Downtown Dearborn record store successfully weathers changing music patterns for nearly two decades

Windy Weber has been working in record stores for 29 years. It's not a stretch to say that music is her life, and it's something she freely admits. Both she and her husband, Carl Hultgren, had an extreme love for music at an early age, spending many a summer day flipping through bins of records while their friends played outdoors.

It's that love for music--and a bull-headedness, she says--that drove Weber and Hultgren to open their own record store, Stormy Records, in July 1999. And it's that same love for music--and bull-headedness--that keeps them open to this day. Weber and Hultgren own and operate their business together, and also make music as the ambient duo Windy and Carl.

It's not an easy business to run in the 21st century, but that doesn't make it any less important. While digital music downloads have helped crush the record store industry, the record store remains at an irreplaceable crossroads of culture and community. 
 
Weber, who started working at Record Town in Southland Mall in 1988, still serves customers that she sold records to when she was 16 years old. She knows her customers so well, in fact, that she often offers personal guarantees on her recommendations.

"I know that you, based on what else you've bought from us, ]are going to like this record. If you don't, you can bring it back. Nobody's ever--well, actually, once, my friend Jamie brought something back--but in 18 years, all those people that I've given those recommendations to, they have come back and said, 'I loved blah-blah-blah, I want more.'"

Weber and Hultgren started Stormy Records in 1999, just on the precipice of the digital music revolution that has since shuttered so many record stores the world over. Weber says other record store owners told them they were crazy, that they shouldn't even bother. She says she even got flack for being a woman opening her own record store. While it hasn't been the easiest business to run, Stormy Records is still here, nearly two decades later.

Stormy has stayed open for a number of reasons, and a big reason is their flexibility. In 1999, 90 percent of the products carried were new releases. Today, that number has flipped, and 90 percent of Stormy's stock is made up of used records. The business is on its sixth location, always on the hunt for the right mix of responsible landlords, affordable rent, and adequate parking.

Since 1999, five of their six locations have been located in east downtown Dearborn. It's another factor for their remaining open. They can manage the rent, the retail scene is healthy with foot traffic, and their being near the border of Detroit means that they get a more diverse stock of used records.

The constants that remain are the music and the customers, and the fact that a record store is a sort of clubhouse. It's more than just shopping; it's a place where people gather, learn about music, and tell stories. Every conversation, says Weber, is a learning experience.

"One of our mottos is that we are caretakers of memories. Those records were really loved. They truly had a place in someone's life. And it is our job to help those records find a new place in someone else's life and that they're going to be just as cared for," says Weber. "It's not about money. We're used to the fact that we live carefully. It's about a true and incredible love for music and what we do: Helping people hear music that is going to change their lives. That is how we've managed to stay open all these years, because we're pretty obsessed with what we do."

Year Stormy Records opened: We opened in July of 1999. We are about to be 18

Name and title: Windy Weber, co-owner

What is one interesting job you held before owning Stormy Records: I have only ever sold records, so having my own shop is no different than what I have always done

What are one or two of your favorite in-store performances that you've hosted: Jack Rose playing in our shop was amazing

Stormy Records is located at 13306 Michigan Ave. in Dearborn. Find them on Facebook.

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Read more articles by MJ Galbraith.

MJ Galbraith is a writer and musician living in Detroit. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.
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