N. Wells, Building #5
Fort Wayne, IN 46808