Currently on their fifth location in Dearborn, 16 year-old Stormy Records is a stalwart, a mainstay, a robust record store that serves the metropolitan area with fresh servings of experimental music, not to mention a healthy selection of other stuff. Windy Weber and Carl Hultgren, the store owners, have also made music as Windy and Carl together since 1993. Their music has veered from pastoral, guitar-driven psychedelia to powerful ambient music, and then back again. I first saw them in 1997, at the first Terrastock festival in Providence, R.I.
Back here in the shop, Windy and Carl each take turns operating the counter. They both have a seriously engaging way of fussing over their customers as soon as they get to know them a bit. "So many people think we just listen to music and have fun every day, but it is real work to run your own business," Windy says. "There is constant hustling to keep this place going." Stormy Records is located at 13936 Michigan Ave., Dearborn; 313-581-9322; Open 11 a.m. - 8 p.m., Monday to Saturday.
Metro Times: How did the store come about in the first place?
Carl Hultgren: The store was all Windy's idea from the start. Outside of making music, this is all that she has ever done since she was a teenager. I had worked for another store for a little while, and was a willing participant.
Windy Weber: I have only ever sold records. I started in 1988 at the age of 16. It was all I wanted to do for a living (besides make music and tour), and I applied at a mall record store and was hired. Every few years, I would get a new job working for a smaller shop, and eventually, after touring a lot and visiting shops all across America, I collected all my memories of what I liked best about all those shops, looked around Detroit and saw a need for the kind of store I wanted to open. So Carl and I made a plan. There was a niche to fill for new and weird music (and music like we were making ourselves). And Carl was so in love with records — old jazz and pop music, soul and gospel — the labels, the covers, the credits on the back. He was happiest when we spent time listening and talking about records. So with my experience from running other people's shops and his extreme love and dedication to used vinyl, we opened in the summer of 1999.
MT: Does the store have a basic philosophy?
Weber: I want to help you find music that is worth your time, music that you will spend time with and sounds that will find a place in your life. I know how amazingly important music is to me, and I want it to be that way for everyone who is looking for that same connection.
Hultgren: We try to expose people to newer underground artists they might not otherwise be familiar with, by having as unique of a selection as we can, and mostly avoiding mainstream music as best we can.
MT: What's been the best thing about your recent move down the street?
Hultgren: Being back on street level after more than eight years of being upstairs is the single most important improvement. We are thrilled with how the space is a bit larger, cleaner, and brighter. It is a more welcoming environment. We have had a great deal more walk-in traffic, which has led to more used records coming in, on almost a daily basis.
Weber: The new building is very structurally sound, which helps me sleep at night. We're in more of a neighborhood setting, which is really cool. We're in a couple of block area within an art store, the Arab American National Musuem, a great bar, an antiques shop I've been going to since they opened in 1984, and of course Green Brain Comics [with whom the large building is shared]. We're in a community environment that fosters enormous creativity.
MT: What kind of clientele do you guys serve; who comes into your shop?
Weber: Typically two main strains of people: those who want used rock 'n' roll, and those who want weird experimental new releases. But we have people of literally all ages and races and economic levels who shop here. Part of what I enjoy is that we have no pigeonholed clientele; our customers are as varied as the music is.
MT: To what extent do you guys participate in Record Store Day?
Hultgren: Less and less each year. We try to focus on only a handful of releases. And we always save some of the best used vinyl that's been coming in lately especially for that day.
Weber: We participate in the true spirit that a brick and mortar local shop should be celebrated. We are open all year long, and we help people find music they love all year long. On Record Store Day, we simply put out more of what we normally carry, instead of focusing on flash in the pan "records to flip."
MT: Do you sell much or any of your stuff online?
Weber: Often what goes online is something that the Detroit market no longer has an interest in, yet somewhere else in the country there is still a need for it.
Hultgren: We do try as much as we can to give almost everything a chance to sell in the store before we turn to selling online. But if something sits in the store for too long, then online is our only option. Plus, it is healthy to have the stock change as often as possible to keep our customers interested in what we have.
MT: Have you ever done in-stores in the new space?
Weber: Warren Defever has played in the new space. He did a wonderful two-hour set in December, just beautiful with guitar and Mellotron. We'd like to have more in-store events, but with only the two of us to run the shop we get a little bogged down and some projects take longer to get off the ground. If only we had more hours in each day, we could listen to more music!
MT: Do you think you guys run the store differently because you are musicians?
Weber: A great amount of who I am is represented here in Stormy, especially with the new vinyl we carry. I order all the new releases and reissues, and Carl deals with all the used vinyl. I like more experimental sounds, more difficult listening and modern classical (although, we both equally love avant jazz). It's a very curated selection; I have very fussy musical tastes.