CLINTON — About 50% of Melissa Peterson and Keith Rixen’s sales are vinyl albums, so it’s only logical that most of the inventory at their new store consists of vintage LPs.
After a couple of years in the flea-market scene, Peterson and Rixen purchased the former Burke Florist building at 210 Sixth Ave. South in Clinton. Having remodeled the building, the couple are now stocking and pricing vintage and antique items for the May 25 grand opening of The Underground.
Rixen, who had spent his life in production and operations management, began selling LPs online a few years ago.
“I just wanted to do something different,” he said.
Then Rixen began fixing old furniture in the garage. It sold quickly, and the business grew.
The couple set up shop at a flea market in LeClaire, selling vinyl albums, furniture and vintage items.
“We excelled,” Peterson said. “He’s got a very good knack for reading people.”
A customer asks for one artist or album, and Rixen will find other albums by the same artist or in the same genre that the customer decides he or she also needs.
The couple set up a turntable on site.
“He’ll play the albums if they don’t know them,” or if customers want to hear the quality of the album before buying, Peterson said.
They also play music throughout the day for their own enjoyment. People have approached them and asked, “How much for the record playing right now?” Rixen said.
The couple has about 20,000 vinyl albums in stock, from new to original first presses. They find the LPs online, at flea markets, auctions and estate sales, they said. They’ve purchased collections from all over the world.
“We’re on some pretty top-shelf vinyl sites,” Rixen said.
The Underground has rock and roll, rhythm and blues, jazz, blues – even classical music – in its inventory.
“Classical’s not a fast mover,” Rixen said. “Jazz and blues is very popular.”
He has a hard time keeping blues in stock.
The holy grail of albums, according to Peterson, is the Velvet Underground Andy Worhol album. The Underground has one in near mint condition. It was valued at $1,200, but Rixen has an $800 price tag on it, Peterson said.
Moving The Underground from the flea market to a storefront in Clinton allows Peterson and Rixen to work for themselves while bringing something in to support the community and help it grow, Peterson said.
Peterson still works full time but hopes the new, permanent site will enable her to retire and work at the store with Rixen. “My goal is to be right there with him,” she said.
The couple spent about a year looking for a building, Peterson said. “We were going to rent, originally.”
They were looking at another building when they noticed the for sale sign at the Burke building. It was perfect for them, they decided.
The building was completely gutted, Rixen said.
They put up the rusty tin on the ceiling with the license plates. They finished one wall with wood from a barn in Peoria, Illinois that had been torn down.
A small stage, which will hold merchandise except when The Underground hosts live entertainment, was crafted from wood taken from the gymnasium floor of a high school in Aurora, Illinois.
The Underground has some high-end items, but most items are not expensive, Peterson said. The couple’s goal is to have affordable prices for cool stuff, Peterson said.
A vintage black and chrome table and stools, a baker’s cabinet, dishes, posters, art and toys, including many Star Wars collectibles, are ready for the store’s opening.
The Underground is making its grand opening a community event with more than 10 vendors signed up for an open-air flea market from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., food from local vendors and music by the Dunmore and Newman Group from 1-4 p.m. in the parking lot next door, courtesy of Zirkelbach Home Appliances.
Nearly 2,000 vinyl albums will be priced at $3 each to launch the business.
Peterson and Rixen hope to make the event an annual Memorial Day festival, something of a retro rally, Peterson said. In the meantime, they hope Clinton residents will check out their shop.
It’s the one with Jim Morrison in the window.