The 50 Best Record Stores In America is an essay series where we attempt to find the best record store in every state. These aren’t necessarily the record stores with the best prices or the deepest selection; you can use Yelp for that. Each record store featured has a story that goes beyond what’s on its shelves; these stores have history, foster a sense of community and mean something to the people who frequent them.
“How we met is musically related,” Jessica said. “[A friend] joined the band he was in. I knew him as an acquaintance and he moved back to Columbus and we got to know each other then.”
Nearly four years later, the two were engaged and planning out their wedding. They knew they didn’t want to have it at a church, despite knowing that would please their family, and instead they looked for that perfect balance of both meaning and convenience.
The wedding was private, small and intimate, mirroring its setting. The ceremony took place in the back of the store, the stands cleared out to fit everyone, but it was still unmistakably Spoonful. The painting of Otis Redding still hung on the wall and a copy of Solange’s A Seat At The Table was on a shelf near where Zak stood, sneaking into some of the photos. Only a few family members attended, with a small group lingering outside, unable to fit in the confined space but dead set on seeing the wedding somehow. At the end, Zak and Jessica walked over to Brett and Amy, thanking them for all they had done to turn this lark into reality, and then asked them one for final favor, to serve as the witnesses.
An hour later, Spoonful Records was open and back to being just the best record store in Ohio, like nothing ever happened.
There’s a perception of Columbus as a small town that doesn’t fit with its reality anymore, but shedding past labels is nigh-impossible. In truth, it is the largest city in Ohio, and the second largest in the Midwest behind only Chicago. It was founded as a compromise in 1812 so the capital would have a permanent home as opposed to being yanked around by some of Ohio’s early, prominent politicians. At the time of its establishment, the land was a thick forest that was used for hunting, but now the city is a beast of square footage that swallowed its suburbs and surrounded those that refused to incorporate it. Still, its called Cowtown and mostly known for being the capital and home to Ohio State. Ohio’s cultural cache is torn between Cleveland and Cincinnati, Columbus getting the scraps—there’s a reason the city’s pro teams are in the less popular leagues (sorry, Blue Jackets). But the area has been on the definite upswing for a few years.
Still, Downtown Columbus was mostly empty when Brett was laid off from his graphic design job. Like countless people before him, his response to this upheaval was to steer into it and do something completely different with his life. So in 2010, he started Spoonful Records, taking the name from a record label he ran as a hobby. When it opened, Spoonful was between a faith mission and a YMCA. Now its prominent neighbors include a bike shop and a massive barcade.
When I first heard about Zak and Jessica’s Spoonful wedding, I thought about how unique it sounded—who gets married in a store? But the more I thought about it, the clearer it became.
They do a lot for you at Spoonful. There’s no feeling of gatekeeping and no superiority complexes readily on display. Brett and Amy are unflinchingly accommodating, going from showing first-time buyers the intricacies of vinyl to opening their lives to the regulars who stopped being regulars and instead just became friends. When I first heard about Zak and Jessica’s Spoonful wedding, I thought about how unique it sounded—who gets married in a store? But the more I thought about it, the clearer it became. There are places that are fundamentally important to our identities, that serve as second homes that fit just like skin, so of course someone would want to start a chapter of their life surrounded by that feeling of comfort.
That comfort is apparent to all who set foot in Spoonful Records, as is the undeniable romanticism that is so intertwined with the mechanics of vinyl. Record stores attract a diverse lot, but they are all united by their passion for collecting. After all, you really have to love music and love this medium to start a collection. But once that love is awoken, it is a short leap to suddenly have it become an obsession. When you step through the doors at Spoonful and the light shines through the shades and dances off the plastic-covered records, it isn’t hard to see why so many have made it their life.
Written by Ian Benson