In a way, Solsta Records was always destined to be a vintage store. The building was previously occupied by The Pink Closet, a consignment clothing shop. It has seen generations of treasures and memories passed back and forth. Fitting perfectly along the Minnehaha Mile, which is aptly named for the long row of vintage and thrift stores, SolSta Records feels like it’s been there for much longer than 3 years. Inside the store is an ever-changing collection of music, local artwork, crafts, and, on special evenings during each month, a Minnesota variation of the famous “Tiny Desk Concerts.”
“I feel like we, as artists, create these massive platforms and end up boiling away the stuff that made our music art in the first place. It just becomes marketing. And so these kind of shows allow you to get back into the storytelling aspect of music. That’s what we’re all doing. We’re telling stories that mean something to us.” ~Nur-D
There are many dimensions to SolSta Records. Husband and wife Phil and Hannah Borreson opened the record store in 2016 and have continued to expand and grow their business. One of the first signs of their innovative spirits came from every paper label designed for the records. They use thermal printing technology instead of ink to save money as well as be environmentally friendly.
Another forward-thinking concept is having the entire vinyl collection online and shop-able 24/7. They ship all over the world. The propriety software app was designed by the couple after more than two years of working on the system. The online store automatically updates the website when a record is purchased, online or in the store. They are creating new frontiers in the Twin Cities for that level of accessibility and ingenuity. It also means you can now peruse through vinyl late at night when you’re leaving a show and feel inspired to buy records.
In 2018 they unveiled the “Rockin’ Roller Bus,” painted blue and housing thousands of records. That idea happened organically through efforts to set themselves apart and be mobile. In working with the Minneapolis Vintage Market and loading 600 records into the back of a Mazda 3, Phil was always in pain. The bus allows them to transport records around the Twin Cities, set up a DJ booth, and bring records to events and festivals. It expands their reach and hits on all neighborhoods and walks of life.
Post-rock band Falcon Arrow was another advancement, as SolSta launched their own record label last April. As the first signed artist to the label, Record Store Day 2019 showcased a limited run of 300 opaque pink vinyl records from Falcon Arrow. It’s a growing feature of SolSta Records and one that is cautiously determined years in advance. They have been patient in signing talent and making sure it’s the right fit for everyone involved.
“I was able to put out something that I love and it helps local artists. Falcon Arrow is kind of a niche deal, but people are slowly starting to buy it because it’s really good. It’s just not something that you always think about because it’s not some hot person singing pop lyrics. It’s a very different thing,” Phil claims.
SolSta Records also have two lending libraries in the area, where people can borrow a record or donate their own to the crate. It diversifies their reach by connecting different people going to All Square and Glass Endeavors that maybe wouldn’t think about listening to a record. This free service embodies the spirit of sharing music and expanding your musical taste.
The store also features exclusive home goods, handbags, jewelry, vinyl coasters, and musical equipment. It’s constantly changing, which makes every visit feel full of surprises.
Live From The Record Room has been in the mind of Phil and Hannah from the very beginning. Every record case was built with castors because they knew the space was small, but the couple had intentions to consolidate the cases for performances. The transformation happens quickly as the store is shifted to make space. They record the shows with cameras and mix the audio, providing a free service for the bands. At a capacity of 50 people, it’s a very limited and exclusive feel to each and every show. The audience is literally 5 feet from the artists. There’s something special about seeing live music surrounded by physical music.
Bands have used the opportunity in this unique setting to share more stories about the music. There’s more interaction with the people attending. The overall vibe of a show is an all-ages, family-friendly, super comfortable concert that anyone can enjoy. SolSta curates the concerts to showcase some insanely talented, under the radar artists that sometimes nobody knows. They want to be the place where you can find new talent and discover someone. Tickets are bought online and since they don’t use external ticketing, there are no obnoxious added fees.
“It’s got a very different vibe than if you’re at a venue. That’s what I really have to hit it home with people, that this isn’t a venue, this is more like a TV show that we’re recording in our store,” expresses Phil.
The end product provided to the artist is a polished video recording of their evening, posted online. As an artist, this is a huge resource to utilize in booking more shows and growing a fan base. It’s this level of support and care on which Phil and Hannah pride themselves. To be able to put something out that carries that level of love and passion for music is a true example of supporting our arts.
Phil Borreson, Co-Owner
The decision to open any small business isn’t an easy one. Phil was looking for the next thing to do when a friend who lived in the area mentioned the space was open. At first he thought it was a really bad idea because his entire life had been spent working for someone else. It’s easy to listen to what to do and follow directions. The whole idea of being in charge was scary, so he immediately said no and pushed the idea away.
His wife Hannah finally convinced him to do it. A couple days later they had a rough plan and some money and called the guy who owns the building. “He wasn’t really ready to show it to us. So we came in here and the ceilings were falling. It smelled really bad cause there was molding clothing in the basement,” states Phil. They saw through the mess and had a vision of what they wanted to happen. A couple months later the place was redone and ready to open. They’ve been going full steam ever since.
Phil went on Craigslist and immediately snatched up lots of vinyl records. It was when he purchased 5,000 records from a guy that had five of every Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd album, he decided to stop. He focused on getting the business side together. As Phil shares, it took a different approach to become comfortable in the new role. He needed to get thicker skin and accept what it takes to be your own boss.
The Guest Room
Matt Allen aka Nur-D, Musician and Booking
The accolades for hip hop artist Nur-D have stacked up this year. In July the Star Tribune picked Songs About Stuff as one of the top albums of 2019. Last week City Pages crowned him as the top “Picked To Click” artist in 2019. He’ll be heading out with Brother Ali this December on some tour dates and in November will record his first-ever vinyl release at SolSta Records. It’s a whirlwind of opportunities in a still very young career. In speaking with Matt, his humility and positivity felt like a warm embrace. He’s a solid reminder that good things happen to good people.
His involvement with the record store grew organically. He did a show there with a previous band and was really drawn to the feel of it. He’s now helping to bring in artists and share that same experience with others. His past involvement with rock n’ roll bands, along with his hip hop music, has given him exposure to so many bands that could really use a platform.
Matt sees the shows at SolSta as an unique experience for these artists. The shows create an intimate moment with your fans and allow artists to tell stories and get deeper into the music. They can strip away all the big stuff and get down to the core of performing.
“It’s a chance to bring their fan base out to something special. Maybe it’s an artist that’s been around for awhile and wants to give their fan base something special, kind of like a gift,” shares Matt.
When Matt books artists there are a couple things that he’s always looking for. First off, is the music unique? Is it something that is interesting and people will enjoy? The other thing he thinks about is, how is your attitude? As a positive influencer, Matt works hard to ensure he’s supporting the type of artists who have the right attitude. That begins with how they interact with staff and sound engineers at shows.
“There’s so much ego in music and I don’t want to contribute to that if I can help it.”
Set your alarm clock for Record Store Day 2020. SolSta Records opens up earlier than any other record store in the Twin Cities. Snag your limited release gems and be home before breakfast. For all of the upcoming Live From The Record Room releases, subscribe to SolSta Records YouTube page, where you won’t miss a single one when it goes live.
The full schedule for the vinyl bus is here.
Music venues are the lifeblood of our community. By providing musicians the opportunity to showcase, collaborate, and experiment with their craft, venues are essential in their development. This series will continue to promote and support our local venues across Minnesota. Please see the previous articles below and go support local music. Our hope is these articles show the importance of supporting venues and places where creativity can thrive.
Pioneer Place on Fifth – St. Cloud
Sacred Heart Music Center – Duluth