It was a bitter cold evening as I stumbled into Peoples North Records on Livernois. Instantly, the warmth of the store welcomed my wind-whipped hair and frostbitten fingers.
On the turntable spun a lively Jazz record, turning out tunes that brought the small store to life on a chilly winter evening.
Owner Brad Hales, clad in flannel and a beanie, sat behind the counter, pausing his work mechanically to flip a record and set a new song.
“I was always a collector, ever since I was a little kid,” said Hales.
Hales began working in record shops around Michigan such as Encore in Ann Arbor and Desirable Disks in Dearborn. He didn’t wander too far when he decided to open his own shop in 2003, using his personal vinyl collection to start it up.
“I tried to focus on the records and just absorb them and learn as much as I could,” he recalled.
Hales also DJs in his downtime, what he refers to as “just for fun, really.” He collects music that he can play; typically dance floor records from the late 50s to the 80s.
“I mean, I like everything,” chuckled Hales. “I also have classical records, Brazilian records, Folk, Blues and all kinds of different styles. I like something of just about everything. I’m a music lover so I did this to just keep learning and making new discoveries.”
Hales opened his first shop on the corner of Forest and Second, in the basement of Forest Arms Apartments just south of Wayne State University. In 2008, the apartments burned down due to arson, leaving Hales’ store, and his impressive collection of 78s and 45s, destroyed.
“We moved everything that we could salvage to my home and tried operating out of there for six months while we looked for a new place.”
He reopened his store on Woodward and Peterboro then moved again to Woodward and Alexandrine in the Majestic Compound next to the Garden Bowl. Finally, Hales settled just outside of Eastern Market on Gratiot, opening what is referred to as Peoples East Records, housing an impressive collection of secondhand vinyl and the greatest Jazz and R&B records in the city of Detroit.
“We have two places at once now,” explained the owner, “the shop on Livernois (Peoples North) and the shop on Gratiot (Peoples East), which is also home for the MAHS Museum: Michigan Audio Heritage Society.”
MAHS is a collection of Michigan music artifacts, like photographs, print items such as contracts, checks and signatures; all things that pertain to the history of music in Michigan.
Most of the display cases and shop walls are covered with Hales’ findings; however, he admits he does receive donations.
“I just couldn’t keep all this stuff in boxes at my house, where only I and a few friends would see it,” Hales said. “They’re cultural treasures. I want people to see them like that. So we want to help educate people and maybe they’ll investigate and poke around and hear something they like.”
Hales described the musical reputation of Detroit, quoting the phrase, “A prophet is never appreciated in their own town.”
“These obscure artists don’t get their due here at home, although they’re appreciated really far away,” he explained. “A lot of these artists you won’t see in the Detroit Historical Museum or the Motown Museum. A lot of the people really come to Michigan because of the music.”
There are two locations where you can check out the most unique collection of secondhand vinyl. Peoples East is located at 1464 Gratiot Ave. and is open Monday – Saturday from 11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. Peoples North is located at 20140 Livernois and is open Monday – Saturday from noon – 5:00 p.m.