For 17 years, Sisters of Sound Records has been serving the Manhattan, Kansas community with its vinyl needs. Owned by actual sisters, Sarah and Leah Cunnick, the pair work in tandem to provide variety and education for all lovers of music. They're located in the heart of Aggieville, a college shopping district - not just bars, the pair is quick to point out - that's full of life and vibrant shopping opportunities. It's one of the aspects that brings its quirky atmosphere to life in and outside of the store.
The concept began when the town's previous record store closed. Sarah had worked there for a decade and told her sister, "This town needs a record store really bad." It was 2004 and in preparation for Sisters of Sound's debut, they stocked with records and CDs - half and half.
In their first day alone, they sold more than 400 records, a trend that only grew over time. Gradually, they phased out CDs and have focused solely on vinyl ever since.
"We looked at each other and said, 'I think we have something here.' And it's only gone up from there," Sarah said. A bubbly, vivacious personality who has never met a stranger; it's no wonder she connects with all who enter Sisters of Sound.
In an average week, they sell around 1,000 records, with Sarah noting that most are used; they sell 10 used records for every new one, she said. Prices average about $10, while there are also $1 bins, or new records that can sell around $40 a pop.
As for genres, they've got it all: country, R&B, rock, hip-hop, soundtracks. (Guardians of the Galaxy and Stranger Things soundtracks have been especially popular.)
The store has thousands of used records that customers can dig through - or gem hunt. "You may not be familiar with something, but if it's $1 or $2, who cares? You might come across a gem!"
"With vinyl and music you can always spend as much or as little as you want to," Sarah said.
In addition, Sarah said she always recommends that new customers ask family members if they have record players, before purchasing a new one. The store also offers all things records, including speakers, turntables, record crates, receivers, cleaner and more.
Meanwhile, they offer their expert advice for free. "We teach people all the time," Sarah said. "It's so fun getting people started. It's all about getting them interested and letting them take it from there. Getting them comfortable with it, that's kind of our goal."
With her own beginnings in vinyl, Sarah said she remembers being intimidated, and she never wants her own customers to have that same anxious feeling.
"We all like our own little things, different music and you never know when you're going to find a hidden gem. We all know what it's like to hunt down that certain item and then finding it," she said. "It's absolute sheer joy and I want everyone to experience that!"
Describing the store as "small but user friendly," the pair serves locals, as well as out-of-towners through the nearby college and military base. Sarah said the novelty of the shop (in a town of roughly 55,000) brings in newcomers daily, especially those who have relocated from larger towns. Customers can listen to records before they buy, request songs to be plaid over the store's speakers, or simply come in and talk music.
"It's all about communication and talking to people," Sarah said. "I ask them what they like and find out what they want to hear. It's a way we can bond - everyone likes something different and it's fun to talk about."
Leah, who serves as the resident DIYer, is helping take care of their mother in their small town of McPherson, Kansas, while Sarah remains managing the store, taking care of her customers in whatever way she can.
Like when a customer texted her after hours and asked if she was open - she wasn't, but still at work. She told him to come by and shop. Or when a customer's son was dealing with a long-term illness and another customer bought them a turntable to lift the child's spirits. Customers began donating and purchasing records to help start his collection. While Sarah herself didn't start the cause, it's a good summary of the type of people she brings in on the daily.
"To have a record store in Manhattan, I really feel like we are connecting with the music community and the community in general," she said. "We know where the best coffee shops are, we know where all the live music is. We know the great places to eat, who to visit, where to shop - a lot of people don't know that."
"There's so much to do and I love the connection with community. I just love this town; that's probably why I just never left."
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