Music has been said to bring people of all ages together, and at Electric Crayon Records, it’s no different.
The store opened March 11, and within their first week, co-owner Grant Butler said a 14-year-old and a 60-year-old had already come in looking for similar records.
Butler, an addictions specialist at IU Health, has been into music since sharing a room with his punk-loving brother as a kid. His brother was a photographer and would take Butler with him to shows.
“When you’re a kid, the first medium you’re given is a crayon, pencil and all that stuff, so it’s kind of like that idea to create, there is electricity to it,” Butler said. “It’s kind of like the idea that you’re drawn to create art, whether it’s music or actual, tangible art or literature, any of that kind of stuff. You’re drawn to it.”
His brother taught him about music, and Butler now has played guitar in five bands and recorded seven albums and three EPs. Music is a big part of his life, so when he toured, he looked at record stores from around the country and Europe.
“One thing about a record store though … it’s a lot like a DIY pub club where it just kind of breeds community,” he said.
Andry Thorpe, co-owner of Electric Crayon Records and employee at Ruoff Mortgage, found his love of music through his parents. They ended up handing their records down to him, then when other parents discovered his interest, they’d give them to Thorpe too.
Thorpe and Butler have always wanted to open a record store. Butler worked for Village Green while finishing school, so when the owner of Village Green, Travis Harvey, moved to Montgomery, Alabama, they started talking about opening their own shop.
Electric Crayon Records sold their first record, Maggot Brain by Funkadelic, on opening day, and their first dollar is already framed behind the counter.
Butler’s wife, Jordie Butler, suicide prevention specialist at A Better Way and third-year student at Ball State, also owns and runs the store.
“There’s just something about a record shop. There’s a whole thing,” Jordie said. “[Grant and Thorpe have] been collectors for years. There’s a lot of division, and it seems like a lot of people aren’t getting along. We want to put it out there and connect on music.”
The owners want Electric Crayon Records to be a place where the outside world can be left behind. They want it to be a safe space for those in recovery, distracting them from their addictions.
“We’re using records and music as a medium or a platform for that; that’s the biggest goal,” Grant said. “I don’t want a Mercedes. I don’t want a BMW. I don’t want a yacht. I want to go serve the community I live in, and when it’s all over with, I want to be able to have a sense of peace about that, not some huge bank account or multiple houses.”
The owners said they are there to “spread the love.”
Jordie said having a support system is one of the most important steps in recovery, but it’s hard to come by. She wants people to come to Electric Crayon Records and feel accepted, especially since there aren’t many places for them to go when they’re bored and thinking about their addictions.
As of 2019, Indiana was the number one state for acute hepatitis C. According to the CDC, the average national rate of acute hepatitis C was 1.3 cases per 100,000 people. In Indiana, the rate was 4.8.
Acute hepatitis C is a virus known for being passed through sharing needles or other equipment from injecting drugs.
Jordie and Grant said they both have personal stories regarding their experiences with addiction.
Grant said he got into opioids and heroin when he was young, and he can see the aftermath of the opioid epidemic on the next generation.
“I’m tired of seeing people die,” he said.
Music helps people put their guard downs and become vulnerable, Grant said, allowing people to connect with others they wouldn’t have expected.
Jordie said she will get more into her experience in their upcoming podcast. The owners are planning to start a podcast and YouTube channel where they discuss music and mental health.
Though they have only been open for 12 days, Thorpe said their time so far has been excellent.
“It’s been steady every day. People have been very pleased,” Jordie said. “They’ve talked about how much they enjoy the shop, and ‘We have a really diverse collection.’ We’ve had several people come in three or four times already.”
For the first time since 1987, vinyl records surpassed CDs in sales. In 2022, according to the Smithsonian, approximately eight million more records were sold than CDs.
Thorpe and Grant sacrificed their own record collections for the store.
“To hear people say ‘Wow, you guys have a really good selection,’” Thorpe said, “it’s like well, yeah, because we’re cool."
The owners get their records from donations, hitting flea markets and record shows, buying online and allowing customers to trade records in for store credit.
The quality of the records at Electric Crayon Records can be seen through a grading system, with each record labeled from M (mint) to VG- (very good minus). The system is based on how the record was transported, the case, the record itself and how it may sound.
Though the grading system does have an effect, Electric Crayon Records mainly prices their records based off of Discogs, an online marketplace for music.
For records that need a little help, the store will clean them and even set up customers’ turntables. Thorpe said they also plan to sell a variety of stickers and T-shirts, offering two sticker options for free at the moment.
Though Electric Crayon Records now sits mostly filled with tunes, turntables and a TV, the owners plan to add a couch and provide coffee from the Caffeinery, so people can be comfortable and discuss music free of charge.
Jordie said all are welcome at Electric Crayon Records. She doesn’t want people to come in and be ashamed of their tastes if they are more “mainstream.”
“Everybody is accepted no matter what music you like. You’re not going to get made fun of for not knowing a band or liking a particular band,” Grant said. “If you like Taylor Swift, that’s who you like … I don’t think we get to choose what music we like.”
Grant said you can find out a lot about a person or what they’re going through based on their music choices, but he doesn’t like it when they are scared to walk into a record shop because of “music snobs.”
Right now, Electric Crayon Records has between 2,500 to 3,000 records, mostly in “dad rock” and ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s rock. They also have country, alternative, punk and death metal music. Records ranged from Rush to Sleep to Bob Marley to George Michael to Billie Eilish.
The store is looking to get more records, so if they don’t have a record that someone is interested in, they’ll order it for them or refer them to another record shop.
Electric Crayon Records wants to use their platform to support other shops like Locked Groove Records, Savage’s Ale House, Elm Street and other local businesses.
Thorpe said the businesses can help each other because with Locked Groove, the owner there carries a lot of what Electric Crayon Records lacks.
Thorpe invites young people to come in and hangout, whether they're new to records or have been listening for years.
Electric Crayon Records offers Ball State students 10 percent off at their store on Wednesdays with a student ID. This goes for everything but their “offensively-priced shelf,” a ledge filled with records costing high amounts, with a HIM set going for $850.
While the Butlers warned beginners to stay away from brands like Crosley and Victrola, Thorpe said the equipment listeners use in the beginning doesn’t really matter, it’s about finding the music.
“Kind of pick an artist or two that you like, start buying and then just ask questions,” he said. “Obviously, we don’t know new stuff as well, but we can point you to a band … you can kind of expand your knowledge from there.”
Contact Lila Fierek with comments at email@example.com.