Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Women Who Rock Wednesday: Jodi Gianakopoulos of The Old School Records

Welcome to Women Who Rock Wednesday! This is the last WWRW before the big cyber party, so I wanted to make it an extra special one. I decided to feature a woman who I'm proud to call a friend, who owns my favorite record store ever, Jodi Gianakopoulos of The Old School Records in Forest Park, IL!

Before we meet Jodi, I've got a couple things to mention. First, the winner of Jennie DeVoe's CDs is stephanieburgis from LiveJournal. Stephanie please email me at stephanie at stephaniekuehnert dot com to claim your prize!

And also, Amber from Just Your Typical Book Blog has decided to feature lil ol me as her Author of the Month for July! I'm incredibly honored! She's got some very cool stuff going on. She did a super fun interview with me that you can read here. She also has a contest running through July 21st where you can win a copy of Ballads of Suburbia, so go enter! And tomorrow, she'll have another short interview with me for her Rock This! feature, so be sure to visit her blog again then to get some music recommendations for me.

But now I would like to turn the blog over to a woman who knows a hell of a lot more about music than me, Jodi Gianakopoulos. So read up and comment away because Jodi has agreed to give away an Old School Records t-shirt to one lucky winner chosen at random from the comments. All the cool kids have Old School t-shirts.... well, um, I have one at least!

Anyway, here's Jodi:

Q: Welcome to Women Who Rock Wednesday, Jodi! I thought you were a great person to feature because you are the co-owner of my favorite record store on the planet, The Old School Records in Forest Park. When I was in high school, I thought the ultimate job to get would be record store clerk. Unfortunately, a lot of other people felt the same way and had better connections than me, so I ended up bagging groceries instead. Can you tell us a little bit about your path to record store owner?

Jodi: My sister worked at a head shop/record store in high school. One of my best friends also worked at a record store in the mall. I would hang around there so much that when I turned 16 they gave me a job. After I had that experience, the store my sis had worked for hired me. I moved to go to university and found a good local record shop, called REAL! Records.
I had been reading a lot of Jack Kerouac, so I went in and asked for Bebop recommendations. From there I became a regular shopper and one day basically told them that they should hire me. They did and I worked there for the next five years.

When I moved to Chicago, Borders was just putting in their stores. Getting a job there was a breeze, so I went into management. Later, I worked for a Music House where I made no money, so I went back to management with Rizzoli Bookstore and was in charge of their international music and everything in the store that wasn't a book. I wanted to get into the distribution or promotion side of the biz. I was making connections with industry people and thinking I was getting "in". Too bad the shop was on the way out, so I took a job with a local independent chain called 2nd Hand Tunes. I would work for cash on Sundays. It was cool and I quickly developed a secret crush on the manager, Pete. Then I dove in full time. It was totally depressing. I went from attending conferences and being treated with respect to being the lowest on the totem poll. That was when I decided to open my own shop. The chain was later sold to an internet company and Peter and I started seeing each other at meetings. Then we were both store managers and started dating. We started to plan our own shop and one year after we married we opened The Old School Records. We have been in biz for six years, have a little house, two dogs and a five month old baby girl. Life is funny.

(Here's Jodi with her husband Peter at their store!)

Q: Was it something you always wanted to do?
Jodi: No, I really just thought it was a good idea in 1998. It took five years of planning.

Q: For those who haven't had an opportunity to drop in yet, tell us a bit about the store, what makes you guys unique and so much more fun than shopping at Best Buy or on iTunes?

Jodi: We offer tons of vinyl and cds. We sell lots of movies and have about 20 magazines. We even sell tapes, mostly r&b, punk, jazz and rap. You find really different stock here, because our knowledge and tastes are quite broad and varied. We strive to be respectful, helpful and friendly. Often our clientele is older, but you will find any age group shopping here. Our regular customers are friends and our new customers are potential friends! I NEVER went with the snotty approach and having a largely older crowd as customers for so many years, there would never have been any room for a bad attitude. I am a salesperson and honey works better than vinegar. Peter and I come from families with strong work ethics and we always get the job done. When we first opened, the shop was really clean and organized, now it feels more lived in!

I strongly believe that it's important for us to patronize shops in our own communities. Maybe not everyone can come in to The Old School Records, but this can serve as a good reminder as to why they should visit their local indie record store! What do you love best about owning your own store and what are some of the challenges?

Jodi: Being in charge and making the customers happy for both!

Q: Not all of my readers can pop in and visit you at Old School, but they all can listen to your radio show! Can you give us a link to it, tell us when it airs, what kind of stuff you play and how you got the radio gig?

Jodi: The Old School Playground airs every other Tuesday from nine 'til midnight. (And here is the MySpace page.) Peter and I are both the DJs and it is an entirely world music show. Right now Peter is doing the show while the baby and I listen from home! However, I will be DJing the next show in two weeks, hopefully. I usually play new releases for part of it and then explore a theme. I play reggae,african, brazilian, asian/pacific, gypsy, balkan, persian/arab, turkish, french, italian and other rhythmic stuff. I've never heard a show like ours.

We play some pretty far out stuff! Peter DJ'd professionally for years and we started by guesting with the show that is on opposite ours, Prognosis.

Q: Between the record store and the radio show, no doubt you are a music expert.
Since our focus is on women who rock today, can you tell us about the female musicians you grew up loving, who made you passionate enough to go into this business?

Jodi: When I was in sixth grade Joan Jett "I love rock and roll" and the Go-Go's
"We got the beat" showed me the way. Later it was Anabella Lwin, Kate Bush, Debbie Harry, Bjork, Billie Holiday, Maria Callas, Evelyn Glennie, Poly Styrene, Sandy Denny, Brigitte Fontaine, Jessie Mae Hemphill, Mary J. Blige and Missy Elliott, to name a few, who would display their gifts and inspire me. I guess that I admire women who can stand toe to toe with men. The music biz is often a man's world, but it really is better off with women in the mix!

Q: Also tell us about any new discoveries, female artists or bands we may not have heard of but we should absolutely check out!

Jodi: St. Vincent is the best thing I've heard in a while. The Japanese group Mono is also great.

Q: Now for my standard Women Who Rock Wednesday questions. The first is a two-parter and I think it's perfect for a record store owner. What was the first album you purchased for yourself and what was the first concert you attended?

Jodi: Early as a child it was Kiss "Rock and Roll Over". Later, it was "The Indestructible Beat of Soweto". My first concert was Kiss in 1978.

Q: And I'm excited to hear your response to the other standard question too because I know your husband Peter has some great tales and I can't wait to hear yours. Please dish about your biggest rock star moment. It could be a big moment of success in your career, a time where you met someone famous and had the Wayne's World "I'm not worthy" experience, or where you got the total rock star treatment?

Jodi: At Borders on Michigan Avenue there were lots of famous people coming through. Spending the afternoon with Los Lobos and meeting Elvis Costello were two nice moments. I don't want to know or meet musicians/artists, the ones I idolize are dead.

The more I know about "stars", the less interested I become. None are worth mention. My biggest moment was maybe getting the keys to our shop. My biggest success is definitely yet to come!

I hope you guys enjoyed this interview as much as I do and I encourage you to visit the Old School Records website and blog. As I mentioned mid-interview supporting indie record stores is very important to me. Comment away, maybe tell us about your favorite local stores, your record store job fantasies, or anything else you gleaned from the interview and be entered to win your very own The Old School Records t-shirt. I'll announce the winner next Wednesday during the blog party! And if you are in Forest Park, do stop into the store!


Katie said...

I like Joan Jett too!

shelburns said...

I was a Joan Jett fan in school too! Great interview, Steph! I love indie stores so much more than big chains! Thanks for promoting this one and if I'm ever in the area, I'm totally going in!