Do you remember the legendary Prospect Mall bookstore? So does Bill Frickensmith, who called his store Recycled Records and Books when he opened in the mall in 1995. Recycled served many East Side residents and book lovers of all sorts, including college students and cinema goers, until the mall closed in 2006.
Now known as Bay View Books and Music, 2653 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., Frickensmith's latest -- and by all accounts last -- book and record store iteration is going strong in the old Mirth Theater building.
To celebrate the new location, Bay View Books and Music is hosting a block party of sorts on Saturday, Oct. 1, with 2011 WAMI female vocalist nominee Annie B. appearing in the store for two half-hour sets beginning at 3 p.m. Block neighbors the Hi-Fi Cafe and Number One Chinese Restaurant are providing free coffee and donuts between 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. And everything in the store will be priced 20 percent off during the event.
Annie B. will appear acoustically, without her band the Vagabond Company, and ready for anything: if a lot of children show up, she intends to sing "Old MacDonald" and other classics in a kids' set.
"She was already doing the Walk To End Alzheimer's at 10 a.m. that day and another show in Lake Geneva that night, but, because she loves Bay View, Annie B. fit in another appearance here," says Dan Dehling, who organized the event.
Dehling hopes to not only promote the new store, which opened in October 2010, and which he says is "always a work-in-progress," but all their neighbors, as well.
"I want this block to get noticed," says Dehling.
Dehling says the business hasn't really been stable since leaving the Prospect Mall. "People had a hard time finding us, but now in this space, with its size and location, we're able to get our name out there again," he says.
"The Prospect Mall was the dream place. You know the saying, 'You don't know what you've got until it's gone'? It's true," Frickensmith says.
Frickensmith actually started in the used book and music business in 1988, when he opened his first store, Locust Street Books and Records at Locust and Fratney in Riverwest. "At least, I think it was 1988. I remember it didn't rain at all the summer I opened," he says.
After the Prospect Mall closed, Frickensmith moved his inventory to Cudahy for a few years. That store was called Bargain Books, and located at 4731 S. Packard Ave. After a brief stint across the street, Bay View Books and Music is still settling into its current location.
"This is the last move I'm going to make," says Frickensmith.
Frickensmith leases the space from the owners of the Brickyard Gym next door. It's the largest space they've occupied since the mall, finally enabling them to showcase enough of their stuff again.
They're still moving the shelves around on a regular basis to optimize the space they have. Two well-apportioned cases of vinyl records are moored near the check-out counter and both the long walls of the store are lined with bookcases. Everything else is a temporary placement.
"I moved seven shelves just in the last three weeks getting ready for the Bay View Bash and for our event with Annie B. I haven't had time to re-label the shelves," says Dehling.
Iconic record player repair man Cranky Uncle Trotsky has turntables on consignment in the store. There are rows of cassette tapes, 8-tracks, VHS and DVD videos and comics. Graphic novels are on a shelf behind the counter. Both Frickensmith and Dehling still have hundreds of items in storage, including many art books that Dehling, who calls himself "a pop art kind of guy" would like to bring in from home. These include Vargas poster books, Andy Warhol exhibition catalogs and a first edition Harry Abrams collectible about Salvador Dali, that Dehling says weighs about 25 pounds.
For the past year, Kate Parker, a Riverwest resident who works in Bay View, has been stopping in on her way to work to scour the recent vinyl arrivals. "I really like the new used records that keep coming in. And the helpful service," she says, nodding toward Dehling.
Although Frickensmith is considered "the record guy" and Dehling "the book guy," each of them is able to help out customers in every way, including keeping an eye open for items they don't have but know people are looking for.
Dehling says they buy, sell, trade and barter. He recently arranged for an 18-year-old woman to re-paint the sidewalk sandwich board in exchange for store credit. He'd like to have a mural done, but not on the walls, maybe on boards put up in front of them.
"I'm thinking of Alice in Wonderland meets Dorothy in Oz meets people at the gates of wonderment as they come in the store," Dehling says.
Although someone seeking to sell their books, records and other media will get more in credit than cash, according to Dehling they'll pay more than a fair price for anything they believe holds a modicum of interest in their market.
"I believe in this place. I love Bill to death. We have our moments, like anybody who spends the amount of time together we have over 11 years. We're co-dependent," Dehling says.
The only remaining employee of four who were hired by Frickensmith, Dehling has worked at all the stores since the Prospect Mall. He likes working in the store and intends to keep going as long as Frickensmith does.
"Did you know Amazon now sells more e-books than all other formats combined? I for one didn't think I'd live in an era of books becoming quaint. Who knows what will come, but change is the constant in this world," says Frickensmith.
Royal has taught courses in critical pedagogy, writing, rhetoric and cultural studies at several schools in Wisconsin and Minnesota. He is currently Adjunct Associate Professor of Humanities at Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design.
Royal lives in Walker’s Point with his family and uses the light of the Polish Moon to illuminate his way home.