Duluth Electric Fetus to close
The downtown record store (and more) has been a hub for the local music scene.
The Electric Fetus, a longtime go-to for albums made by local musicians, concert tickets and in-store performances, announced that the Duluth store will permanently close.
“It’s been incredible to be a part of the very special Duluth community and music scene, and we have great and loyal customers who we will miss,” the company announced Tuesday afternoon on its website and Facebook page.
The store, at 12 E. Superior St., closed a year ago at the start of pandemic-related shutdowns. Other reasons cited for the closure include the shifts in retail trends, a water main break and the Superior Street reconstruction project in front of the building in 2019 and near it in 2020.
“We’ve decided to focus on our Minneapolis location exclusively and advance and evolve that store,” the statement said.
The Keith and Barbara Covart Family Trust owns the building that houses the record-and-more store and office space. According to a representative from the company: “The Electric Fetus is open to suggestions and ideas from the community and the city regarding the Duluth building, as the next chapter for the space is currently undetermined.”
The Duluth store opened in 1987 and at the time was one of three stores in the state, alongside spots in Minneapolis and St. Cloud. Keith Covart, one of the original founders of The Electric Fetus, leased the space until the early 2000s when he bought it, then renovated it.
The family business now belongs to his daughter Stephanie Covart Meyerring and her husband Aaron Meyerring. Duluth's shop was managed by Carrie Brown, who was with the company for nearly 30 years, and is credited with supporting local artists.
The St. Cloud store closed in 2014 after 27 years.
A gathering place
For Walter “Walt Dizzo” Raschick, a DJ on KUWS-FM 91.3 and collector of Duluth’s music history, The Electric Fetus was a place to gather. It was in a good central location, he said, and had a knowledgeable staff.
“It’s a total loss to the community,” he said.
Breanne Tepler saw the closure coming and made a last-ditch effort to let its keepers know that Duluthians cared about its fate.
“The pandemic is starting to slow down and the mask mandate is being lifted and Duluth is coming to life because it’s spring and summer,” she said. “The road construction is much more manageable.
“This is when they would open if they were opening.”
She created the Facebook group “Hey Electric Fetus Duluth, please open!” on May 11 and encouraged Fetus fans to share stories about the shop. A week later there are more than 130 members in the group.
Tepler said she needed to be around like-minded people while the store’s status was uncertain. Plus, she wanted to catch the owners’ attention.
“It was my bat signal,” she said.
Raschick moved to this area more than 20 years ago and was always a regular customer, he said. It’s where he bought local musician Jamie Ness’s first record and where you could buy the new Crew Jones from Burly Burlesque, a member of Crew Jones.
“Seeing Charlie Parr playing in a corner …” he reminisced.
Tepler, who fronts Breanne Marie and the Front Porch Sinners, first engaged with the store as a kid living in Duluth’s Central Hillside. Years later, she went into the store with a bag of CDs and said:
“I have an album. What do I do?” she recalled.
The Electric Fetus has not only sold her music over the years, she did an in-store performance for Record Store Day.
It’s those intimate shows that musician Ryan Nelson was thinking about when he heard about the closure. Asked to talk about favorite memories from the store, he Tweeted: “Playing very loud in-stores with the Farsights and the Social Disaster were a lot of fun.”
State of stores
When the pandemic hit, the keepers of the Record Store Day website began keeping a resource of which local shops were open to foot traffic, delivery, local delivery and more.
Rolling Stone reported at the time that 80 percent had closed their doors — though some were offering online services.
Raschick, who finds records at stores like The Electric Fetus, thrift shops and garage sales, said brick and mortar sales are a tough business.
“Ask any record store owner and they’ll say a good way to lose money is to open a record store,” he said.
Heiko Edwardson worked at The Electric Fetus for a handful of years in the early 2000s and described it as more than a record store.
“It’s a community,” he said. “You get tons of people from all different walks of life all looking for one thing — it’s music. Young, old. You don’t realize the cultural impact the place has.”
While Edwardson didn’t leave the job on his own terms, he remained friendly with it and the scene it supported. He’s got nothing but love for the place, he said, and then mused about the city’s identity.
“Face it,” he said. “Duluth needs a record store."
This story was updated at 8:09 a.m. on May 19, 2021 with more information and comments. It was originally posted at 4:26 p.m.