There's a room in the back of Microgroove, a brand-new record shop in Tampa, that contains boxes of old records, cleaning supplies and equipment, and a jimmy-rigged machine designed to buff nicks out of old CDs.
Co-owner Keith Ulrey generously calls it an office — despite the lack of a desk, chair, computer or "Hang in there" kitty poster.
"We call it an office, because we hope one day it will become an office," he said. "I feel like if we stop calling it that, it'll never be that."
Without that sort of positive thinking, Microgroove might never have opened in the first place. Located in the former home of Covivant art gallery, Microgroove is an oddity in Seminole Heights, a neighborhood known for cool bungalows, antique furniture stores and a few funky bars and restaurants.
Music? Not so much. But that didn't deter Ulrey and co-owner Carl Webb from opening what Ulrey likes to call a "Pop-and-Pop" record store.
"It was either gonna be Seminole Heights, or it wasn't gonna happen," said Ulrey, who, like Webb, lives nearby.
Ulrey and Webb are both former employees of Tampa's Vinyl Fever, which closed in February after a 30‑year run. "Nothing was ever said, but you could tell things were hurting," Ulrey said. "Customers were coming in, but it wasn't like the '90s anymore. You didn't have 50 people coming in every day."
Still, the store's closing prompted Ulrey and Webb to bat around the idea of opening a shop of their own. Ulrey — who has been part of the Tampa music scene for two decades, both in bands and through New Granada, his promotions company and record label — already had plenty of connections. In August, they signed a lease for space at 4906 N Florida Ave., next to Cappy's Pizza and just down the street from The Independent and The Refinery.
It's not the sort of location that'll draw much foot traffic, but Ulrey believes it could become a Friday- or Saturday-night destination for Seminole Heights' young, bohemian residents.
"Let's say hypothetically, nothing else were to happen" along Florida Avenue, he said. "I'm cool with the fact that it's restaurant, bar, restaurant, record store."
Ulrey said he's aware that some customers might view Microgroove as "Vinyl Fever Jr.," but he's quick to say it'll never be exactly that. For one, the 625-square-foot store poses design limitations never faced by the giant Vinyl Fever — like the room to divide most of the used records by genre. "There is no blues section; there is no hip-hop," said Ulrey. Instead, you can expect to find Fleet Foxes, Flock of Seagulls and Foreigner lumped in with the entire discography of Fugazi.
The store will carry some new and used CDs, but he expects used vinyl to be the store's bread and butter. They'll also carry turntable accessories, some merch and even local concert photos by two photographers well known in the scene. Once a month or so, he hopes to stage acoustic shows by local and touring bands. He doesn't expect to get rich, but he doesn't expect to go broke, either.
The low overhead; the small, warehouse-like space; the bullet-shaped pockmark in a storefront window — it all sounds very punk, very niche, very DIY. Ulrey said that's by design, but he doesn't want Microgroove to be seen as only a shop for underground fans, and nothing more.
"You can be a punk band and not play punk music," he says. "I don't know if we'll have a niche. I want our niche to just be cool."