For the Record: Flying Pig Records

By Peter Lindblad

FLYING PIG RECORDS in Toronto opened in 2009. Photos courtesy of Flying Pig Records
FLYING PIG RECORDS in Toronto opened in 2009. Photos courtesy of Flying Pig Records

Mike Besser and Steve Himmel (at right) have both been collecting vinyl since they were teenagers. They met at a record show where Besser was a vendor and Himmel was a customer. Both have worked in record stores over the years, and Besser has been doing record shows for over 20 years.

They opened their store in October 2009. “We have both always wanted a retail location,” says Besser. “With the resurgence of vinyl we thought this would be the right time to open. Since the opening the local community has been very supportive.”

What was your first job?

Mike Besser:
My first job was as a grill cook for McDonald’s after school. I did not last too long there and moved on to work at a record store.

What was the first record you ever bought?

The first record I bought was The Beatles by The Beatles. I paid a whopping $6.99.

When did the idea of owning your own record store first occur to you?

I’ve wanted to own a record store since I was in my twenties. Music has always been a passion, and I loved spending hours going through record stores. It seemed to lessen the pressures of day to day life.

What do you specialize in?

We specialize in ’60s and ’70s rock, 45s and new releases. There are some ’80s rock and blues, jazz and classical as well.

Has the neighborhood where your store is located changed over the years?

MB: The neighborhood has changed for the better. More businesses have opened and a younger group of people have moved into the neighborhood.

How has the music retail market changed over the years?

MB: The music retail market is a constantly changing. It’s like a roller-coaster ride. Just look at the formats that have come and gone — vinyl, reel-to-reel, 8-tracks, cassettes, CDs, MP3s and now back to vinyl.

Have you noticed a resurgence in vinyl record sales?

MB: Vinyl has come back with a vengeance. Even though we sell CDs, our sales are 95% vinyl. Vintage vinyl and new release vinyl is a 70-30 split.Vinyl was and is better quality sound.

What does your store offer that few, if any, others do?

Our store offers a free digital copy of any LP you buy over $10. We have a record care service which includes record cleaning as well as a protective coating put on your records. We also offer a record-find service: If you’re looking for a particular LP or 45, we will search it out for you.

Who are some of your favorite customers from over the years and why?

MB: It’s have to pick anyone as a favorite. A great many of our customers are like family. They come in and chat, bring us coffee and just hang out.

What was the biggest day the store’s ever had?

MB: The biggest day we have had is when a gentleman came in and purchased everything we had in KISS items — records, CDs and memorabilia. That, along with the other sales for the day, made a great day. If we could do that even once a week I could take an early retirement.

Ever had anybody famous come in and shop at your store?

MB: Nobody famous yet, but we are still young.

What is the future of stores like yours?

MB: I think stores like ours will always be around. The key is to keep your expenses low, the variety and quality of your stock high and the resale prices reasonable.

What’s the best part of being the owner of a record store and what’s the worst?

MB: The best part of owning a record store is seeing the look on a customer’s face when he finds that item they have been looking for. The worst part of owning a store … so far there is no down side. Well, maybe the hours, at times.


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