The Mother Church and The Other Church: Grimey's New and Pre-Loved Music
In every music city in America, there’s a go-to record store. Austin has Waterloo Records, Los Angeles has Amoeba. And in Nashville, it’s Grimey’s New and Pre-Loved Music – which is no small feat, considering it is ‘Music City’ – both a home to some of today’s most notable musicians and a hub for tourists celebrating bachelorettes and birthdays. Grimey’s is instantly welcoming; when you pull up to the parking lot in East Nashville, you’re greeted by a big building covered in colorful murals of Nashville’s most beloved and up-and-coming artists: John Prine, Katie Pruitt, and Margo Price, amongst others. When you walk in the door you’re welcomed by staff and high ceilings lined with exposed beams. There’s a sea of vinyl neatly organized by genre and more specific collections, like local artists and staff picks. At the end of the rows of records, dead center, sits a stage and wall projection reading GRIMEY’S.
But this wasn’t always the place that housed the Nashville gem, in fact, Grimey’s began calling this location home less than three years ago. Founded by Mike Grimes (who co-owner Doyle Davis dubs “the mayor of Nashville, on the music scene side”) in December 1999, the record store first launched out of a small house across town in the much more quaint neighborhood of Berry Hill. Ironically, Grimes also helmed Slow Bar, now a relic of the past, which was one of the first dives and live music venues in East Nashville’s well-traveled Five Points area. Offering titles from his own collection and promotional records from his previous job at Sony, Grimes decided to pull in Davis as co-owner in May 2002. “I was General Manager of a local mom and pop chain of comic book shops and I wasn’t happy anymore. I liked having my hands on the wheel and doing the work -- mentoring the staff, buying the records, running the store. I would go over to Grimey’s and bitch about my job. Mike had a refrigerator over there that he kept full of Bud and he’d hand me one and we’d chat,” co-owner Davis explains. “His [Grimes] idea was to pull me in and take over the record store. I was ready to take the leap and it was the smartest thing I ever did.”
Davis’s first mission was clear: to expand Grimey’s new release section and establish a full-service independent record store, which he says Nashville didn’t really have at the time. “As soon as we started doing it, people in the industry came out of the woodwork and said ‘Thank god! We’ve been wanting an indie record store in Nashville forever.’ I didn’t know there was this hunger for it on the industry side,” Davis says, “We super served our customers from the get go. We got to know them, and tried to find things for them. We had a basic ‘if we build it, they will come’ attitude and it worked. We didn’t have a real business plan or a lot of capital. We just grew in baby steps, and it’s continued to grow right to this day.”
With that Field of Dreams mentality, the resurgence of vinyl in the mid-00’s, and initiatives like Record Store Day, Grimey’s rose to the go-to status that it’s known for today. Another moving part that makes it a critical part of Nashville’s music scene? The store’s support of local musicians and the perfect compliment to recorded music: live performances and meet-and-greet signings. “Jason Isbell did an in-store with us when he was in the Drive By Truckers and then ended up doing an in-store at Grimey’s for every album he’s ever made, right up to this last one that came out during a pandemic and we couldn’t do it,” Davis says. He also sheds light on other highlights through the years like hosting beloved gospel quartet The McCrary Sisters, and multi Grammy-award-winning duet The Civil Wars’ throwing a party at Grimey’s to celebrate their album reaching Gold status. “We had Old Crow Medicine Show play here on a Sunday and they called it ‘The Other Church.’ You know the Ryman [Auditorium] is the ‘Mother Church’ and Grimey’s is the ‘Other Church,’” Davis explains.
Thankfully, Grimey’s successfully emerged from the pandemic with the help of the rise in vinyl sales–which increased nearly 30% in 2020–and an unsuspecting fan with plenty of capital: Taylor Swift. “I thought it was the end for sure, and then it wasn’t. Quite a rollercoaster ride. I got a call from her [Swift’s] publicist saying, ‘What do you need? Taylor wants to help.’ Of course rent, but also our health care plan for our full time employees. I gave them the monthly cost and they came back and paid three months of the insurance and sent direct relief to the staff,” Davis explains, “That was the moment where it really turned for me. It felt like an existential threat at first. The Taylor Swift thing wasn’t enough to save Grimey’s, but it was definitely the first glimpse at the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Next time you’re in Nashville, make sure the ‘Other Church’ is at the top of your must-see list. Not only is it one of the most well-known and respected vinyl shops in the country, it’s an analog bloodline for musicians near and far.
Visit grimeys.com for more information.