Walking by Cactus Records on Bozeman's Main Street, you may notice unicorn heads, silly socks and other gag gifts, but you’ll also notice music posters plastered on the windows and a sandwich board outside advertising tickets for upcoming concerts.

It’s that combination that makes Cactus Records a must-see stop of tourists passing through town as well as a local's source for information about the latest music and area concerts.

Mike “Bueno” Good remembers the exact day he purchased the business: Sept. 5, 2001, just six days before 9-11. Since that time, he has seen the business change and has adapted to meet the needs of his customers.

We asked him a few questions about his business, the resurgence of vinyl and what advice he would give to other thinking of starting small businesses.

Why a record store?

I was in San Francisco working at a record label and record distribution company. I had lived here prior to that, and while I loved San Francisco, this was always home and I was in my 30s and it was time to choose where I wanted to spend the rest of my life as opposed to trying new things…I love this town. I love where it’s located. I love Main Street…I had a friend that worked at Cactus. I also did a little bit of radio. My friend who worked at Cactus said the former owners had moved to Hawaii and were running it remotely via computer with a manager.


What was the store like when you bought it?

The back was all gifts and there were more CDs and there really wasn’t any vinyl. The first thing I did, the basement was all greeting cards…and I immediately moved a lot of vinyl downstairs, thousands and thousands of records, and they really didn’t last very long. Vinyl was just really starting to become a thing again outside of the DJ market. I started out with mostly used vinyl. A guy I met here in town had a ton of vinyl, just a whole garage full, on top of the stuff I had accumulated, and I got a lot of stuff for the distribution company I had been working for and the distributors. They went really rapidly. Now vinyl sales have been going like this (his hand motioning a trend upward) and CD sales have been going like this (motioning a downward trend) and kind of right now they’re intersecting. Some months I sell more vinyl than CDs, especially around Christmas. Some months I sell more CDs than vinyl, but it’s really close.


What is the biggest part of your business now?

Everything that comes under the header “gifts.” Gifts have a good markup while music has a low markup.


Is the demand for vinyl still growing?

More and more people all the time are going digital, although a lot of people have come back. Customers were doing digital and now they’ll use digital to find what they like and then they’ll go and buy the vinyl or CD. More and more, the vinyl is for collectors. Every year there’s an increase in vinyl...Every year on National Record Store Day, the sales increase by about 35% from the previous year and that has really helped the medium. And it’s just constantly getting larger and larger, and that continues to help our inventory get larger and larger. And that’s really where my interest lies.


What other focuses do you have?

We work with the promoters in town and sell their tickets and we make a very, very small ticket fee on that. But it has done great, especially during the recession and really what kind of felt like the death of the CD and the death of the music industry. A few years ago, something like 70% of record stores went under and ticket sales really gave people a reason to continue coming in and it continues to do that as there are more and more concerts in town. It’s really been a good parachute, the tickets.


Do you still host concerts at the store?

We do and we’re about to do it again, probably on a weekly basis. I just bought a lot of really nice equipment from the Music Villa and we’re installing it here any day, and once that’s up and running, we’ll start scheduling the bands.


What do you credit your success to as a Main Street record store?

Our involvement with the community is very significant. The fact that we’ve been around since 1970 and people who went to school here, having a student population of people who are coming in and out. They’ll come into town. Diversification has been huge, the ability to always be on top of changing things up and being a small business. We’re steering a pretty small ship, or a boat, and the waves are getting tougher at times, but if you were steering a really big boat, it’d be a lot more treacherous.


What do you find the most rewarding part of what you do?

The appreciation that I get from customers, to be honest. Our customers, we have so many regular customers or people from out of town. I hear so many times a day, “I love your store” or “That’s my favorite part of downtown Bozeman.”


What do you think you did to make that place such an inviting place that people want to come back to?

I don’t think that it’s anything I created, but I think I expanded on a foundation that had already been built and maintained and expanded on that. But, I suppose, a lot of it is the laid back nature of the business, making some really great choices with staff, people that really work hard but enjoy what they’re doing, and that really is noticeable by our customers, that if you’re in an environment where the staff enjoys and they’re making the customers part of that experience. There’s definitely no formula.


Are you working on anything new?

Soon gift items will be available on our website. We’re going to upgrade the website and have a lot of that stuff on our website.


What advice to you have for someone looking to start a small business?

Be prepared for one of the biggest commitments of your life. I had no idea what kind of commitment I was getting myself into. Someone warned me it was mostly paperwork and bureaucracy. It’s really, really hard work, but it’s also really rewarding. It took years for me to really feel rewarded, and I’m speaking more emotionally, psychologically than financially.


How did you fund your business when you first got started?

I got a loan and I had a family member help me a little bit with the down payment.


Article Written by Erin Schattauer for Lendio.com

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