A hub of musical culture for more than 50 years, Finders Records is for sale and ready for a new owner.
Greg Halamay founded Finders in 1971, as a 19-year-old Bowling Green State University student. Now he’s ready for retirement.
His father, Ross Halamay, was his partner, who held several positions in the record distribution industry.
“I counted records for my dad when I was 10 years old. Everything was counted in 25s back then, a stack of 25 and then you criss-cross them, and another stack of 25,” Halamay said, reliving those heady days with fresh 45 rpm records. “I was raised around the records.”
Halamay is still fond of the industry.
“The music industry is just plain fun,” Halamay said. “The product is continually changing and dealing with the public is very rewarding.”
The time period for the opening of Finders Records was a big one for the industry.
“In 1971, when I started this, the whole pop music thing was just a hotbed of artists. You talk about all the classic artists: The Byrds, Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, the Doors, Jimi Hendrix. The list goes on and on and on.”
Beyond the music, Halamay has also enjoyed the employees.
“There’s not a month that goes by when somebody who worked for me, maybe 25 years ago, doesn’t stop by to say hello. I cherish those employees,” Halamay said.
Then there are the customers.
“Another element of the record business that has been so attractive is that you get to work with a product that is so fulfilling to so many people. Music is such a broad spectrum. We’ve always called ourselves your music library, and we’ve always tried to provide music for everyone, from children, to teens, to young adults and adults.
“The past couple Record Store Days parents have brought in a 7 or 8-year-old, that had a record that he wanted to buy. To this day, we have customers in their late 80s and early 90s.”
There were lean times, but the reemergence of vinyl revitalized things.
“Records are cool again and small record shops are open again,” Halamay said. “We survived, along with about 500 other independent record stores. Today, there are about 800 indie record stores, according to Record Store Day.”
Record Store Day is typically a single day in the spring, when the record labels bring out special recordings, or pressings, of vinyl records, to support independent record stores and a special Saturday release day.
He only sells new pressings of records, which is a business decision.
“We’re a destination store for new pressing collectors,” Halamay said. “With Record Store Day, we try to bring in as many titles as we can. My philosophy has always been to generate the best selection, with whatever configuration that recording has had.”
He used to sell cassette tapes, with some people still referring to the tape sales as part of the store name. He still sells CDs. At one time he sold used CDs, but when the vinyl boom started, he got out of the used market.
Halamay will miss the business.
“It’s hard to capture in words. The music business, for the right people, is just plain old fun. The product is continually changing. Dealing with the general public can be a lot of work, but it can also be extremely rewarding, with the dedicated and loyal customers,” he said.
He has fond memories of his start in downtown.
”Going through those difficult years, the opportunity to work for myself, call my own shots and take my own risks. I think anyone who goes into business for themselves has to be somewhat of a risk taker. I’ve always considered myself to be a risk taker.”
Finders was an individually owned store, even when there were five locations. That was in contrast to the big box stores that eventually emerged from the ashes of the large chain music stores that were in malls across America. Those stores disappeared with the advent of digital technology and the disappearance of malls.
A new renaissance began with the rediscovery of vinyl.
“As vinyl grew, as a new physical creativity, it brought people back into the physical store,” Halamay said.
He still sells CDs, which are still 25-30% of the store sales.
“I’ve never given up on the compact disc,” Halamay said. “CDs are still collected.”
He had experienced difficult times. The big box stores had been selling product, even vinyl, as a loss leader. Some of those big box retail prices were less than Halamay’s cost.
He compared the Blanchard River flood of 2007 to a mini-Katrina, which ultimately resulted in the decision to close the Findlay location. It was too risky a spot and too much effort to reopen, in a downtown that might have been five years to get back going.
The pandemic was tough. The store was closed for 14 months straight.
“I had to take the unknowns of the virus, I had to take my own health and that of my family into account. I made the very, very difficult decision. I had never been closed for more than three days in a row, for 48 years,” Halamay said.
Then he was showing up by himself. The regular staff was all gone. He’s thankful that they were all able to find new jobs, but he came in to do the books and box up some online purchases. The difficulty of the time is deeply reflected in his voice.
“When I reopened I saw the outpouring of support from the community that has been just tremendous. It was so hopeful. I’ve been opened again for a little over 12 months now and I’ve just met so many of my loyal customers and finally been able to meet them personally.
“One positive thing the pandemic created, for not just my community, but across the globe was the realization of how important it is to support the businesses that are in their communities, whether it’s retail, a restaurant, or whatever,” Halamay said.
He did cut back his hours.
“With my intentions to retire, I didn’t want to reach back to the seven-day, 12-hour grind. Quite simply, it’s time for me to slow down. At this point I am riding an open timeline.”
Five years ago he had started to let people know that he wanted to retire.
“I’m looking forward to exercising some freedoms,” Halamay said. “I was 19 when I started, as a BGSU student, and today, I’m 70.”