Just for the record, Jim Gleason is a vinyl enthusiast. He prefers the warm, rich sounds of records over CDs any day. In fact, he’s got about 15,000 of the big flat discs in storage and on the shelves in his business, Radio Wasteland Records
The store, located at 716 George St. in Midland, opened its doors on Jan. 13, 2017, and is celebrating its fifth anniversary this Saturday.
Gleason says he made the move from acquiring records for his collection to selling records, eventually leading to opening up his first business. “For me, this has always been about the love of vinyl,” he says. “I’ve been collecting since the early ‘80s and became a serious collector around 1991 or 1992.”
Gleason’s wife researched opening up a record shop, and shortly after, Midland had a record store again after The Turntable shuttered in 2003.
Since the store opened in 2017, the business model has remained the same: carry vinyl music only.
Heather Freeman, Jim Gleason, and wife, Kim, at Record Store Day 2021.
“I know CDs are going through a little bit of what vinyl went through in the ‘90s,” Gleason says, “but we made that decision to remain vinyl only all the way throughout, as a true, true record store.”
Today, the store stocks a huge variety of music ranging from classic country, rock ‘n’ roll, Michigan music, jazz, polka, soundtracks, and more.
“We’re the kind of record store where you can come in and buy a $1 polka record and then step up to a $200-300 collectible record, and pretty much everything in between.”
With holidays like Record Store Day celebrating locally-owned small business shops and tangible music products, vinyl is yet again in its heyday. For Gleason, it’s a superb listening format.
"The Dude" is one of the record store's dogs.
“It’s the warmth of the sound; it’s the nature of having something tangible in your hand to hold. You get liner notes, you get artwork — it’s the entire package for me that makes vinyl a more preferable medium to enjoy music.”
Gleason used to teach audio and video. He knows different people prefer different mediums.
“There’s differences, obviously, in the way the sound is structured,” he says. “It’s analog when it’s on vinyl. It’s prone to damage and scratching and popping, but that adds to the characteristics of that. Digital, of course, you get to maintain the integrity of the original sound, but you lose some of the audio spectrum in the digitization process. Now, that’s come a long way.”
Even with a vinyl resurgence, streaming music platforms like Spotify are still very popular and act as a vessel.
“Streaming subscriptions are also a gateway for them to discover what it is they truly like, and then they seek that out on vinyl to have that tangible, physical representation of the music,” Gleason says.
Vinyl records for sale at RWR, located at 716 George Street in Midland.
Over the years, a strong Facebook
presence and Youtube Channel
has helped the store grow from “a quaint record shop to a full-blown record store,” Gleason says. After a move next door in 2019, their overall space was tripled.
“We’ve got such a nice customer base that we’ve built up over the past five years,” he says. “It’s really kind of a neat, little family that has discovered us and chosen to make us their destination for vinyl. I’m very appreciative and thankful of that.”
Customers of all ages visit from the Midland area, Sanford, Gladwin, Clare, Alma, and even trek from Traverse City or Detroit to browse the selection of new and used, vintage vinyl on a weekly basis.
“We’re always being discovered by other people. One of our catchphrases is ‘yes, Midland has a record store,’” Gleason says. “No matter how much we try to reach out, every week, I get someone saying, ‘I had no idea Midland had a record store.’
For their anniversary event,
Radio Wasteland is hosting live radio remotes Friday and Saturday afternoons with autographed Greta Van Fleet CDs and turntable mat giveaways. They’re also giving away a new turntable. Stop by the store this week to be entered, no purchase necessary.