August 28, 2013

A Word With the Boss: Bull Moose Q&A

Brett Wickard opened a record store in Brunswick in 1989 while still in college. It's now blossomed into a small empire, with 11 locations and an online store.

By Edward D. Murphy emurphy@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Bull Moose founder and sole owner Brett Wickard, shown in his South Portland store, says to compete with the big online book and music sellers, “It’s our job to listen to our customers and adapt and kind of roll with the punches.”

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

Discovery is such a great part of the music business. It's always the hunt and the search for something new. We feel those are the things that the music business was really kind of scared of, but actually it led to people wanting to discover new things. 

Q: How are you thriving in an age of so much Internet commerce?

A: As a business, we try to not judge the music fans and video fans, we try to figure them out and be with them. Our goal is to heavily (focus) on having everything. A lot of stores may carry things that turn (over) one time a year or less. A lot of retailers would say that's crazy, but it's worth it for the music fan or movie fan. If we carry that, it gives them an incentive to come. The stuff we sell is a different beast -- people are looking for a specific item. 

Q: Was it difficult to take the leap and expand beyond the original store?

A: The second store (in North Windham) was the most difficult, due to, frankly, a lesson I had to learn -- that people who work at the stores are awesome people and it was hard being able to let go and not be a micro-manager and let people thrive. That's one of the most important things that I learned as a manager, learning how to stay out of the way. So much of a small business is your own blood, sweat and tears. With two stores, you can't do that anymore, and I learned I have to trust people, and I learned that some people were better at parts of the job than I was and we are all better together. 

Q: What was it like having Mumford & Sons perform at your store before their concert here last summer?

A: It was a dream come true. There are a handful of people here who have chutzpah and they will ask anybody to show up if they're coming to town. They will get on the phone, call up the manager of anybody and say, "You guys are coming to Maine. Why don't you come into our store?" We do get shot down often, but we're like the kid who wants to go to the prom and gets shot down and keeps asking. Sometimes the homecoming queen says yes. 

Q: Do you have lot of variation among stores?

A: We allow each store to adapt to its marketplace -- what might sell well at one store might not even be on the charts in another store. That's really true with music, but also with movies and games. Music is now less than half our sales, and movies and games are growing dramatically. In some of our stores, music is not even number one. And some of our best-selling things are items like Magic cards (Magic: The Gathering, a trading card game) -- people are really into that and know we have them and it fits into what we're about, which is, it's something fun. 

Q: What do you see in the future for Bull Moose?

A: We like to consider ourselves an opportunistic company. We try to keep our options and our minds open, but our overall ambition is, we like to sell inexpensive, cool stuff. We should be a store that you just go hang out in, not be pressured to buy something. But if you find something that connects to you somehow, that's what we'll be selling. It's all about connecting with other people, so we want to be a meeting point where those types of conversations take place.

We're aggressively looking for new locations right now. Nothing to announce yet, but we plan to keep growing. 

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

emurphy@pressherald.com

 

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