Bob Wirtz owns the only record store in Portland. Say whaat? Are those fighting words? “There are places that sell records, T-shirts and CDs and stuff. But we are the only ones selling just records.”
Hawking LPs on the streets of Portland long before you could score a vegan brownie or micro brew (circa 1987), I believe him.
At the helm of Enterprise Records he can size up a repeat customer in two minutes. “You like the Talking Heads, right?” he asked a leather clad man with specks last week. “Kinda.” “Oh right, you’re more into these guys,” he says holding up an Echo and the Bunnymen record. “Yes, I have that one,” the customer says.
… “I just just picked up some old Ramones.”
And so it goes.
Amazon may offer suggestions based on computerized algorithms, but Bob is 100 percent analogue. He is the reason bricks and mortar rock.
After hopscotching among four locations on Congress Street, he landed safely on Park Street last month. We find him listening to “Houses of the Holy” and selling The Beatles Greatest Hits to a regular for $2 and change.
Did you have to move because the landlord raised your rent?
No, he gave me no reason. I had two choices either move or go out of business.
That’s harsh. Eh, I like this space. Since I opened business has been as good, if not better. I’d say it’s probably better. I get three or four people a week who are finding me for the first time.
Where do you get your records? Let’s just say I get ’em.
Why don’t you sell CDS?
CDs, DVDs, all that stuff, it’s just like books. If you don’t know about them, you can’t run a viable business. It’s what I know, it’s what I really like. It’s worked for me.
So records are really your brand.
I don’t think like that.
Why not, we are living in the age of “Brand Me.”
I think it’s vulgar. I’m sure you know they are trying to brand Maine now. We are people, it’s a state. We are not a brand. Maine is not a product.
How far will you travel to buy records?
Wherever they are. I’ve gone to Miami Beach, England. Heading up to Lubec soon to check out a collection.
What’s the secret to staying in business for 27 years?
Have stuff that people want and provide an inviting atmosphere.
That sounds simple enough.
You have to pay attention to what you are doing. You gotta know your stuff. Knowing about music is good, but you’ve got to know about records. I’m fussy.
I went into it because I thought it would be interesting. Now I love it. I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do.