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Third Man Records rocks and is ready to roll in Detroit
DETROIT -- The outside of Jack White's new Third Man Records store remained under wraps on Thursday night, Nov. 26, as fans and shoppers began to congregate on the Canfield Street sidewalk for its Friday morning opening.
Inside, however, the store was ready to rock -- and was, in fact, rocking with an invitation preview party that showed the boutique store, which the Detroit-born White first opened in Nashville seven years ago, was spit-polished prepared for the hordes of Black Friday shoppers.
Toasting the new venture, White told the Thanksgiving night party crowd that, "It's such a wonderful thing for Third Man Records to be here in the Cass Corridor where so many of us made our bones and so many people from Detroit and our community did so many artistic things from sculpture to the music of the Gories and to the sounds that came out of the Gold Dollar.
"Everything about this neighborhood to me seems like the perfect place for the renaissance, the rebirth, the growth from the ashes that Detroit's gonna rise from. I hope you feel good, too."
Located on the same Cass Corridor block as the Jolly Pumpkin Pizzeria and Brewery, Shinola and the Traffic Jam & Snug restaurant, Third Man is, at about 4,000 square feet, considerably larger and more spacious than its Nashville counterpart. With massive photos of the White Stripes, the MC5 and the Gories decking out the walls of the brick-walled interior, the store features bins of mostly vinyl and many limited edition records -- from White's Third Man label as well as the Sun and Paramount Records imprints -- apparel, turntables, guitar effects pedals, headphones and Polaroid cameras.
The space also includes a listening booth, a photo booth and a Voice-O-Graph self-recording booth, as well as a Mold-O-Rama machine which makes plastic replica of the Third Man Rolling Record Store truck (the real one was parked outside), along with plenty of memorabilia and photos from White's Grammy Award-winning career.
"The idea for the shop is to present something that is kind of fun and unusual," says Third Man's Ben Swank, a former member of Toledo's Soledad Brothers who helped bring the Detroit store to life with White and cohort Ben Blackwell. "We want it to be something that makes them immediately want to feel part of the bigger picture and pay attention to the stuff we do.
"When we started in Nashville we kept saying the whole idea was to get people to quit buying things with the click of a mouse and go somewhere and meet people with a similar sort of taste and actually have conversations with people and get out of your house and visit brick and mortar stores."
Swank says that while doing pop-up stores in other cities, Third Man has long been thinking about opening another outlet. Detroit, being White's home town, was a natural consideration, and things intensified after White played shows at the Fox Theatre and Masonic Temple during July of 2014.
"We just saw a sea change of people really working hard to make some positive changes in this town," Swank says. "There was a real kind of artistic upheaval going on here, a lot of cool things happening. It felt like we could come back and do something here.
"A lot of the way we work is pretty instinctual. We just trust the moment and go with that."
Third Man Detroit will continue its Nashville predecessors practice of promoting repeat business with its limited edition releases and special events, both of which are part of its Detroit opening. The opening weekend includes nine 7-inch vinyl singles of early releases by Berry Gordy Jr.'s Tamla Label, and a rare single by little-known Michigan singer Jack Wood. The store's performance space, meanwhile, featured former Demolition Doll Rods and Gories member Danny Kroha and Third Man's new country singer Margo Price, while Friday's opening day will feature sets by Price, the Gories, Lillie Mae Riches and Timmy's Organism.
Swank says Third Man Detroit will host regular live shows -- the label has issued a series of recorded performances from its Nashville store -- and plans to hold a film series, book readings and other events. Rob St. Mary, author of "Re-Entry: The Orbit Magazine Anthology" already has a program planned for December.
"For us it's important to be part of the community," Swank says. "Our Nashville store has a very distinct Tennessee atmosphere to it. The Detroit store will have a distinct Midwestern aspect to it, and it's a large enough space to do lots of things."
The space was met with a universal thumbs-up from those attending Thursday's party, which included White's mother and siblings and their families, Orbit founder Jerry Vile, artist Niagra and man local musicians, including Mary Ramirez of the Detroit Cobras and Ethan Daniel Davidson. Dean Fertita, the Royal Oak native who plays in White's bands the Dead Weather and the Raconteurs as well as Queen's of the Stone Age -- and whose wife Bonnie is one of the managers of Third Man's Nashville Store -- said on Thursday that he was "so happy to be here, so happy this is happening here. It's great to have this happening back at home."
Brendan Benson, who also works with White in the Raconteurs -- and once worked down the block at the Traffic Jam -- added that "it's very cool. It's not the kind of place I'd expect to see in Detroit, but I've been gone for 10 years and things have obviously changed -- for the better."
Outside the store on Thursday, members of the Third Man Record Collectors forum on Facebook -- hailing from Kentucky and Ohio as well as Michigan --had pitched a tent at 5 a.m. and were looking forward to being the first inside on Friday, primarily to gobble up the new limited edition releases. "We've been waiting for a Detroit store to open for a long time," said Kate St. Kane of southwest Detroit. "It's so exciting that (White's) come back home to do this."
The Third Man faithful weren't allowed into the party, but the company did provide water, a full Thanksgiving dinner and pizza later on Thursday night.
Also showcased on Thursday was a 10,000-square-foot space behind the store that will be home to a vinyl record pressing plant. Eight machines have been ordered from Germany and are expected to arrive in January, and Swank says the plant -- which is being overseen locally by White's brother-in-law Randy Cholewa of Beverly Hills -- should be operational by spring.
"We reached a point where we wanted to start pressing our own records," Swank says, but Third Man did not want to compete directly with United Record Pressing in Nashville. "We had the space to set up our own (plant) in Detroit, and we felt like it was something else good we could do up there."
Third Man Records Detroit
441 W. Canfield St.
Opens 10 a.m. Friday, Nov. 27.
Performances by The Gories, margo Price, Lillie Mae Riches and Timmy's Organism.
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