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Heartside record shop to showcase memories

Dodds Record Shop, a business on the Avenue for the Arts for over 30 years, is being refashioned into a museum of Grand Rapids music history by new owner Reverend Charles Preston Smith.
One hall of vinyl in Dodds

One hall of vinyl in Dodds /Dan Steenwyk

Underwriting support from:

Dodds Record Store

20 Division Ave South

Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Wednesday/Thursday 6 - 9 p.m.

Saturday noon - 4 p.m.

Text to confirm open/closed: (616) 856-9555

Reverend Charles Preston Smith behind Dodds counter

Reverend Charles Preston Smith behind Dodds counter /Dan Steenwyk

Dodds Record Store

Dodds Record Store /Dan Steenwyk

Dodds Record Store, a staple in the Heartside neighborhood of Grand Rapids for over 30 years, is undergoing a metamorphosis that will result in the record store becoming less of a store and more of a museum paying homage to the cultural and musical history of Grand Rapids.

“When I was approached by the family and asked, ‘Why should you be a part of this?’ I said, ‘There’s Van Andel, there’s Devos and there should be Dodds’,” says Reverend Charles Preston Smith, Dodds owner. “So many people have said, ‘I got my first something or other from [Dodds]’ There’s something to be said for that.”

The record shop at 20 Division Ave South transferred ownership last June from founder Gerry Dodds to Smith, front man for Grand Rapids band PotatoeBabies. Smith’s appreciation for Grand Rapids history and for nostalgic mementos from his childhood contributed to his vision for a newly fashioned Dodds.

“I’m going to rent memories,” Smith says. “Vinyl isn’t relevant. The history behind it is relevant. I didn’t buy a record collection, I bought a lifetime of memories.”

Smith plans to have a small sound stage and a museum display case on the north side of the store and “all the best” of the store's CDs, cassettes, 8-tracks and vinyl along the south wall. The center of the store will be cleared space, and Smith plans to rent Dodds out for events and play cuts from the store’s vast music collection. The museum display will house samples from Smith’s collection of antique memorabilia, PotatoeBabies memorabilia and mementos from Grand Rapids history.

“I learned from paperwork in [Dodds] that Blues on the Mall was started by [Gerry Dodds'] daughter,” says Smith. “She hasn’t had anything to do with it for 10 years, but she started it. It’s neat to see the progression from three friends getting together and saying, Do you think we could have a blues party? Then it became a nonprofit, became the West Michigan Blues Society, became Blues on the Mall. And it all started here. That is part of history I need to display.”

While taking inventory of the shop, Smith has come across vinyl recordings of Grand Rapids musical heritage, including the Beverage Brothers Band, the Fountain Street Choir and records made at the now defunct Diadem Records. Smith plans to showcase these in the museum display alongside historic photographs of Grand Rapids landmarks and alongside his personal mementos, including his edition of Space 1999 and a Rick Springfield shirt he purchased as a teenager.

“Of course, the joke is that it's really all about me," laughs Smith. "People just assume you buy a business to make money, but I bought [Dodds] because I want it to remain here. It’s been [in Grand Rapids] for as long as I can remember and I don’t want it to leave.”

Smith says that people have booked Dodds for private parties “into May, June and July.” He plans to complete primary installation of the museum and stage by Record Store Day, April 19. Organization of the vinyl collection is ongoing, with Smith mentioning he has already filled the store's basement with duplicate records. Smith’s personal touch can be seen in the Dodds VinylCam (a video and audio stream of the record currently playing at Dodds), in the newly enstated social media presence of Dodds and in the storefront window television monitor that shows muted episodes of The Six Million Dollar Man at night.

Currently the store’s official hours are from 6 - 9 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday and from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday. Records are for sale, but if Smith deems a record particularly significant he will reserve the record for the museum. While Smith acknowledges this makes poor business sense, he's more concerned with preserving the musical legacy he finds in Dodds than he is preoccupied with making money.

“Honestly this should be considered a nonprofit because it’s never going to be profitable,” he says. “I think ultimately it’s going to be a place for locals to come and hang.”

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