Home Culture Chip Heuisler of Tunes Hoboken Celebrates 25th Anniversary in Business

Chip Heuisler of Tunes Hoboken Celebrates 25th Anniversary in Business

by Hoboken Girl Team
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It’s no secret that COVID-19 has impacted all industries — both big and small — to measurable extents. One industry that had to act quickly for stay-at-home orders was the music industry, with several of its sectors to take into consideration, particularly local record stores. Independent record stores have faced a lot of uncertainty during this time, as nonessential businesses were prompted to close their doors to promote social distancing. During this time, store owners were presented with unique challenges on how to maintain their businesses and retain customers. Record stores, many of which rely on sales from foot traffic, have had to strategize how to uphold sales without the assurance of in-store purchases.

In Hoboken’s stretch of local shops, the Mile Square’s beloved record store, Tunes Hoboken, closed its doors mid-March to adhere to city guidelines for COVID-19 but has reopened and is celebrating their 25 anniversary! Hoboken Girl had the chance to speak with Chip Heuisler, owner of Tunes, about making it to 25 years in business as well as the coronavirus’ impact on the shop, and how he plans to keep the music going.

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Tunes opened for business on December 7, 1995, in a 900 sq ft storefront at 315 Washington Street before moving to the current 225 Washington St location in 1999. Celebrating ten years of business is a very significant milestone, let alone 25 years. Tunes has been a staple in the community for decades and continues to persevere and thrive in the current competitive climate. It’s no surprise that what residents love about this store is that they get a unique experience to shop rare music products in a familiar, friendly environment.

“Hoboken has always been special for me and I felt at home right away when I opened Tunes. My very first customer on the opening day still comes in every year to visit despite moving out of state years ago. Hoboken also has a rich musical history, from being the birthplace of Frank Sinatra to the home of a legendary music venue, Maxwell’s. I feel very fortunate to be part of this town, both as a Record Store and as a small business owner in general,” Chip told Hoboken Girl.

“I view Tunes as part of a community of Independent Record Stores throughout the country. I am always trying to improve the customer experience at Tunes, and a lot of that comes from my interactions with other record stores,” he added.

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Chip, it’s great to virtually meet you, and we hope you and your family are staying safe. For residents and visitors who haven’t yet been to Tunes, can you give us a brief history of the shop?

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Chip Heuisler: I opened Tunes in 1995 at 315 Washington Street and moved to our current location at 225 Washington Street in 1999. Tunes was part of a small chain of record stores that I owned with a friend from high school. In 2018, I split with my partner and now own the Hoboken location independently. 

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Music retail has gone through many changes in the 25 years that I’ve been in Hoboken. We still sell plenty of CDs and DVDs, but the resurgence of vinyl has been at the core of our business for years now. Sales of new and used vinyl now make up almost 65% of our in-store sales. It’s been a wonderful thing to watch a new generation of music lovers discover vinyl.

What has managing Tunes been like since the pandemic started?

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CH: It’s definitely been strange. When we closed in mid-March, I had seven employees — two full-time and five part-time. Part-timers were immediately furloughed. I continued to come to the store every day to fulfill our online orders, and one employee worked from home listing and pricing inventory for a couple of weeks. With the recent addition of curbside pickup and eventual re-opening, I have begun rehiring staff.

See More: Calling All Musicians: Virtual Music Lessons to Take Online ASAP

Local shops are finding alternatives to selling vinyl and merchandise to customers. What purchasing options are available for customers? 

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CH: I consider Tunes to be in a fortunate position because selling online has been an integral part of our business model for a long time with established marketplaces on Amazon and eBay. The pandemic did force me to expand our online presence further, as I looked to add more revenue streams. We established a new marketplace on Discogs, a great music-only marketplace. I also increased marketing and awareness for our website, tuneshoboken.com.

What have you had to do during the pandemic to change your business model? How do you see operations changing for the foreseeable future?

CH: I will continue to double-down on online sales by adding inventory to existing marketplaces and looking for new opportunities. I believe it’s going to take some time for in-store revenue to return to pre-pandemic levels, so expanding online revenue will be key for Tunes. I also envision the necessity to operate with leaner staffing and potentially shorter business hours.

Are you seeing any trends in how both shops and fans are continuing to share information about new releases? Has Tunes used social media to help with spreading the word?

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CH: I started with new social media accounts in 2020 and have focused mainly on Instagram. This year we started posting new release highlights every Friday. We also have had a lot of success with pre-orders on our website, especially when an artist releases a limited edition vinyl version of their release.

Record Store Day, originally scheduled for April 18th, has been turned into “RSD Drops,” with releases set for August, September, and October. Can you tell us more about plans for this year’s annual event and what Tunes’ customers can expect?

CH: Record Store Day has really become a tremendous event. It is our single biggest day of sales by far every year. Usually, somewhere in the vicinity of 400 unique vinyl releases are made available only at participating indie record stores. 

Originally rescheduled for June, organizers have since created the three-month “RSD Drops” schedule. More details became available on June 1st, but the basic premise is that the original list of releases will be spread out over these three drop dates. The hopeful outcome is that stores like Tunes can still offer this product to our customers, but do so in a way that allows us to properly manage any social distancing occupancy guidelines that may still be in place.

Read More: Guitar Bar: A Music Lover’s Paradise in Hoboken

What are you currently spinning, and which release{s} are you most looking forward to?

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CH: I’ve been finding myself going back to old familiar albums. Today’s record rotation included classics from the Who, Tom Petty, Rolling Stones, J.J. Cale, Bob Marley, and Cream.

On the new side, Jason Isbell — Reunions is a great record. I’m also looking forward to new music from three of my favorites —Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and Steve Earle.

Last but not least, what has been your favorite album of 2020?

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Drive-By Truckers — The Unraveling.

Tunes Hoboken is located on 225 Washington Street with curbside pickup available 12:00PM-3:00 Monday through Saturday. You can shop online, visit the store’s online marketplaces, and find out more information here


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