As the tables turn: Flat, Black & Circular celebrates 40 years in East Lansing
Flat, Black & Circular, an East Lansing record store located on Grand River Ave, is celebrating its 40th anniversary this week.
Opened in 1977 on Tuesday, Sept. 26, the self-proclaimed longest running record shop in mid-Michigan is holding a celebration to commemorate four decades of excellence in the record sales business. Co-founders Dave Bernath and Dick Rosemont (Bernath still runs the business) will be in attendance.
Flat, Black & Circular is East Lansing’s only record store, however, there used to be many more. Most recently, The Record Lounge in downtown East Lansing shut its doors, but now it’s just Flat, Black & Circular.
“As time went on and things went to CD's and went to phones and computers, it’s dwindled down to just us now,” said Bernath, of Bath Township. “But I’ve always believed in vinyl, I guess, and it still proves to be sellable.”
The first event of the day will be an all-day celebration at the record shop’s actual location, on 541 E. Grand River Ave, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., hosted by the co-founders and long-time employees.
“We’ve got customers that are still here after we started 40 years ago. They still come in. And hopefully some of those people we haven’t seen in years will come in,” said Bernath.
“We hope it is kind of a reunion, party kind of thing during the day here,” said store manager, Jon Howard of Owosso.
Then at 7 p.m., the party will move to the Avenue Café, located on 2021 E. Michigan Ave, for a live performance from two bands: Atomic Boogaloo and the Jonestown Crows, two local acts. By their own admissions, Bernath and Howard said that Atomic Boogaloo is “jazzy” and the Jonestown Crows are a rock band containing elements of folk and country.
Food and drinks will be available, and according to Flat, Black & Circular’s press release, “obligatory discussions on rare, limited-edition slabs of wax are inevitable.”
So, what’s the secret to Bernath keeping his shop open for so long?
“It wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for MSU students,” said Bernath. “That’s why we built it here, because we wanted to be close to MSU because of all the students. I don’t know if East Lansing could support a music store like this.”
Record sales in past years have dipped, but over the course of the last 3 to 5 years, vinyl has been making a big comeback. In fact, it’s making such a big comeback in the music industry, labels are starting to print their own vinyl records again. This summer, it was announced that Sony was going to begin pressing records for the first time in 28 years.
Brandon Bond, of Okemos, says he’s been going to Flat, Black & Circular since his college days in 1997, he still goes and shops with his kids. He started out collecting obscure hip-hop CD's, but went on to collect vinyl.
“My reason for going there has changed over the years. It’s funny because I started going there for CDs, but that store particularly pushed me into looking into different music,” said Bonds. “Going through records and realizing, ‘Wow look at all this stuff that I’ve never heard of. I want to check it out. And it’s a dollar.’"
As the world turns, vinyl sales ebb and flow, but it seems like one thing will always be for certain: Flat, Black & Circular being a staple of East Lansing.
“You have to change with the times,” said Bernath.
He said that even though vinyl is the store’s bread and butter, they know how to stay open.
“You know we started with vinyl, then cassettes, then CDs, and it just keeps evolving. Hopefully people will still be buying music in a store.”