Electric Fetus Is The Gem Of The Twin Cities
The music scene of Minneapolis has long been a thing of legend, thanks in no small part down to one of its most famous sons, Prince, as well as alt-rock acts like The Replacements and Hüsker Dü. But as well as the bigger artists to come out of Minneapolis, there’s a community of unsung heroes who have worked tirelessly over the years to facilitate and foster a lively underground culture. One of the mainstays of this community is iconic record store, Electric Fetus, with shops in Minneapolis and Duluth. Electric Fetus is a family run record store that’s been passed down from father to daughter and has just celebrated its 49th anniversary. Besides that, owner Stephanie Covart Meyerring was recently named one of Minneapolis/St Paul Business Journal’s 2017 Women In Business Award winners for her leadership and overseeing the growth of Electric Fetus.
Electric Fetus has had its fair share of hard luck, with damage caused by tornadoes and water main break. Despite some adversity, the store is clearly still going strong and is a must-see spot for music fans and crate diggers in the Twin Cities. Keen to learn more about its story, we talked to president, Stephanie Covart Meyerring!
Can you tell us a little bit about the history of the store?
The Electric Fetus is an independent music and gift store in business since 1968 with locations in Minneapolis and Duluth Minnesota best known for our funky environment, vast array of music selection, used product, vinyl, hard to find titles, in-store performances/events, and unique clothing and gift boutique.
The Electric Fetus started in the West Bank on the University of MN campus in June of 1968. We moved to our current location in Minneapolis a few years later in 1972. Our Duluth location opened in September of 1987.
From day one of opening, The Fetus, connected with the community. There weren’t many alternative places to shop back then. Large commercial entities were running the music scene and there wasn’t a niche for more independent music. The Fetus started in a young college community, which wanted a shopping alternative. The original store opened with a very small initial inventory of pre-recorded music and local artisan gift items. We just brought in what our customers wanted to buy. And by doing this, we learned a lot from them. Customers really built the stores to what they are, and continue to do so. It has become our company philosophy to listen to what our customers want. Although our 2 stores are similar, you will find a unique local flare to each one due to the community surrounding it.
In August of 2009, The Fetus in Minneapolis was hit by a tornado causing our roof to lift up and fall back down, causing extensive damage, but fortunately no injuries. There was an outpouring of support from the community. People even dropped off get-well cards and food for the staff that were helping clean up. So many people wanted to help us rebuild. A handful of bands organized a benefit show for the store to help with repairs not covered by insurance. It was extremely heartwarming and the show was sold out! We will forever be grateful.
And our Duluth store suffered significant damage in January of 2013 due to a water main break.
There have been a lot of changes at The Electric Fetus over our 49 years we have been in business. The format in which people purchase music has always evolved. We have successfully changed over the years because we do listen to our customers and community. We consistently stay up with current trends and make business changes if and when necessary. What won’t change is our commitment to turning our community on to cool music, unique gifts and providing excellent customer service.
Where does the name Electric Fetus come from?
My Dad (original owner) would say it just made sense in the ’60s with a laugh. The ’60s were “electric times”. The word electric was used a lot. Fetus referred to growing. Thought it would be something that sparked and grew fast. Now we find it to be a proper name as the organization did grow.
How long have you run Electric Fetus?
My Dad would say I took on the reins the day I was born! I grew up visiting the store often. I was usually given odds and ends jobs over the years, cleaning toilets, organizing storage spaces, answering phones, etc. I officially joined the company in July of 2007. My parents were strong believers in education and wanted me to experience life outside of the family business. Either I would find my passion or be able to bring back what I experienced to our family business. My Dad started the business because he was passionate about music; he never wanted his passion to be forced on me, unless I felt it too. And so after a brief career in interior design/visual merchandising I knew I was meant to be at the store. My husband joined the company in March of 2010. It is truly a family affair around here! My Dad retired a few years ago now.
Minneapolis has a very famous music scene; what does that look like from the perspective of a record store owner?
As you mentioned, the Twin Cities is a thriving music community. We have many wonderful artists, music venues, along with record stores. It is amazing to have such a wonderful and supportive community. It is good for the artists, customers and us. We have so many local artist titles that instead of having a local section, we have green bin cards that represent a local artist so they can be kept in their genre. Having a thriving music scene also allows us to host many in-store performances and events that bring everyone together. It is all about bringing your community together and providing a pleasant shopping experience.
What values do you try to stick to for running Electric Fetus?
Our goal is to provide the finest quality products and services to our customers. As mentioned above, we want to bring our community together and also provide a pleasant shopping experience.
Does Electric Fetus have a particular specialty or focus?
Customer service is extremely important and has been since day one. We offer buyers a friendly staff with broad expertise. At the Fetus, we want people to have an “experience” and regularly host in-store performances and events. Although we are known for our vast array of music, we are also more than music. You can buy anything from clothing, hats, purses and accessories, jewelry, baby items, candles, bath and body products, and housewares. We cater to all ages and pride ourselves in being a place where the whole family can come and enjoy themselves. We sell things that are fun!
What kind of trends have you seen come and go over the years of running Electric Fetus?
There have been a lot of changes in trends over our 49 years. The format in which people purchase music has always evolved. For a matter of years now we are seeing a resurgence of vinyl and used product (cd, lp, dvd). Although we still sell a good amount of cd’s, the trend now is buying vinyl among all ages. You have to stay current with trends and be prepared to make changes when or if necessary. And you just never know what the trend will be, who would have thought vinyl would have come back so strong in the age of downloading!
Do you notice any differences in what’s popular between the two stores?
Although our 2 stores are similar, you will find a unique local flare to each one due to the community surrounding it. Our Duluth store is in a smaller market than our Minneapolis location. Duluth tends to have its busy season during the summer months due to tourism. Even though both of our stores are in different communities, we generally don’t see a huge difference in what is sold between the stores, it is more of the quantities being sold due to Duluth being a smaller city than Minneapolis.
What are some of your favourite things about being a record store owner?
Along with being able to be surrounded by music everyday, I think my favorite thing about being a record store owner is being able to bring our community together in a positive way. Watching people come to the store and being excited about being here or what they bought is wonderful. I love that not every day is the same. There is never a dull moment and every day is different. And I also am so proud of our employees. Everyone’s roles here at the store(s) are so vital to who we are and I am appreciative of everyone who has helped shaped us and gotten us to 49 years in business.
What are the challenges?
There are always going to be challenges in business but you just have to take things one day at a time and be willing and open to change. An upcoming potential challenge for our Minneapolis and Duluth stores are construction projects in the coming months/years that will affect people being able to easily access our stores temporarily.
What does the future look like for Electric Fetus?
You know, it’s hard to look out to far in the future, but I hope for a bright future for our stores. We are committed to continuing to evolve and listen to what our customers want and stay current on trends. My husband and I have two small children and I hope someday they can be 3rd generation owners if that is where their paths take them.