We-Got-the-Beats – South Florida’s own “little gay record store” celebrates one year in business!
On June 15, 2010, we-got-the-beats opened with a party; and the music (and beer) have been flowing ever since. We sat down with owner Tony Cicalese to discuss this unique venue.
David: Tony, what inspired this concept?
Tony: Well, I had already been selling music online for about twelve years. I always focused on carrying the music I like, especially dance, pop, R&B, and CD singles (for the remixes.) Over time, this has earned me a very loyal following of dance enthusiasts and DJ’s from around the world.
In all my years as a music fan, I would go to record stores only to find they very much marginalized dance music. They didn’t stock much of it, they didn’t know anything about it, and there was some attitude about it because it wasn’t The Beatles or The Rolling Stones or Pearl Jam. Some would outright make fun of you for buying Britney Spears CD’s. There was a subtle (or not) anti-gay attitude in there somewhere, in my opinion.
I remember when I was first coming out in my early 20’s in New Jersey. I went to a big chain store and looked at the “Gay” section of music. I remember being nervous about doing that, and I remember the look I got from the guy at the counter when I finally bought something on the second or third trip there.
I wanted to create an environment that explicitly embraced those little gay music lovers and all gay music lovers – all the “old” queens looking for Sylvester and Donna Summer, all of Lady Gaga’s “Little Monster” types, and everyone in-between. We put that music front and center. We don’t generally carry the Beatles, or Metal, or polka – and we make no apologies for that. We can and do special order just about anything for everyone; but day-to-day, we are a dance music store. Proudly.
David: How did you come up with the name?
We Got The Beats, was (perhaps ironically) inspired by the name of that very store I just mentioned in New Jersey: Nobody Beats The Wiz. (They’re out of business now.) (Grin.) Of course, it is also a nod to the infectious pop hit by The Go-Go’s, and it makes our name stick in peoples’ heads. (Go ahead, try to stop hearing “We Got The Beat” in your head right now…)
David: Do people still buy CD’s?
Tony: CD sales are still strong. When you can buy a used CD for $4, or a discounted new CD for $5, that is typically a savings vs. downloading them, and you will always have the CD to keep. Plus there are a lot of things we carry that you won’t find on itunes. And of course, there is gift giving and the collector market.
David: So is this like one of those DJ stores?
Tony: Not really. We do carry some of what they carry, but lean more mainstream – much more full length CD’s, more variety, and much better pricing. We stock the new releases each week from Britney Spears, Gaga, Kylie Minogue, and even Kate Bush and Stevie Nicks. Basically the store is divided into three rooms, and the whole front room is meant for newer releases, all brand new items.
The back room is what we call “the retro room.” It’s all decorated in fun 70’s style and colors, kind of the opposite of the front room which is intentionally a white-on-white, fuzzy walls and silver glitter affair. All of the decor was done on a crazy low budget, finding things on craigslist, refinishing things from thrift stores (you have to see the yellow and orange cabinet with the crushed red velvet doors!!) We have no investors, no business loans, so we had to keep these costs to an absolute minimum. At the same time, I really wanted the store to look nice – not a cluttered, dusty bunch of boxes. As I designed everything from the layout to the angle of the CD bins, I remembered everything I liked and didn’t like about other record stores I’ve seen all across the country.
David: Fuzzy walls and crushed red velvet doors?
Tony: I wanted to be the Willy Wonka of dance music. Not quite there yet, but on our way. (Smile.)
David: What else is in the back room?
Tony: This is really the heart of the store. You have the pride and dance compilations, and some budget import CD’s that are an outstanding value. You also have the used racks – one of individual artists like Mariah, New Order, and Janet, and the other is completely filled with used dance compilations. And then we have a ton of stuff in our dollar bins as well.
There is an entire wall of CD singles, which I love. And my pride and joy, the retro re-release section. There are things in this section I can pretty much guarantee you will never find at Wal-Mart or Target or anyplace else in town, probably in all of South Florida. There are gems like re-released versions of CD’s by Gloria Gaynor, Kim Wilde, Brenda K Starr, etc. These are not bland greatest hits compilations – they are original full length albums on CD – and almost all come with a good number of bonus tracks, extra remixes, stuff that has never been on CD before! They are awesome and I absolutely adore them.
David: What has been your best selling item to date?
Tony: It’s from that retro section I just mentioned – a 2-CD re-release of Rick Astley’s “Whenever You Need Somebody.” It has one and a half discs of bonus tracks and remixes. It’s amazing.
David: This is starting to sound expensive.
Tony: Not at all. That Rick Astley 2 disc set and most others sell in the $15 range or less. Very affordable. Customers have often commented how they were surprised at our competitive pricing vs. the “big box stores.” We are not “boutique-y” or overpriced. Very friendly, very welcoming, love to talk about the music.
David: And you carry vinyl, too?
Yes, one whole room is all vinyl – mostly 12″ singles – new & used, classic house and freestyle from the 80’s and 90’s, brand new collector’s picture discs by Lady Gaga, the latest Madonna 12″ remix singles.
David: Do you buy from the public as well?
Tony: Yes, and again this is where our specialization comes in handy. If you take a collection of “gay music” or dance music to most record stores, chances are they won’t pay well for it because they don’t consider it to be “the good stuff.” We do. Most will never pay you for your CD singles. We seek them out in particular. So we can pay more for these items than anywhere else will pay.
David: What about your odd location and odd hours?
Tony: Our location – everyone in town knows this building, many pass by it every day. But up until last year, it was all offices and a chiropractor, so you wouldn’t expect to look for a store there. It’s called the Trestle Building. It’s that wooden building with all the trees on Dixie just south of Oakland Park Blvd., between Peter Pan Diner and that little car dealership with the gay flags, almost directly across the street from U-Haul. A lot of people use our parking lot to make illegal U-turns on Dixie. (Ha ha.)
As for our hours of operation, as business increases we continue to tweak and increase them, and I often meet people by appointment outside regular store hours. My husband, Brian, and I live only a few blocks away, so I can easily pop over there at any time.
David: What is most rewarding for you about this venture?
Tony: I love the fact that 90% of the people who walk through the door “get it.” They really seem to be tickled by it. I have guys who drive down from West Palm Beach and up from Miami because there is nothing like this where they live, and I appreciate that so much. I also love it when people find a CD or a record they love and gasp out loud because they never thought they’d find it. (I know that feeling!) And I appreciate the opportunity to help out with local charities as much as I can. I would love for more of them to contact me so we can come up with ideas to raise money for them.
David: What’s new at the store since last year?
Tony: Well, we finally put in a record player with a USB port so we can transfer records to digital. We are just beginning to dabble in carrying DVD’s. We are working on starting a section for all the local DJ’s and singers to leave their CD’s on consignment. And there are some big facebook promotions in mind. Then of course – there is the new fridge for the beer.
David: What’s up with the beer?
Tony: I have to admit, I stole that idea from a place called “Barbers & Beer.” They cut your hair, and they have a little fridge of beer so you can have a drink while you wait. I loved that idea. Plus I used to bartend at Boom and Alibi, so it’s kind of second nature. We have people who come in and sometimes spend 1 or 2 hours browsing – they might as well have a beer (or soda, etc.)
David: Well congratulations on your first year in business.
Tony: Thanks! I am very grateful to be able to do this.