MUNCIE, Ind. (NewsLink) – “This feels like a huge loss.” “Your shop changed my life.” “So sad that you’re leaving.” Those are just a few of the social media comments left on posts by Village Green Records that announced the business will be moving to Montgomery, Ala.
For 16 years, VGR has been the main source for records for Ball State students and much of the Muncie community. The store’s announcement left many people sad, but also excited for the business’s future.
“Well, I mean I’m not happy about it, but I understand when you need to grow and move on and do other things,” said customer Thomas Bigger. “It’s kind of been a fixture of the community for a long time and when I came back to Muncie, it was one of the shining lights. It was a good reason to come back because I just like visiting this place, hearing new music, the community that’s around. It’s just a really good place.”
Travis Harvey is the owner of VGR. He said the store has stayed in the same location for the entire time it was in Muncie.
“The proximity to Ball State, even then, was perfect and location is always key. Of course, Ball State has gotten a lot closer to where we are located,” Harvey said with a smile. “It was also important to find a location that allowed us to participate in the college experience for the students, but also with it being located in the village we wanted to kind of bring the village to a wider audience. We didn’t want to seem like we were only catering to students. Students make up definitely a big portion of our clientele, but I would still say 40% of the clientele are people coming from all over, like at least a 50 mile radius.”
Harvey said the idea for Village Green Records came out of his love for music.
“I’ve always been addicted to music and I’ve always been the friend that everyone would go to to learn about new music and that’s just sort of my being and I really believe in the importance of good music in people’s lives,” he said. “So those types of things kind of drove the idealistics that saw there was a need for a record store and there wasn’t one here and it was something I really believe needed to be in Muncie. I really believe in the power of music to sort of, you know, broaden people and cross a lot of boundaries and also the different walks of life can be shared in a safe space together.”
While the safe space aspect was a huge inspiration for Harvey, he said the desire to bring together the community was an even bigger factor.
“Muncie always had a music scene. What the VGR was able to do was to put sort of a location, a base for that in some respects,” he said. “The community we’ve tried to sort of ingender in this space is one that’s like, everyone’s welcome without any like real prejudice or judgment. These things are intentional with the colors I use and even having someone like Anne Frank on the wall, who’s a child, and even a child in spite of it being in the face of war. Those are qualities that I think exemplify innocence and not judging people and I think a lot of peoplen have these preconceived notion that going to a record store is going to be full of judgment, it’s not going to be a completely safe space for them. I mean I have an impression of what I think is good music and I have definitely certain opinions that I want to over time be able to inspire and enlighten people, but initially I don’t want them to feel like there’s any pressure.”
He said the store has not only been able to link members of the Muncie community, but also people from all over the world.
“We’ve had over probably 500 artists perform in our front yard from all over the world. From Japan, England, to of course all over the states as well.”
With all of that inspiration, Harvey said the choice to move was difficult.
“So this was a decision for our move that’s not just mine alone. It’s also my partner, Sarah Ponto-Rivera, who is also a significant part to the success of the record store.”
Harvey said Montgomery always held a special place in the couple’s heart.
“We always had in our back pocket Montgomery, Ala., which was a city that she had always kept an eye on because she loves nonprofits and participating and being a significant member of the community and social justice. Of course, Montgomery is the heart of that and kind of like the birthplace of civil rights in America.”
But despite the draw to the city, Harvey said he is sad to leave.
“It’s a lot of emotions to try to navigate, understanding our role in the community, seeing the recent posts… I’ve received numerous emails and direct messages, you know, hundreds, probably 500 to 600 messages from people directly and to see the effect we’ve had in their lives is very humbling and I’m very grateful that a lot of people have opened up to us and allowed us to be an important part of their lives.”
Those social media posts spelled out tons of stories about VGR’s impact. One was a story of coincidence that led to a heartfelt connection. Customer Allen Adams said one worker bought a record for his cousin who would never receive it.
“He bought him a record. Well, before he could give him the record, he died, so he brought that record in and just put it on a shelf at Village Green.”
That record wouldn’t stay there for long.
“I went in there with my son and my son actually picked that record to buy. So, he bought the record and it was ‘NWA’s Greatist Hits,’” he laughed. “About two months later, I actually met the guy that worked there, his name was Grant. He said ‘you’re the one that brought your son in and bought that record right?’ and I said, ‘yeah.’ He said ‘I actually bought that record for your cousin.’”
Stories like that are what Harvey said makes Muncie so difficult to leave. It is also what made Tobias Johnson say that he is grateful to have worked there.
“It’s really difficult to connect Muncie without this place for me personally, besides family of course. VGR is a place of expression. It’s a place of wonder and journey. You really have to find yourself and the space to find yourself in the world, so I think that’s what VGR allows and the fact that you’re able to find yourself in a space like this, it helps you develop what you feel about yourself in terms of who you want to present yourself to be to others and to yourself,” said Johnson. “It’s kind of like ‘what are we going to do without it and that’s up to us.’”
Harvey said though the store may be moving out of state, he does not want to lose his connection to the Muncie community.
“I want to keep in touch with people too. We will continue our subscription program with the goals of keeping a lot of our regulars in touch and being able to further chare music with them and even thoug we will have to do that remotely and in another state, I don’t want the heart and soul and the relationships that VGR has built to end.”
He also wanted to show his appreciation for his customers through a final sale and concert.
“Before the VIllage Green Records chooses to close up and move on, we will have a big concert, kind of the last hurrah, on the 14th of May and we will still be open for another week as well until the 21st which will be the proper final day of the store,” he said.
Harvey said he hopes that these last few weeks will continue to inspire people and hopefully inspire new entrepreneurs.
“The goal, of course, at the conclusion of Village Green Records is to pass the torch to some of the people that are part of the team right now that are helping out and have been amazing… I’m hoping that this space will continue to be another record store and maybe a vintage store and who knows what. All I can do is hope the best for them and help them in any way I can.”
While Village Green Records may be embarking on a new journey, Johnson said he wants the store’s legacy to live on wherever it goes.
“You never know what you’re going to find when you come to a record store. You never know what you’re going to hear or even just experience in general. It provides so much.”