Standing on the corner of Kinnickinnic and Potter, Rush-Mor Records is a landmark in Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood. Founded in 1971, Rush-Mor is Milwaukee’s oldest and longest running record store. Since 1994, Dan DuChaine and Bill Rouleau have owned and operated Rush-Mor, catering to many generations of Milwaukee music fanatics. Though some people who grew up listening to vinyl have moved on, many young listeners have taken a liking to the black plastic discs.
Thanks to the ongoing resurgence in vinyl popularity, Rush-Mor has recently been able to receive a long awaited facelift. With the help of contracting group Demo Boys, Rush-Mor’s exterior has been completely revamped, ready to take on music shoppers both old and new. Milwaukee Record talked to DuChaine via email about the store’s renovation, his long history in Milwaukee’s music scene, and where he sees vinyl going in the future.
Milwaukee Record: How is the renovation going? What changes are you making to the store? How are these changes going to influence Rush-Mor?
Dan DuChaine: The renovation has been a bit “testing,” kind of like an elephant having a baby. It’s a long, painful process, but a beautiful little miracle once it finally happens. Initially, it was going to be a quick cosmetic fix. It turned into more of a construction project. With a building as old as ours, nothing is ever easy. Because of weather, we put a hold on our internal renovation so our outside work could be completed. When all is finished, we should be able to increase our store’s inventory and hopefully resume using the shop for gatherings such as in-store performances and gallery nights.
MR: How did you decide you wanted to own a record store? Why did you pick Rush-Mor?
DD: Rush-Mor chose us, actually. It was my friend and business partner Bill Rouleau that contacted me in the fall of 1994. Growing up in Bay View, he had been working at Rush-Mor part time for some years and discovered that the original owner was at a crossroads in his life and was considering just closing Rush-Mor’s doors. He and I had shared a lot of interests, and after reaching out to me, we decided to try it for one year…which led to agreeing on five more years…which ultimately brought us to 20 years later by taking a day-by-day approach. It was Bill’s fault.
MR: You offer a very diverse collection of records here. How do you decide which albums you want to sell?
DD: A lot of our inventory reflects what our own and our visitor’s interests are. We obviously love music, and it’s the interaction with the individuals who support the store that influences the many paths we walk to explore and find modern and unheard sounds. You’ll never live long enough to hear it all. There’s not enough time, life, or energy to get through the world’s history of recordings. Knowing that keeps this whole endeavor exciting. Meeting interesting people and knowing music is a universal language with a passport to explore endlessly. That idea keeps us wanting to do this year after year.
MR: How has the vinyl resurgence affected your business? Do you have a lot of new customers? How has your customer base changed throughout the years?
DD: Over the last couple of years, there has been a major resurgence for vinyl, which has been great for all those involved. Throughout previous years, there were less and less younger people seeking out the physical information. Downloading and file sharing created a whole generation of individuals who really had no interest in the tangible product. Nowadays, we’re witnessing a younger generation returning to the shop to explore the bins. It’s been quite interesting considering all the information available. People really know their stuff! That makes it fun to continue to learn and share the information in person, and not have to engage in some kind of “mental chess match” of one-upmanship. All this being said, we have people who have been shopping at this store since its inception, before our involvement, who share their tales of all the different musical format shifts. It definitely keeps things interesting, with an intrigue of “What will happen next?” in mind. We’ll see when it arrives.
MR: What future do you see for vinyl? Do you think it’s going to remain popular and trendy, or do you think the hype is going fizzle? How will that affect Rush-Mor?
DD: Right now, it’s huge! Pressing plants are backed up for months, and there’s really no rhyme or reason for what is in demand. Everything is in demand. What’s old is now new again. Hopefully the record labels take the responsible approach and allow the product to remain (semi-)affordable. It’s so crass for them to try to exploit the passionate music lover that still wants to purchase and own the physical release. Music has been around for a long time, and there will always be demand. The means of getting it is what we will see tested, especially in these times.
MR: You’ve been involved in the Milwaukee music scene for a very long time. How has it evolved over time?
DD: Like the universe unfolding, it’s limitless. It continues to get better with time. I recall there being no shows, or not having many options. Now you can see killer local bands, as well as touring bands—even international bands—every night of the week somewhere. I often have to choose between multiple shows playing against each other at the same time. Not a bad problem to have.
MR: Are there any Milwaukee bands you really, really love?
DD: I like every band that is pushing themselves and doing the best they can to their ability within their capacity. When asked a question of that magnitude, I always go into the recesses of my mind and recall early local bands that awakened me to “underground” music that just never get a mention in Milwaukee’s music history. Early local “out there” stuff like Loud Fish Fry, basement bands like Soylent Green and Nightmare, and even a breakdance troupe called The Electric Dominoes were all very influential on my interest in playing my own music and being proactive in a music community. You have to contribute something, and you have to nurture something for it to remain strong.
MR: Where do you see the Milwaukee music scene going in the future?
DD: More bands and more bands. I love it. What we need is more places for bands to play, like venues for all ages and music to co-exist, so the scene is exposed. When things are a bit quiet, in a lull-like state, that’s when the sweet water of joyful noise boils. That’s when the fermentation takes place. It’s when the best rises to the top and the sound is the sweetest. Right now, music is nutritious, and you can’t overindulge enough.