Flat, Black & Circular celebrates 35 years in E.L.
Cheboygan, Mich., resident Charles Gibbons, left, and Haslett resident Micah Williams browse CDs Friday, Nov. 30, 2012, at Flat, Black & Circular, 541 E. Grand River Ave. The store has been around since 1977. Julia Nagy/The State News
For Dave Bernath, the owner of Flat, Black & Circular, or FBC, 541 E. Grand River Ave., collecting music quickly transformed from a hobby into a full-blown career.
The East Lansing store, which sells records and CDs across genres and generations of music, celebrated its 35th anniversary in September — and Bernath couldn’t be any happier.
“It’s been a great run; it’s been a fun ride,” Bernath said. “Things come and go here in East Lansing, but we’ve stayed here and managed to buy and sell music.”
Bernath opened the store in 1977. Although former co-owner Dick Rosemont left FBC in 2010, Bernath said the store is still going strong.
As a belated anniversary present, Michigan-based concert promoter Fusion Shows hosted the Flat, Black & Circular 35th Anniversary Bash Friday evening at The Loft, 414 E. Michigan Ave., in Lansing. Rock-folk band Frontier Ruckus, which partially is made up of MSU alumni, headlined the show. The lineup also included Utah rock band Desert Noises and The Lansing Unionized Vaudeville Spectacle.
Cheboygan, Mich., resident Charles Gibbons looks at CDs on Friday, Nov. 30, 2012, at Flat, Black & Circular, 541 E. Grand River Ave. Gibbons said he stops into the store any time he's in the area. Julia Nagy/The State News
Despite the celebration, Bernath said he can’t help but think back to the good old days.
“It seems like the quality (of music) was so much better back then,” he said. “There were shows in small bars and blues and jazz, and that’s kind of limited now. All the bars have gone (disc jockey), and there’s not enough live music.”
But for education senior Shannon Cummings, the concert was her first opportunity to see Frontier Ruckus live after falling in love with their sound.
“My friend invited me to come (to the show), so I looked them up on YouTube, and to my surprise, I really like them,” Cummings said. “They have a really folksy feel, and I love that kind of music.”
Although he said the music scene in East Lansing has changed since he first opened FBC, Bernath still recalls the various bands that used to visit East Lansing, including several Red Hot Chili Peppers concerts at Mac’s Bar, 2700 E. Michigan Ave., in Lansing.
“Red Hot Chili Peppers (shows) were pretty exciting at Mac’s back in the day,” he said. “There was a lot of key shows in the (Union) and bars that have been really good.”
Jon Howard, Flat, Black & Circular’s manager, said he is happy the store weathered the storm of the changing industry. In fact, he said he has seen a comeback of vinyl within the past five years.
“I’m pretty amazed at this point,” Howard said. “There was the point where everything went electronic and everyone started dumping their entire collection, thinking they could get everything on their computer or iPod — and we made it through that.”
As for Bernath, the ever-present promise of old-school music buyers gives him hope for the future of his business.
“Lots of people are downloading music now, not buying CDs or records,” he said. “But there’s still the die-hards out there who keep going.”