By Julijana Capone
CALGARY — “There’s a lot of unusual things in here,” says Jan Quackenbush, from inside Eat ‘Em Up Records, the West End Winnipeg shop he runs alongside partner Brandon Ackerman.
“We have a talking Donald Trump doll in the window,” Quackenbush mentions. “He has a number of different phrases that he says depending on his mood.”
Since May of 2015, Ackerman and Quackenbush (also of punk bands Rock Lake and Squareheads) have taken a collector’s approach to their store, skewed towards the punk and underground rock ‘n’ roll variety, stocked with new and used records, cassettes, books, comics, stereo equipment, and bargain bin VHS tapes. They buy and trade stuff, too.
“When you walk into a shop that is curated you can tell right away,” says Ackerman of similar stores. “You can tell if what’s on the shelves are just what that store’s trying to sell you or someone’s personal hoard.”
Though the shop itself has been open for less than a year, the Eat ‘Em Up Records banner was born as a label over a decade earlier, and physical copies of all 16 releases they’ve put out since 2004 are available in the store, from Bunk Mustangs’ 2015 self-titled album and Satanic Rights’ latest 7-inch to all three Rock Lake records and Squareheads’ debut LP, Persona Non Grata.
“We were playing the Albert one time, and [late Squareheads frontman] Anthony [Bueno]’s uncle tried to sneak in without paying, so he told the door guy he was a representative from Eat ‘Em Up Records,” recalls Quackenbush. “We got a logo made, and just put the first Squareheads album out ourselves under that name.”
The shop today exists, in part, as an extension of the label, though it’s mostly stocked with non-label releases, including items from Winnipeg cassette label Dub Ditch Picnic, along with vinyl by the likes of everyone from GG Allin & The Jabbers and the Ugly Ducklings to T. Rex and Goblin, among so many others.
Having previously worked at independent record retailer War on Music and head shop Kustom Kulture, Ackerman spent years learning the tricks of the trade before getting into the business himself.
A habitual record hunter, Ackerman says that he’s recently gotten into auctions and estate sales to find new stuff.
“Today I went to one specifically because I saw that they had a poster of Alice Cooper at the Winnipeg Arena in the ‘70s, but I didn’t stick around because it would have been an all day commitment,” he says. “After collecting records for so many years, I need to have a store just to get rid of all of this stuff that I accumulate.”
Near the front of the store is a pile of cult, exploitation and classic action flicks on VHS, like Psychomania, above Blacula, and in the vicinity of Die Hard 2 and Predator.
“I can’t sell DVDs at all,” says Ackerman. “No one wants DVDs, but I could sell VHS every day.”
Indeed, their customers come for the kind of stuff that they likely aren’t going to find anywhere else, or just to get rid of their stuff, altogether.
“We sometimes function as kind of a pawn shop for punks,” Ackerman says. “There might be some people that need to make rent for the month, so they bring in some records…
“I’ve had someone bring in a speaker to sell that had a bug crawl out of it, which immediately had to be ejected from the store,” he recalls. Or there was the time that a guy tried to sell a “perfectly working” record player with wires hanging out of it in a hockey bag full of empty beer cans.
But most of his customers, he says, are “just people with record collections that love music.”
Check out Eat ‘Em Up Records at 466 Sherbrook St. in Winnipeg or online via eatemuprecords.com (online store under construction as of press time). You can also head to their Bandcamp page at eatemuprecords.bandcamp.com to purchase releases.Eat 'Em Up Records, Manitoba, MB, record store, Winnipeg record stores