Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 5/12/2021 (212 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
If you haven’t visited Osborne Village mainstay Urban Waves lately, don’t be alarmed when you’re met by thousands of vinyl albums, the next time you poke your head through the front door.
Pivot has become a bit of a catchword during COVID, what with scores of people switching careers, addresses… even partners. ("Why the pandemic is causing spikes in break-ups and divorces," screamed a recent, BBC headline.) It would appear pivot is the name of the game at Urban Waves, as well.
In early November a new, exterior sign went up there, announcing the presence of Old Gold Vintage Vinyl, a quality, used record shop that had already been on site in one form or another for a little over two years. No need to worry, Michele Arcand, Urban Waves’ founder, assures longtime customers initially perplexed by her and co-owner Brent Jackson’s store-within-a-store concept; neither she nor her array of pop culture paraphernalia, hand-crafted jewelry and funky, fashion accessories are going anywhere, any time soon.
"A few have come to look around who’ve asked, ‘Is it still Urban Waves?’" Arcand admits, standing next to a display of ceramic coffee mugs, among the most popular being ones emblazoned with images of TV’s the Golden Girls. "When we point out all the usual items are still here, but how they’re displayed differently in and around the records, then yes, they are relieved."
That Urban Waves now houses a record store run by Jackson, 41, a former DJ who has been selling albums and singles online for close to 20 years, continues a long tradition of used music outlets in Osborne Village. Greg Tonn’s venerable Into the Music was situated there for years, ahead of moving to its present home in the Exchange District. So too was Music Trader, an extension of iconic video store Movie Village.
Arcand guesses she was 10 or 11 when she began poking through the bins of the late, great Stereo Swap Shop, which, throughout the 1970s and into the early ’80s, was located almost directly across the street from where Urban Waves now stands. (Give him a few seconds, Jackson interjects, and he can probably turn up an album with an original, Swap Shop price tag affixed to the outer jacket.)
"My sister lived in the Village and I would take the bus from Charleswood practically every Friday after school, to spend the weekend with her, when we’d go shopping followed by a bite to eat," she says, smiling at the memory.
A jewelry artist in her own right, Arcand says it was a no-brainer to establish a store in Osborne Village in 1991, back when the area was particularly vibrant, and teeming with independent shops and restaurants. That she invited Jackson, who she met through a mutual acquaintance, to park a few crates of used records there in the summer of 2019 wasn’t much of a stretch.
Since Day 1, Arcand has generously afforded space to artisans and entrepreneurs looking for a spot to sell their goods on a consignment basis. "I think that’s always been one of the attractions of shopping here, that you never know what you’re going to stumble upon next," she says. "Every few months I would flip the store on its head, pretty much; one time you’d come in and it would be garments, and the next time it might be collectible, vinyl toys. With a non-descript name like Urban Waves, I could be whatever I wanted to be, pretty much."
Here’s the thing, though; within a week or two of Jackson establishing a presence in a corner of the room, with maybe 600 records for sale in total, Arcand began to notice a shift. First it was the younger set, guys and gals shopping for a silver pendant or Bowie T-shirt who would leave with their intended purchase, sure, but also an album or two, to boot. Next came the greybeards, longtime collectors who were dropping by to augment their already bulging shelves, or replace a worn-out copy of this or that.
"The records were getting such a positive response that I told Brent this didn’t seem like something that was going to ebb after a few months, and that we should run with it by affording more floor space to the music side-of-things," Arcand explains. "Which is precisely what we’d started to do when COVID struck."
Jackson, introducing Daisy, his and his wife/business partner Loriana’s ever-present, 18-month-old Chihuahua-Pomeranian cross, shakes his head, acknowledging it was definitely challenging trying to get a full-fledged record store up and running during a pandemic. First of all, the space they’re in isn’t large, barely 900 square feet, so complying with provincially mandated occupancy rates meant, for a spell, allowing but a few shoppers inside. Secondly, people hunting for vinyl aren’t usually in a rush, he says chuckling, which forced them to impose strict time limits if other shoppers were patiently waiting their turn outside, in sub-zero temperatures.
As a non-essential business, Urban Waves/Old Gold Vintage Vinyl was forced to close to the public entirely last holiday season. Jackson, his wife and Arcand used their down time wisely. They did a complete overhaul, reorganizing shelves and display cases so that records would be the focal point of the store, when they were finally allowed to reopen.
"Instead of just sitting on our hands and doing one or two (curbside) sales a day, we took it upon ourselves to turn this place around, into what the three of us were picturing in our heads," Jackson says. "Luckily I’m supported by two strong, beautiful, creative women so it’s been an absolute blast. I wouldn’t have it any other way."
OK, in regards to what’s up for grabs; Jackson does everything in his power to stock titles "you don’t see everyday," as opposed to the sort he refers to as (hello, Meat Loaf) dad-rock. That’s why on any given day you’re as likely to come across a near-mint copy of the Incredible Bongo Band’s Bongo Rock as you are Otis Redding’s Dictionary of Soul as you are Nancy Sinatra’s Sugar. (Oops, sorry; we gleefully scooped up the latter)
An hour before we arrived, a gal Jackson pegged as 15 or 16, tops, was in, looking for something, anything by Joan Baez. Not long after she departed with a copy of the American singer/songwriter’s greatest hits, a woman who appeared to be in her 70s announced she was after a particular album by legendary French artist Édith Piaf, one she’d noticed Jackson promoting on Instagram. (Last winter, when vinyl lovers weren’t allowed to flip through records, Jackson started posting videos of himself doing just that, in an effort to show off a weekly slate of new arrivals.)
"A lot of younger kids come in looking for what we call the usual suspects — the Beatles, the Stones, Zeppelin — but what’s funny is how we can never, ever have enough Abba," Jackson says, mentioning Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours as another 12-incher guaranteed to go out the door, as quickly as it comes in.
"And (Bob) Dylan; I can’t keep anything by him in here longer than five minutes. There just seems to be music that is enjoyed by the whole family; kids hear their parents playing certain things and now that they’re getting into records, too, those are the first things they gravitate towards… almost like they’re carrying on a tradition, of sorts."
About that; Jackson and Arcand, music lovers both, agree how satisfying it is to welcome people who didn’t grow up listening to vinyl, ones interested in "the real deal" versus whatever file they recently downloaded onto their device.
"It’s inspiring to see teenagers spending time here, carefully choosing what they want, then letting us know on the way out how much they enjoy owning a physical piece of music," Jackson continues. "And how it’s become this special, little ritual for them to go home, throw a record on the turntable and tune the rest of the world out for 45 minutes or whatever."
David Sanderson writes about Winnipeg-centric restaurants and businesses.
Dave Sanderson was born in Regina but please, don’t hold that against him.