Music has always followed me everywhere. From my father’s guitar, as he sings a lullaby to my wailing baby sister or the pounding drums of that indie rock band my mother repeatedly tells me to turn down, music has never left my side. When I moved to Tallahassee, that passion never left my side, so the first thing I did was find the nearest record store.
Located in the heart of College Town, Retrofit Records has become a spot where my friends and I frequently walk to so we can buy our favorite albums in the form of a vinyl record. There is something so special about listening to music through a record player because it is something tangible. Sharod Bines, the owner of Retrofit Records, explained why he decided to open up a record store in 2011.
Her Campus (HC): What was your inspiration to start a record store business and how did you come up with the name “Retrofit Records?”
Sharod Bines (SB): There used to be a big music store called “Vinyl Fever” but once they closed, there was nowhere to buy a brand-new record. I thought it would be a great opportunity to start a small, independent, contemporary record store that could work with the city. The initial idea for the record shop was to open a venue with a small pop-up record store within so there would be a store when the venue wasn’t doing shows. However, the idea flipped around, and instead, now the shows are on the side. The name was inspired by the definition of the word “Retrofit.” Many people usually think of a conventional record store to be old, vintage and have a weird smell, but we wanted to subvert the idea in people’s minds what music shop can be. So the word “Retrofit” means to take something old and make it work for something new like a record store working with the 21st century idea of a business.
HC: How has your business evolved since the beginning?
SB: Every year, I try to do a major project during the summer to improve the shop like building new bins to carry more records. The shop is ever-evolving and consistently trying to make it better so people have a better time while they shop around. Business-wise, the shop has been doing better compared to the beginning because it can be difficult to learn how to run a business, specifically a small, independent music store especially since most people are downloading and streaming their music.
HC: Can you describe a normal day at work?
SB: Depending on the day, it can be either very chill or busy if I have to process a new order. Most days are your typical retail store day. After I bought my partners out a couple of years ago, making me the sole owner of the business, I decided to hire someone, so I am not here seven days a week. Generally, I hire people through an internship process with the university.
HC: What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
SB: The freedom of being my own boss. The freedom of movement and freedom of choice. I can make decisions and if I ever want to close early, I can because I have that choice. Interestingly enough, I did not study business. I went to school for media design and before opening the shop, I worked as a screen printer, graphic design artist here in town. After five years of working there, I decided I prefer to have those freedoms over having to follow someone else. I always encourage people to pursue or look into becoming an entrepreneur because it is very fulfilling, and I think it is one of the best decisions I ever made. The shop started as a passion project to see if I could do it and my goal for the shop was for it to sustain itself. I wasn’t looking to get paid because I had a full-time job, but I realized I would rather just stick to being an entrepreneur because the store was doing so well.
HC: What piece of advice would you give to college graduates who want to become entrepreneurs?
SB: It is hard work. I encourage anyone that wants to become an entrepreneur to follow their dreams but remember to do the research, do the homework and realize that it will be a ton of work. I highly suggest that you should have a good work ethic and remember organization is key. With any entrepreneur business, you need to have the work ethic to take up any task small and large that comes with the business. There is a wide spectrum of things that you have to be willing to do. Every single aspect of running a business comes with having versatile knowledge of each task that needs to be done for the business to work smoothly.
During the interview, Bines told me something that I will never forget: “We live in such a throwaway culture where everything is being streamed and tangible things are slowly disappearing. We spend so much money on things that in the future, we have no idea if they will even be there, but our tangible items will be there. In 10 years, I will have my records and in 50 years, those records can be passed down.”
As the world evolves, we have begun to digitalize everything from books to music to films and these things that we love might not exist. Bines made me realize the importance of having collections because these collections are fragments of who we are. The books that I collect represent who I am. The records I collect represent who I am. The poems I write on paper represent who I am. All these things make up who I am and being able to retrofit something to the modern world is exactly what Sharod Bines taught me through his words and actions as an entrepreneur.