If anyone knows about buying, selling and collecting records in Ohio - not to mention making them - it's Ron House. House, 54, was a clerk at Magnolia Thunderpussy and Mole's Records in the '80s before becoming a part-owner at Used Kids. There, he spent two decades perched at the counter making the same kind of snide and clever observations that characterized his work with legendary Columbus rock bands The Great Plains and Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments.
Staff cutbacks forced House out of a job at Used Kids two years ago, though he remains a 15 percent owner of the business. Now House buys and sells records independently, roaming the city and state for obscure finds.
"I have circuits all over Ohio," he said.
By not selling online, House spends most of the year building up a stash that can fetch up to $10,000 in a single day at the New York's WFMU Record & CD Fair. He makes a few bucks here and there at select other events, and his wife's salary covers the rest of his family's expenses.
At a time when so many record fanatics are opening their own shops, House is relishing the freedom of no longer being shackled to the counter.
Steve Louis knows the feeling. Louis, 44, founded Westerville's Sour Records in 1991 and ran it for a dozen years before selling the business to a longtime customer and moving to New York. He moved back to Columbus three years ago and continues to make a living selling records through eBay and his website, hardtofindrecords.com.
Louis spends as much time on his business as when he owned Sour Records, "but it's different now because everything stops when someone walks in. You focus your attention on them. You listen to them." Like House, having experienced autonomy, he has little desire to go back to the old model.
Still, both House and Louis think it's possible to start a successful record shop from scratch if you do it like Kyle Siegrist, who founded Clintonville's Lost Weekend Records in 2003 and kept it afloat by throwing himself entirely into his business.
Such commitment was hardly a challenge for someone as infatuated with records as Siegrist. Ruland, Derouen and Lewis are the same way - total music nerds and collector freaks.
"I don't know what these people's options are otherwise," House said. "I think what they're thinking is, 'If I'm going to be broke, I'm going to be broke doing the thing I love.'"