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Q&A: Welcome Back Records shares tips for its 'biggest' Record Store Day

"The Midwest — more so than Southern states — really hit records hard during the time there was to hit them, so you find bigger, better, badder collections here."
Q&A: Welcome Back Records shares tips for its 'biggest' Record Store Day
Rachel Dostal, Morrison Agen and Neli Jasarevic of Welcome Back Records.

In the old Wildwood Liquors building at 3019 Broadway, you’ll find Welcome Back Records: A haven of rare and eclectic discs, stereo equipment and streetwear consignment.

In the back room, Owner Morrison Agen is busy restoring vintage stereos to mint condition – “taking them back to getting in your Wayback Machine with Peabody, going back to 1973 and buying them brand new,” he says.

Among his tasks? Rebuilding a power supply board from scratch — one of many restoration skills he picked up during the pandemic, watching hours of xraytonyb videos on YouTube. For Agen, it’s just the latest foray into a long-held passion for music and gear. The former owner of Neat Neat Neat Records & Music on Calhoun has been a fixture in the city’s music scene for decades — his daughter, Addison Agen, famously becoming first runner-up on NBC's The Voice Season 13.

Agen says Addison is “doing great” in Nashville. Back home in Fort Wayne, he’s gearing up to celebrate his second Record Store Day at his new shop, which happens to fall on April 20 (4/20), and it might be his biggest to date. Case in point: He’s been participating in the event since 2011 (with the exception of a few years off between businesses), and his order of records this year is his largest ever.

“There’s something in the neighborhood of 420 titles that will be released that day nationwide, and we’ll have a lot in store – both new and remastered,” Agen says. “It’s not just the quantity of titles either, but the quality of those titles. The list is pretty superb.”

Doors open 8 a.m.-7 p.m., and the Bravas food truck will be onsite from 8 a.m.-10:30 a.m., too. 

We sat down with Agen to learn more about must-snag titles on Record Store Day this year – and just how big of a “record city” Fort Wayne is becoming.

Q: Before record store day begins, there are a few big titles coming out. Tell us about those.

MA: We have a Pink Floyd remaster that’s on this double LP, where each LP is single-sided with a screen print on clear vinyl, so you can see through the records. Taylor Swift’s new album is coming out the day before Record Store Day, too, and we have about 25 on order.

We’re not usually a strong Taylor Swift store. Part of it is the cost of her records is high. The cheapest is about $35, and some are $65. Then, when she puts out a new record, she typically has five or six variants of colors and cover art. So instead of tapping her fans on the shoulder once, she’s tapping them five or six times for $50-$65 per unit.

She’s done some Record Store Day titles in the past, too, which are extremely hot items. I’ve had somebody consign me the Record Store Day versions of Red and Fearless. They were $700 a piece, and we sold them within a couple of days. Fearless was a limited run of about 1,500 copies or something like that, so considering how many tens of millions of fans she has, its bonkers that we got that, and I took about 200 phone calls about it from all over the place.

Q: How big of a “record city” is Fort Wayne?

MA: That’s an interesting question. I think it’s pretty big. But I think it could be bigger, and here’s how: Some of my compatriots who own other stores might disagree, but I think we need more record stores. That way, you’re creating a culture. Just look at Columbus, Ohio. Sure, it’s a bigger town than Fort Wayne by population, and they have bigger universities there. But there are more than 20 record stores in Columbus, and they’re all killing it. Every one of them is in the black, and on High Street, they are literally next door to each other. They’ve created a culture — more so than I’ve seen even in some big cities, like LA. 

Now, I don’t know if I’d be super stoked if another store opened right across the street here. But it takes more individually owned stores in this town to grow our culture — meaning different people owning the stores, so they’re bringing in different stuff.

But we definitely have a strong thumbprint here already. A few things we’re known for at Welcome Back Records: We tend to attract really interesting, rare shit. Just look at the wall behind our cash register. There’s a near-mint condition first press of John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme that we found out of a garage about a mile from here. The Midwest — more so than Southern states — really hit records hard during the time there was to hit them, so you find bigger, better, badder collections here and on the East coast.

Q: How do you source records?

MA: People come to me all the time. We run into boatloads of crazy rare records all the time, across all genres. Part of that is: We’ve gotten the reputation for being super fair with people when they come in with stuff. We’re going to pay them right, and we’re going to pay them right now. We make a fair offer, and no hard feelings if it’s not the right offer, but it’s what we can absorb.

As a result, we are floating in records right now. We have probably 5,000 pieces on the floor that are not yet priced, but we’re getting to them. It is a full-time job for my stepdaughter Rachel Dostal and Neli Jasarevic to grade and price stuff all day, every day. And to help with marketing and keep the store clean. We also consign streetwear, and we do a lot of stereo equipment restoration, too. I do all of the restoration of our gear, and I have about a year’s worth of work right now.

Q: What will be hot items on Record Store Day?

MA: There’s a Hives Black & White LP Vinyl (limited to 4,000 copies) people are goo-goo, ga-ga about. We’ve got 15 on order. Cheech & Chong’s Up In Smoke (40th Anniversary Deluxe Collection) LP. A South Park record (Celebrating 25 years of the animated sitcom) people are crazy about. DIO’s The Last In Line (40th Anniversary Zoetrope Picture Disc) with an image that moves as it spins. 

We do really well with jazz on Record Store Day. We’re a jazz-heavy shop anyway, as you can see on our walls. There’s a Bill Evans record (Everybody Digs Bill Evans) out that’s pretty cool. Another band called Horse the Band (A Natural Death). They were very popular about 20 years ago, and they’ve done the past couple Record Store Days, and those have been very hot for people who are into it. There’s also this guy Noah Kahan (I was/I am). I had not heard of him until Record Store Day last year when I got asked about his record a ton. So this year, I’m ready, and I’m bringing in 10, and whatever we don’t move, we open up to folks on Reddit and Discogs.

Q: Do you have a personal favorite record of all time?

MA: That’s unfair. I could give you a top few maybe. Einstürzende Neubauten’s Alles Wieder Offen in 2007. They’re a German experimental band.

John Coltrane’s Giant Steps was my first jazz record.

Jawbox’s Novelty was a great record from 1992. I also have a soft spot in my heart for Screaming Trees’s Sweet Oblivion, and The Cure’s Wish was really important for me.

There’s so many.