Jack White came home to Detroit for the holidays — and brought his Third Man Records store with him.
The company’s second location, coming seven years after Third Man opened in Nashville, opened to the public on Friday, taking the wraps off the storefront in Detroit’s Cass Corridor area after holding an invitation-only preview party on Thanksgiving night.
Spanning 4,000 total feet, including offices and storage, the space is significantly larger than Third Man’s Nashville store but offers the same boutique-y blend of mainly vinyl and many limited edition records — from White’s Third Man label as well as the Sun and Paramount Records imprints — as well as apparel, turntables, guitar effects pedals, headphones and Polaroid cameras. The store also features a Voice-O-Graph self-recording booth, a listening booth, a photo booth and a Mold-O-Rama machine, which makes plastic replica of the Third Man Rolling Record Store truck (the real one was parked outside), along with plenty of memorabilia and photos from White’s Grammy Award-winning career. Large photos of the White Stripes, the MC5 and legendary Detroit garage rockers the Gories cover the south wall of the brick-walled facility.
Third Man artists Danny Kroha and Margo Price performed on Thursday night, as White’s mother and siblings and their families looked on alongside musician pals such as Dean Fertita (the Dead Weather, Raconteurs, Queens of the Stone Age), White’s Raconteurs mate Brendan Benson, Mary Ramirez of the Detroit Cobras, artist Niagara from Destroy All Monsters and singer-songwriter Ethan Daniel Davidson. Friday’s performance lineup includes Price, the Gories, Third Man group Timmy’s Organism and Lillie Mae Rische, the violinist in White’s band.
“It’s such a wonderful thing for Third Man Records to be here in the Cass Corridor, where so many of us made our bones and so many people from Detroit and our community did so many artistic things,” White said in a toast to the new store on Thursday night. The White Stripes, in fact, played its first shows at the Gold Dollar, a now defunct club that sat not far from Third Man’s Detroit location. “Everything about this neighborhood to me seems like the perfect place for the renaissance, the rebirth, the growth from the ashes that Detroit’s gonna rise from.”
Shoppers — notably members of the Third Man Records Collectors Facebook forum from Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio as well as Michigan — began lining up outside the story early Thursday morning. The Third Man staff brought the devotees a full Thanksgiving dinner as well as a late-night pizza snack.
Third Man’s special offerings for Record Store Black Friday include a series of nine early Tamla Records 7-inch vinyl singles by Marvin Gaye, Barrett Strong, the Supremes and others, as well as a single by obscure Michigan singer Jack Wood. The store also features full displays from the Sun and Paramount Records labels.
“I’m so happy this is happening here,” Fertita — a Detroit native whose wife Bonnie helps run Third Man’s Nashville store and was helping with the Detroit opening — told Billboard. “It’s great to have this happening back at home.”
Third Man principal Ben Swank said that after opening pop-up stores in other markets, the company has been thinking about another full-time location for several years. But things got more serious after White played two shows in Detroit during July of 2014.
“We just saw a sea change of people really working hard to make some positive changes in this town,” Swank said. “There was a real kind of artistic upheaval going on here, a lot of cool things happening. It felt like we could come back and do something here. A lot of the way we work is pretty instinctual. We just trust the moment and go with that.”
As it does in Nashville, Third Man is planning to host regular live performances at its Detroit store as well as a film series and book readings and signings. The company will also be opening a 10,000-square-foot vinyl record pressing plant. Eight machines have been purchased from Germany and are expected to be delivered in January, according to Swank, with the plant operational by spring — although he added that Third Man will also maintain its current relationship with United Record Pressing in Nashville.
“We reached a point where we wanted to start pressing our own records,” Swank explained. “It wasn’t something we ever wanted to do in Nashville; we’ve got a really good relationship with United there and felt like if we were going to start pressing our own stuff we shouldn’t do it in (Nashville) and directly compete with someone we’ve worked so closely with and will continue to work so closely with. We’ll do our own stuff but we’d like to help out smaller labels, the bedroom labels, that have to wait longer to get their stuff (pressed) sometimes and maybe work with those types of clients. We’ll have to see as we get into it.”