780 lost weekends — give or take — at Kyle Siegrist's Clintonville shop
This January, Lost Weekend celebrated its 15th anniversary.
In actuality, the story of the Clintonville record shop founded and owned by Kyle Siegrist begins much earlier, when Siegrist was booted from Ohio State University in the mid '80s due to low grades. After drifting for a bit, the Westerville native landed in the music business program at the Art Institute of Atlanta, kicking off a three-plus-decade career that spans multiple facets of the music industry.
After spending three years in Atlanta, Siegrist moved back to Columbus, taking a job at National Record Mart at the Westerville Mall and again enrolling at Ohio State in order to apply for a college representative position with CBS Records (now Sony Records). In the years he worked as a college rep, Siegrist constructed in-store displays, helped bands schedule interviews with college news outlets and set up post-show artist meet-and-greets with fans. For his trouble, Siegrist got to meet some of his musical idols, including Bob Dylan, and received a platinum sales plaque for Pearl Jam's debut album, Ten.
Following the run at CBS/Sony, Siegrist logged time as a phone supervisor for Ticketmaster, as a customer service representative for CompuServe (working with Mac computers, which, unlike PCs, were equipped with CD drives that couldn't be disabled by higher-ups, allowing employees to listen to music during shifts) and, briefly, with Chase Bank, where the customer service issues took on greater meaning than, “I can't get my computer to start.”
“When I went to Chase, [the problems] were like, ‘My home burned down,” Siegrest said during a mid-January interview at his store. “It was the worst. I hated that job.”
Later, he also worked a stint at a small, locally owned print shop, in addition to taking an active role in the music scene, performing in bands such as Bubba Ho Tep.
Throughout this 15-plus-year stretch, though unbeknownst to him at the time, Siegrist was gradually amassing the skills that would serve him well when he opened Lost Weekend at its original location at 3341 N. High St., a narrow space that Brett Ruland of Spoonful Records described as so cozy it could feel packed if two customers were browsing the used-vinyl stacks. (Lost Weekend settled into its current location just down the road at 2960 N. High St. in the fall of 2004.)
“When I opened the store, I took all of that stuff: the stuff from the record labels, stuff from my stints in retail, customer service skills from the phone center jobs, seeing how a small business is run and being a musician. It was really like, ‘Wow, I'm able to apply every single thing into what I'm doing,'” said Siegrist, 51. “Maybe that's why I thought it would work.”
Those around Siegrist might have been less confident about his prospects. When he purchased the space, formerly named Tongue & Groove, on January 16, 2003, the record industry was in the midst of a massive upheaval. With advancements in downloading technology, CD sales were tanking, and the ongoing vinyl resurgence hadn't yet taken root. Indeed, the first time Lost Weekend appeared on the cover of Alive, in August 2003, the image was accompanied by the headline, “Technology killed the record shop.” A framed copy of the issue still hangs in the store, a slightly yellowed middle finger to the former editorial staff.
Siegrist's decision to open a record store also marked the second year of his sobriety, a journey he started in earnest beginning in March 1996, when, his immune system weakened by hard partying, he came down with walking pneumonia, slipping into a coma for six days and spending a week-and-a-half hospitalized in intensive care. Though the illness served as a slight wakeup call, it would be four more years before Siegrist officially gave sobriety a go in December 2000. Less than a month later, on Jan. 10, 2001, friend and musician Jerry Wick of Gaunt died when a car struck him as he was riding his bicycle.
“I ended up going to Larry's for the wake, and that was not a good place to go and try not drinking,” said Siegrist. “I wasn't good in social situations, it's Larry's and my friend died, so I was back partying for a while.”
Eventually, he reached out to friends Jorma and Vanessa Kaukonen at Fur Peace Ranch in Meigs County, Ohio, and the couple helped him achieve sobriety.
Now clearheaded, Siegrist opened Lost Weekend in 2003, offering weekend-only hours and stocking largely used vinyl. Gradually, the shop's open hours increased, and its stock of new LPs grew, first with two, three, four crates against the front counter, and eventually to the handful of racks that now line the walls of the low-ceilinged store. Despite the concerns of friends, business at Lost Weekend has increased every year it's been open, allowing Siegrist to expand his staff. (He now employs two workers, in addition to the odd helper during busy times, such as Record Store Day, a single day in April where sales can equal an entire month's business.)
Coming up in Columbus, Siegrist was always enamored with the music scene. “All my friends were in bands,” he said, comparing the '90s Columbus scene, which spawned artists such as Gaunt, Jenny Mae and Scrawl, with similarly fertile scenes from different eras and locales, including the punk scene centered on CBGB in 1970s New York City, and the college-rock scene that grew out of Athens, Georgia, in the 1980s. “We were never famous like that, but as far as creativity and everybody knowing everybody, it was an awesome time.”
When Siegrist launched Lost Weekend, he embraced a similarly communal concept, viewing fellow record stores not as competition, but as brothers-in-arms. In the hour we spent talking in his shop, he directed two callers to Used Kids and Spoonful when he didn't have a particular record in stock.
“To me, it's that personal touch. You went in to [Siegrist] like you'd go to the bar to see your local bartender and have a conversation,” Ruland said. “If you went in and saw someone else was working you might look around a while, but really you were going there for the experience and the conversation. His personality, his stories, was what made Lost Weekend Records. It's what made you want to come back.”
“I love all the stores here; Columbus has had a great record store scene for forever,” said Siegrist, whose store utilizes record racks from ghosts of Columbus record store past, including National Record Mart and Mole's Records. “I'm very pro-‘We can all succeed.'”
Siegrist launched Lost Weekend with a five-year business plan, which he has updated every five years. But before beginning to plan for years 15 to 20, he's taken a bit of time out to consider how far he's come, and the daily thrill he gets from running a record store.
“Fifteen is a big number, so I've been reminiscing a lot,” he said. “We've had Kid Congo play an in-store here. We've had Johnny Winter. We had Tony Asher, who co-wrote Pet Sounds, just show up one day as a customer. Kurt Vile has been in here. Videos have been filmed here. My band practices here. We've done art shows here. Bands have formed here.”
Not bad for someone who didn't have much of a fallback in place once he shifted to the store full-time in August 2003 after leaving his job at the print shop.
“My backup plan was bankruptcy,” he said, and laughed.