Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Proper Noun(s) of the Week #29: Kevin Neudecker and Melanie Hershberger of Music Saves

True story: Yesterday I'm sitting in my office at work and a guy stops by to pitch me on some products he's repping. We chat for a bit and I agree to at least take a look at what he has to offer. As he looks around my office, he seems to think it appears a bit different than my colleagues, and it probably does, as it is filled with things like show posters that incorporate images of American politicians, my ever growing collection of multi-hued army men in dramatically evolving battles for shelf territory, and my collection of Obama toys. (Note: If you ever see an Obama toy, please feel free to buy it and give it to me.)

He notes that he's a travelling salesman and asks if there are any good record stores in Cleveland he should check out while he's cooling his heels at hotels over the next few days. He asks in a polite way, but one that seems to anticipate a negative response. Instead, my eyes light up, because I'd just returned from a few days in Brooklyn, aka indie rock's alleged mecca, and came home thinking that not a single record store I went in there could compete with the selection and vibe of Cleveland's own Music Saves.

I tell him about the place, all the events it holds, from Zaireeka listening parties to Indie Orthodox New Years to Alley Cat Fridays to Record Store Day, print him off an address and a flyer for the store's upcoming party this Friday, and tell him to make haste, but not too much haste, as the store isn't open on Mondays.

Along with the Beachland, Melt, the CIA Cinematheque, and the Cleveland International Film Festival, Music Saves is one of my most treasured institutions in this adopted city of mine. The married duo that own and operate it, Kevin Neudecker and Melanie Hershberger, are not only valuable for the role they play in bringing indie rock to the city, but also in being such small business role models. I've watched several new businesses owned by people with good ideas and strong hearts rise and fall because, simply, they didn't put in the time and energy to their project that these two put in to theirs. If the secret to small business success is hustling, these guys deserve an Olympic medal. Hardly a week goes by when they aren't throwing some kind of event, whether at the store or elsewhere, bringing the good word about the music and the shop to people who need to know about it.

As a result, it is not only a product but also a brand I can get behind. Which is why I'm more than pleased to have them as the latest proper nouns on Cleveland Bachelor. Check out what they have to say about life in Cleveland and definitely be sure to scope the flyer toward the end of the post for more information on their Friday event.

1) How long have you been in Cleveland? And if you didn't grow up in Cleveland, where'd you relocate here from?

I’ve pretty much lived in Cleveland all my life. I did spend my college years at Bowling Green and then 2 1/2 years in Syracuse when Melanie was going to grad school. Melanie moved around a lot as a kid, because her Dad was in radio; San Diego, St. Louis. They moved to the Cleveland area when Melanie started High School. I think it's safe to say that we will be in Cleveland for a very long time, and maybe some day retire to an area of the country that will be less brutal on Melanie's allergies. It's going to be tough for Melanie to drag me out of Cleveland.

2) What is your favorite Cleveland memory?

Too many to mention, but probably being at the Browns 2OT playoff win against the Jets in the 86 playoffs. My parents got me Browns season tickets when I was 6 years old, it’s still the best gift I’ve ever received. Of course, the week after that I witnessed "The Drive"; that sucked. The other event that comes to mind is seeing Radiohead at the Lakewood Civic Auditorium in 1997. The show was about a month after OK Computer came out and it sold-out before the record got huge. It’s the most memorable concert experience I’ve ever had. Plus my friend got Thom to crack-up when he called out for “Stonehenge”!

3) How does (if at all) Cleveland influence your work and/or art?

This is tough to answer as what we do is not creative work. I think there is a certain mid-west work ethic at play that allows us to somehow keep the store running. Melanie puts in 60-80 a week on the store, plus she is involved in the neighborhood, especially the Waterloo Arts Fest. I work full time besides my time in the store. It's not always easy, or fun and it's definitely stressful, but we manage. Everyone thinks that owning a record store is easy and fun, but it's a lot of work. There are great rewards that come from that hard work and that's what keeps us going, but then there are all the things you have to do to not only maintain your business but keep it moving forward. You have to be 100% dedicated to make something like this work or it will fail. If we gave any less effort than we do, we wouldn't last for very long. I'll often say to people that owning a record store is a lot of fun, owning a business isn't.

4) If it was your birthday and you decided to have a Cleveland-centric blow-out bash, how would you celebrate? That is, what would you do, where would you do it, etc.?

A lot of it would involve food. Lunch at Melt, after lunch drinks in Lakewood at Grafton St. Pub (awesome jukebox), maybe dinner at the Happy Dog on a Polka Happy Hour, a show at the Beachland, after show drinks at Grovewood and Thermadore, and maybe somehow get a ride to an all-night diner (probably Diana’s in Lakewood) for some more food.

Melanie would obviously have a party in the store with drinks, friends, Afternoon Naps playing her favorite Cars song and a giant donut.

5) Say you had a friend coming in for 24 hours and had never been to Cleveland before. What would you make sure they saw and did?

It would probably depend on their tastes. Obviously some time on Waterloo , take in a show and brunch at the Beachland and probably a trip to Melt. Other than that I'd cater the trip to their personality. There is enough to do in Cleveland, that you should be able to curate a trip in such a way that the person comes away impressed.

6) What is something from another city you wish you could import to Cleveland?

Besides an NFL championship? A sense of pride in what makes our city unique, rather than an inferiority complex that has us strive for what other cities have. The city gets excited (and rolls out the tax breaks) when we get a Hard Rock Cafe or House of Blues because it is viewed as some sort of vindication that Cleveland is a city on par with other cities that have those attractions. The city embraces the House of Blues rather than thinking, "we already have great venues for music in this city OWNED by people in this city, what do we need these carpet-baggers for?"

Also, it seems like other cities are able to have huge free music/art fests that attract some marquee and cool acts. I know Pittsburgh has the Three Rivers Art Festival and other cities pull off similar events. Why can't Cleveland?

7) If you had the undivided attention of the mayor, city council, and county commissioners, what would be the one thing you'd ask for or tell them?

Invest in projects that will make Cleveland unique and stand apart from other cities. The city bent over backwards to develop Steelyard Commons, but doesn't show the same type of determination for other projects that might set Cleveland apart from other midsize cities. I think everyone would like to see the Lakefront developed, but I'm afraid it's going to look like every other newly developed area in every other city in the country. Cleveland has a lot to offer other than a new shopping center with expensive condos and trendy retail outlets.

I'd also like to suggest that the city find other ways to generate revenue beside pejorative taxes like the garbage collection fee. Those types of fees just give people reasons not to want to live in Cleveland.

I'd also like to see the city promote Cleveland as a tourist attraction for people that live in the greater Cleveland area. It's great to get people from out of town on vacation, but how about targeting advertisement and promotions at people that only live 20-30 miles away. Give them reasons to come to the city for the day besides a sporting event.

To meet Kevin & Melanie, make a point to stop by Music Saves any day of the week (except Monday) in the afternoon or evening. Better yet, check out the party they are throwing this Friday in honor of Melanie's 33 1/3 birthday. Get it, 33 1/3? If not, that's another reason for you to visit the store! Music Saves is located at 15801 Waterloo Road in Cleveland.

And if you found this post interesting, check out previous Proper Noun of the Week conversations about Cleveland and culture with the following interesting folks: Frank Revy, Bill Rupnik, Mina Hoyle, Brendan Walton, Leia Alligator, Arabella Proffer, Becca Riker, Greg Ruffing, Mallorie Freeman, Dave Desimone, J.R. Bennett, Jeff & Mike from CLE Clothing Co, Paulius Nasvytis, Lawrence Daniel Caswell, Curtis Thompson, John Ewing, Shannon Okey, John G, Sean Bilovecky, Dana Depew, Fred Wright, Amanda Montague, Ryan Weitzel, Garrett Komyati, Vince Slusarz, Jonah Jacobs, and Jacob Wesley Lang.

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