COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — After years of traveling upwards of 30 minutes to purchase vinyl records, one Columbus local decided to change his tune. Transitioning from a stay-at-home dad to a full-time business owner, Brian Cook opened Blue Canary Records on Aug. 5.
“I was shocked we didn’t have one [a record shop] in town,” said Cook, who began collecting records about half-a-decade ago after receiving a turntable as a gift.
Before opening the shop, Cook said he talked to local business owners, friends and downtown shoppers.
The Blue Canary owner remembered saying, “‘Hey, I have this really dumb idea, it’s a really terrible idea. Please, talk me out of it: I want to open a record store.’”
Nobody talked him out of it. Today, the business stands on the corner of 13th Street and Broadway.
“I designed the record store to be open and friendly and accessible,” said Cook, who added Blue Canary’s location is key to its integration in the community.
He said his wife and two children, 12-year-old Max and seven-year-old Eloise, have been highly supportive of the new business, spending lots of free time at the store.
The name “Blue Canary” comes from lyrics from the song “Birdhouse in Your Soul” from the 1990 album “Flood” by rock band They Might Be Giants. As Cook sorted through potential names for his store, the song came on and the rest is history.
“Blue Canary kind of stuck,” said Cook. “It’s just very colorful and evocative.”
Fittingly, a vintage-inspired, groovy mural painted by Atlanta-based artist George F. Baker III decorates the record store’s exterior and interior with swirling ribbons of blue, orange and a shade reminiscent of a creamsicle. Cook explained he chose a color palette with a “warm, beachy” feel which made him happy.
Inside, Blue Canary is stocked with hundreds of records. Cook’s stock includes bulk-ordered records, but many have been curated from local garage sales, flea markets, private auctions and customer donations. Cook, whose business card reads “vinyl sommelier,” also contributed his personal record collection to the store’s inventory.
“I wanted to just go ahead and make sure that everything I’ve collected gets loved again,” he said.
The owner may start collecting again someday, but for now he is happy listening to anything he wants at the shop. His current favorite song is a cover of Frank Ocean’s “Pink + White” by Remi Wolf recorded live at Electric Lady.
One of Cook’s rare stock items is a 1981 album featuring local artists playing music of the region. The album, called “In Celebration of a Legacy: Traditional Music of the Chattahoochee River Valley,” includes songs which have never been recorded elsewhere, according to Cook.
“I hope that someone will come and take it home at some point, but it’s just very neat,” said Cook, who keeps the album displayed on a shelf. It costs $85 due to the rarity of its songs and limited manufacturing. Cook explained, to his knowledge, only 500 to 1,000 copies of the album exist.
On a day-to-day basis, Cook reported he has about 25 to 50 customers. He is “still learning the ebb and flow of the traffic that comes through,” as it changes the longer the shop is open and as students return to school.
Customer Joshua Martin is already a Blue Canary regular. Martin explained he’s wanted a record shop in town “for a long time,” since there hasn’t been one open since he was a kid. He especially likes Cook’s whiteboard, where guests can write an album title they’d like Cook to order, if it’s not in stock.
Carrying a stack of records to the register operated by Cook at the front of the shop, Martin said with a laugh, “He’s gonna take all my money eventually but whatever!” He added another title to the whiteboard before exiting the shop with his purchases.
At the back of the store, Cook has a special listening lounge where guests can put an album on one of three designated turntables and listen with headphones. Displayed above these is Cook’s childhood record player, a yellow Fisher-Price toy.
The hallway toward Cook’s backroom concert space holds a small selection of video game consoles and a soda machine guests can use. The Blue Canary owner hopes to eventually host regular live music and karaoke nights. He is also planning album release- and listening parties based on customer suggestions.
In September, Cook will host a party for the latest album release of locally-based band The Normas.
Cook said, “I just think a lot of people in Columbus who have musical talent don’t really have anywhere to, like, use it. So, there’s a space now.”