Ryan Graveface is trying to restore balance to the force in his business dealings through creative marketing strategies paired with basic human decency.
The foundation of the basic business model in any economic structure is to generate profit. There is nothing inherently wrong with that as a concept. Capitalism and fair market competition have driven our economy from infancy to its standing as the greatest economy to ever exist. It created the American dream.
Greed, of course, has always been the thorn in the side of capitalism. The life blood of greed is a loss of decent humanity, ethics, if you will. We’ve seen this evil empire roar its head in every industry and sector in this country.
Graveface, owner of Graveface Records & Curiosities and the Graveface Records label, has over the years attempted to strike a balance between humanity and profits in an atypical business model that seems to be working. It’s a model becoming popular with many locally owned small businesses.
For his record label and store, the bottom line isn’t his sole concern, but it’s also not overlooked. Over the last five years of running the physical store in Savannah and the 16 years his label has been around, Graveface has steadily put the perpetuation of good art before profit margins, while using creative marketing strategies to keep both businesses alive.
In a recent interview with Do Savannah before his fifth anniversary block party, Graveface admitted the store probably wouldn’t have survived without the label. While the vinyl market is continuing its rebound in the music market, it’s only a sliver of the very limited amount of money people still spend on music.
“The label has helped tremendously,” Graveface told Do Savannah in October. “I’d say that’s 60 percent of the business. You’re only looking at a small amount that’s local. It’s not that far off, though. Just a little bit more local support and it would be 50-50. I am not talking about locals spending money. I am just talking about people coming in the door. There will be hours and hours where no one comes in.
“It’s not like every local needs to spend $100 every day. That’s far-fetched and I don’t have that expectation in general. It’s just, come check it out. There are so many record collectors in town. We stock all of the new stuff. We have a ton of used stuff coming in now.”
At that anniversary party, the store was bustling with bodies, and the deals were plentiful. I grabbed far more albums than I could properly afford. Lou Reed’s “The Mistrial,” The Who’s “Tommy,” Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and The Rolling Stones’ “Goat Head Soup” were among them, if you’re wondering.
Without a doubt, the surge in actual in-store purchases helped the business along and was equally a thank you to the community that has helped him thrive.
Through a Facebook post, Graveface recently introduced a new charitable initiative for his store. To no surprise, it’s not about money. In fact, he’ll basically be giving away merchandise. In return, he gets bodies in his store. It’s a good business strategy balanced with being a good human.
“I’ve been trying to figure out a unique way to be more charitable in the shop and came up with an idea a few months ago,” Graveface said in the post.
Each month a section of 40 to 50 records in the shop will be curated by a business and 100 percent of the profits from those albums sold will go to a charity of the business’ choice.
For November, Graveface chose his store as the business and the Feminist Women’s Health Center in Atlanta as the charity to receive the profits. The curated section will be any Graveface Records release.
“So now you have a pretty good excuse to support the records we put out in-house,” Graveface said. “I’ve released 126 records so far, so there’s bound to be something you don’t hate.”
“I feel it hits on two fronts,” Graveface said. “First, the charity obviously, but beyond that, it’ll allow some outside curation of what we stock, which I think is a cool idea for a record shop.”
Graveface has proved a balance between capitalism and humanity can be achieved. As we watch corporations lay off loyal workers, cut benefits and demand more work than they are paying for, Graveface is part of a movement breathing fresh air into capitalism, and from a standpoint of decency and not profits alone.
Joshua Peacock is a writer for Do Savannah. He studied playwriting and music at the University of Iowa. Contact him at email@example.com.
GRAVEFACE RECORDS & CURIOSITIES
Address: 5 W. 40th St.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Friday; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday; noon-7 p.m. Sunday