The record shop opened during the vinyl resurgence, and has maintained a loyal customer base — even amid the pandemic. Owners Brett Ruland and Amy Kesting are celebrating with a 10% off sale on Sunday.
You could say Brett Ruland and Amy Kesting opened Spoonful Records at the right time and place.
In the year 2010, the vinyl resurgence was already underway, and there was no competing record store Downtown. Still, Ruland said he was “terrified” on opening day in July at their Long Street location.
“I was afraid to look up to see if anybody was even picking anything up,” said Ruland, 48, who lives in Olde Towne East with Kesting, 45. The couple married in 2014.Get the news delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our morning, afternoon and evening newsletters
But he didn’t need to worry; customers lined up with records in their arms, and a local DJ showed up to film the event for his YouTube channel.
“We were just like, ‘OK, these are the record people,’” Kesting recalled. “‘The record people are here now.’”
And they haven’t left. Spoonful, which has since relocated to Rich Street, is celebrating its 10th anniversary. Although the coronavirus pandemic quelled plans for a party, the record store is marking the occasion with a 10% off sale on everything in store and online on Sunday.
“I love these guys,” said longtime customer Bill Hafner, 55, of Olde Towne East. “(Ruland) knows what kind of music I like and so does Amy. They’re always texting me with photos (like), ‘This might be right up your alley.’”
The couple’s passion for music was formed during their childhoods. Originally from Wisconsin, Kesting remembers listening to an oldies station on the radio, and getting her first cassette, Cyndi Lauper’s album, “She’s So Unusual.” Ruland, who grew up on the East Side of Columbus, recalls watching early MTV and buying his first album, “Get Lucky” by Loverboy.
“I learned not to try to do ‘Working for the Weekend’ at karaoke,” Ruland said. “That was a bad idea.”
Ruland did become a drummer in local bands and started his own garage rock record label, also called Spoonful Records, in 2003. Named for the Willie Dixon-penned blues song, “Spoonful,” the company put out records by bands such as The Tough and Lovely and The Griefs.
At the same time, Ruland was working as a graphic designer at the Columbus Museum of Art, where he met Kesting, who was doing a registrar internship there in 2008. When Ruland was laid off, Kesting suggested they open the record shop, where they both apply their talents in visual arts.
“I always wanted to be an art gallery manager,” said Kesting, an artist who also worked at the Zanesville Museum of Art. “I have displayed (Spoonful) like that.”
Instead of covering the walls with posters and merchandise, the couple features paintings, including one by Kesting of noted Columbus saxophonist Rahsaan Roland Kirk. There also is a portrait of Otis Redding that has been up since the store opened.
During those early days, Ruland’s father, Fred, volunteered at the store, and became a beloved figure, known for filling customers’ parking meters. He has since moved to Marietta.
“He was very personable,” Ruland said. “It’s hard to live up to that legacy.”
But Ruland and Kesting are pretty popular themselves; Ruland attributes their success to the old adage, “The genius knows he knows nothing.”
“I’m not saying we’re geniuses, but we just listen really well and we try to take notes,” he said. “If we don’t have it, we try to get it.”
Customers currently are asking for albums by Amy Winehouse, Bob Marley and Fleetwood Mac, the couple said. Other sought-after items include the “Guardians of the Galaxy” soundtrack and “Eccentric Soul — The Capsoul Label,” a collection of Columbus-based soul music.
Spoonful patrons range from age 15 to 55, and Kesting and Ruland noticed younger patrons were especially excited about vinyl when the store opened.
“They were just like, ‘Wow, what is this?’” Kesting said.
The hunt is just as fun as bringing the records home.
“Record stores are an activity,” Kesting said. “Some people do them alone, but a lot of people do them as couples or as father-son teams. It is good, quality time.”
And sometimes strangers will strike up conversations about their discoveries.
“I think that’s why the record store will always be more special than just buying it online,” Ruland said. “You can get anything online, even shipped to your house, but there’s no thrill in that. It’s too easy.”
For 10 years, Kesting and Ruland resisted starting their own website, but the coronavirus pandemic made it a necessity.
“We prided ourselves on offering our stuff local; if you want it, you’ve got to come here,” Ruland said. “We knew (a website) would sell to the world, but we didn’t want to do that. Now, we’re glad that we were able to do that.”
It was a business-saving move, but also a new, convenient option for people living in the suburbs. Of course, it added more to do for Ruland and Kesting, who hope to create a better work-life balance. And while running a business as a married couple has its challenges, they have worked out a strategy.
“It’s good to have specific jobs that each of you do,” said Ruland, who is in charge of buying new releases. Kesting handles the used collections.
Spoonful is back open for in-store shopping, which is rewarding for both customers and Kesting and Ruland.
“Sometimes other people wanting to get into something makes me want to get into it,” Ruland said. “It rubs off on you. I find myself collecting bands that I might not even like that much.”
They always give their customers first dibs and even bring in music from their personal collection at home.
“You get to see their excitement,” Ruland said. “It’s even better than just having it for yourself.”
Well, most of the time.
“What about getting rid of your Kiss collection and bringing it here to the store?” Kesting asked playfully.
“I don’t know,” Ruland said. “Maybe someday. We’ve only been around 10 years.”