Still Going Strong

Wooden Nickel Records celebrates 35 years in the music business.
7/7/2017
Deborah C. Gerbers
Jeffrey Crane

In 1982, Bob and Cindy Roets started Wooden Nickel Records. They held their first record Store Day in 2008, which helped boost the record store’s business along with a rebirth of vinyl popularity. Wooden Nickel is a local, family-owned and operated business passionate about music and dedicated to serving its loyal following of customers in Fort Wayne. 

Roets says turntables have seen a renewed interest as manufacturers like Jensen and Crosley decided to sell them as limited runs for independent retail stores. “By 2010 we started to expand our record sections in our stores. We never stopped totally selling vinyl but it simply wasn’t produced between 1991 and 2007. The record companies decided to reissue groups like Pearl Jam and the Dave Matthews Band who were popular in the ‘90s. People wanted those albums, and we wanted to sell them, but we had no way to sell them because they didn’t exist. That started to fuel the fire as people became more interested in buying vinyl. It’s been a momentum builder for the past ten years now; vinyl is almost 40 percent of our business now. And I would have been the last person to expect that!” 

CDs sales dropped with the advent of Napster in 1998, followed by Apple’s iTunes to download music. “That really hurt our business because it was too easy for people to access albums without actually buying them from a store.”

When Wooden Nickel started holding Record Store Day each year, Roets began to see the positive impact on sales. “What I started to notice about Record Store Day is that our sales were increasing by 15 to 20 percent and then finally realized that as kids started using their parents’ turntables, the demand for vinyl albums went up,” he says. “The switchover from mp3s back to vinyl has been rapidly increasing over the past few years. In fact, this year’s Record Store Day was up 38 percent for us, which is amazing.”

A successful Record Store Day depends on both marketing the event to customers, as well as having good titles available that people are actually interested in purchasing. “Having good titles helps the albums sell themselves,” says Roets. “We had a lot of good product that sold very well. We are starting to notice how many young people are getting turntables and looking to buy vinyl albums. I’ve heard that turntables are very popular in college dorms now – which certainly wasn’t the case five years ago. And all of those factors fuel our business.”

The Wooden Nickel Records family is also heavily involved with the Foellinger Theatre Concert Series, held at the popular outdoor venue which won multiple reader’s choice awards locally. “We help channel the bands that come here, so with our input, we were able to get some really good talent here in Fort Wayne,” says Roets. “We work with Peter Kernan of Pacific Coast Concerts to help secure musicians like Heart, Ringo Starr and Joe Walsh, which isn’t always the easiest thing to do. All three of Wooden Nickel’s locations sell tickets to the shows. The Foellinger Theatre is a major venue now. It’s affordable, local and convenient to attend concerts there, which draws a large crowd of people each time. I think it’s a much more casual, laid-back atmosphere than larger venues in Indiana.”

A key component in marketing albums has come from Wooden Nickel’s involvement with CIMS (The Coalition of Independent Music Stores) which is a collective of nearly 50 independently owned record stores throughout the country. Founded in 1995, CIMS stores are some of the longest running and community-oriented music retailers around. CIMS helps its members with marketing programs from the labels, shares ideas among its stores and helps with social media and bringing artists to play at member locations. One of the prime benefits from CIMS has been its help with the internet sales derived from Wooden Nickel’s website, woodennickelrecords.com. 

One of Wooden Nickel’s hallmarks comes from the fact that its three locations are all so different – the North Anthony location has the widest variety of LPs and cassettes, the North Clinton Street location has the largest CD and music DVD selection and the West Jefferson location features a large selection of music-related accessories. “Many of our customers check out all three stores weekly,” Roets said.

Another one of Wooden Nickel’s hallmarks through the years has been its in-store signings and performances. The store has hosted artists like Bo Diddley, They Might Be Giants, .38 Special, Foreigner, Krokus, Dokken, Queensrÿche, The Tubes, Head East, Joe Bonamassa, Static X and Soil, among others. Wooden Nickel has hosted over 350 local and regional bands since 1982 to help promote local music and sell their albums.

Wooden Nickel Records has seen continued success over the past 35 years for several reasons, but one of the most important being the Roets’ commitment to the business and passion for music. Bob’s son Chris, who is currently running the West Jefferson location (next to Chops) is poised to take over Wooden Nickel Records soon when Bob and wife Cindy retire. Seeing customers interested in and appreciative of music is what drives Roets and his family to keep doing what they’re doing. “Witnessing a new customer purchase their very first vinyl album is just awesome,” he says. “I love seeing people get excited about music.”

Wooden Nickel Records

Owner(s): Bob Roets

Address: 3422 N. Anthony Blvd. Fort Wayne, Indiana 46805

Phone: (260) 484-2451

Website: woodennickelrecords.com

Years in Business: 35

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