Photos by JennyMarie Farris
Last year, Matt Muente dropped out of school, drove a truck out to Colorado, picked up several thousand records, came back to Milwaukee, and — at the age of 20 — opened Industry Records on Center Street in Riverwest.
“[In college] it felt like I wasn’t really going anywhere,” he said on a recent afternoon, sitting on a couch in the front of the store — a long and narrow room with bright blue and yellow walls. “I was just treading water. I felt like I should get out more and develop something.”
When a friend in Colorado told Muente he was closing his store and needed to sell the merchandise, Muente made a quick decision. “It was a spontaneous thing,” Muente said. “One day I was like, ‘Hey, I’m opening a record store.'”
Industry Records specializes in electronic music and hip hop. Muente freely admits, “I’d always wanted to be a DJ but I was never quite [good enough] to actually make it.” Instead, he now focuses on providing Milwaukee DJs and electronic music fans with records and equipment — including about 5,500 records, turntables, needles, mixers, and t-shirts.
Since the store officially opened in April, the record selection has changed a bit to meet the requests of customers. For example, Industry Records now carries punk CDs because, as Muente put it, “It’s a very punk neighborhood.”
He said he makes changes practically everyday. “I learned that I should not let my personal tastes really come into it,” he said. “I should really more get input from the customers.”
So far, the store has been successful. Rent is $600/month, and expenses are low. (Muente has no employees.) The store has already earned enough to cover the next month’s rent and expenses. The store is also filling a niche. Muente visits Chicago often to look for new music, and tries to stock records previously unavailable in Milwaukee.
After opening his store, he also realized that many Milwaukee DJs live in Riverwest. “It was unexpected what a good location I’d have for my store,” he said.
Muente, who recently moved to Riverwest from the East Side, quickly learned that owning your own business is no easy job. The store’s opening was delayed by several months because, Muente said, “I didn’t realize how much work it was starting my own business. There were a few unexpected roadblocks along the way. It’s turned into a kind of 24-hour-a-day job.”
Muente said he has had some problems with neighborhood children wanting to hang out at the store during school hours. Some of their parents even came looking for them at the store. “I don’t want to encourage that,” Muente said. “I made sure [the kids] know you can’t be in here during the day if you’re a school kid.”
The store was robbed several weeks ago. A week later, someone tried to break in again, but was unsuccessful. The front window has also been graffitied. “Security is still one of my concerns,” Muente said. “I put a lot of money into the security system and gates and everything.”
Despite the occasional problems, Muente said he loves running a record store, especially in Riverwest. “It’s just a lot of fun to interact with all the different people from around here,” he said. “Sometimes its fun, sometimes it can be crazy.”
Muente hopes to start promoting local DJs and events and plans to expand the record selection. (He just placed an order for $5,000 of merchandise last week.) A mail-order web-site and E-bay online store are in the works. He is even thinking about opening a bar or restaurant in the area.
“It seems like Center Street’s becoming the main street of Riverwest,” Muente said, glancing outside as several teenagers walked by. “It’s really developing its own special kind of cool. I like it here.”
Industry Records 906 E. Center St. 414/264-6666