A center of musical culture for over 50 years, Finders Records is for sale and ready for a new owner.
Greg Halamay founded Finders in 1971 as a 19-year-old student at Bowling Green State University. Now he is ready for retirement.
Her father, Ross Halamay, was her partner, who held several positions in the record distribution industry.
“I counted the records for my dad when I was 10. It was all counted in 25 seconds back then, a stack of 25s, then you go through them, and another stack of 25s,” Halamay said, reliving those heady days with new 45 rpm records “I was raised around records.”
Halamay still loves the industry.
“The music business is just plain fun,” Halamay said. “The product is constantly evolving and the contact with the public is very rewarding.”
Finders Records’ opening period was significant for the industry.
“In 1971 when I started, all pop music was just an artist pool. You talk about all the classic artists: The Byrds, Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, the Doors, Jimi Hendrix. list goes on and on and on.”
Beyond the music, Halamay also appreciated the employees.
“Not a month goes by without someone who worked for me maybe 25 years ago not stopping by to say hello. I cherish these employees,” Halamay said.
Then there are the customers.
“Another thing about the recording industry that’s been so appealing is that you’re working with a product that’s so fulfilling for 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 teenagers, young adults and adults.
“Parents at the last two Record Store Days brought in a 7 or 8 year old, who had a record he wanted to buy. To date, we have clients in the late 80s and early 90s.”
There have been lean times, but the re-emergence of vinyl has revitalized things.
“Records are cool again and small record stores are open again,” Halamay said. “We survived, along with about 500 other independent record stores. Today, there are about 800 independent record stores, according to Record Store Day.
Record Store Day is usually a single day in the spring when record labels release special recordings, or pressings, of vinyl records, to support independent record stores and a special release day on Saturday.
He only sells new record pressings, which is a business decision.
“We are a destination store for new collectors on the go,” Halamay said. “With Record Store Day, we try to bring in as many titles as possible. My philosophy has always been to generate the best selection, no matter how that record is set up.
It sold tapes, with some people still referring to 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 left the second-hand market.
Halamay will miss the deal.
“It’s hard to capture in words. The music industry, for the right people, is just plain fun. The product is continually changing. Dealing with the general public can be a lot of work, but it can also be hugely rewarding, with dedicated and loyal customers,” he said.
He has fond memories of his debut in the city center.
“Getting through these difficult years, the opportunity to work for me, make my own decisions and take my own risks. I think anyone going into business has to be a bit of a risk taker. I have always considered myself a risk taker.
Finders was an individual store, even when there were five locations. This contrasted with the big-box stores that eventually emerged from the ashes of the large music store chains that stood in strip malls across America. These stores have disappeared with the advent of digital technology and the disappearance of shopping malls.
A new renaissance began with the rediscovery of vinyl.
“As vinyl grew, as new physical creativity, it brought people back to the physical store,” Halamay said.
He still sells CDs, which still account for 25-30% of in-store sales.
“I never gave up the compact disc,” Halamay said. “CDs are always collected.”
He had been through difficult times. Big-box stores sold products, even vinyl, as loss leaders. Some of these retail prices at the big box stores were below the cost of Halamay.
He compared the 2007 Blanchard River flood to a mini-Katrina, which ultimately led to the decision to close the Findlay site. It was too risky a place and too much effort to reopen, in a city center that would have taken five years to get back up and running.
The pandemic has been tough. The store has been closed for 14 months in a row.
“I had to take into account the unknowns of the virus, I had to take into account my own health and that of my family. 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 showed up on his own. The regular staff had left. He’s grateful they’ve all been able to find new jobs, but he’s come to do the books and pack some online shopping. The difficulty of the times is deeply reflected in his voice.
“When I reopened I saw the outpouring of support from the community which has been nothing short of amazing. It was so hopeful. I’ve been reopening for just over 12 months now and have just meet so many of my loyal customers and finally got to meet them personally.
“One positive thing that the pandemic has created, not just for my community, but for the whole world, has been the awareness of the importance of supporting the businesses that are in their communities, whether it is retail, restaurant or whatever,” Halamay said.
He reduced his hours.
“With my intentions to retire, I didn’t want to go back to the seven-day, 12-hour routine. Quite simply, it’s time for me to slow down. At this point, I’m on an open timeline.
Five years ago he started letting people know 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.”