Off The Beaten Path Finds New Home in Bay View
Milwaukee’s huge record store population is one of the city’s biggest draws for music lovers. There are record stores in nearly every corner of the city eager to provide wax addicts with a quick music fix. Rush-Mor Records and Acme Records & Music Emporium have turned Bay View into an oasis for LP lovers, and Off the Beaten Path’s recent opening at 3201 S. Howell Ave. has turned that cherished duo of record stores into a newly formed power trio.
Off the Beaten Path stands out from other Milwaukee-area record stores with its eclectic selection, cheap prices and uber-friendly owner Christopher Kruse. Previously located in a tiny “blink and you’ll miss it” space on Farwell Ave., the store certainly lived up to its name; though the miniscule building was often overshadowed by Koppa’s and Comet Café, Off the Beaten Path gained a loyal and passionate customer base.
“Anyone who was in the previous space knew it was really small, and the building was not in great shape, nor well-maintained,” said Kruse. “I got very tired of maintenance issues and thought about expanding for a while. I wanted a spot that was quite a bit larger so we could display much more equipment and more vinyl.”
After spending six years on the East Side, the store outgrew its humble abode and relocated to a bigger building nestled in the southwestern corner of Bay View in June. Off The Beaten Path’s new location is significantly larger and much more noticeable than the last, with three sizeable rooms dedicated to music. Even though the space has changed, Kruse’s priorities have stayed the same. Maintaining an impressive vinyl selection is one of the store’s trademarks, and the new location will continue to carry on that legacy.
“It’s a much bigger space to fill. We’re displaying and selling quite a bit more equipment,” Kruse says. “We are also able to put out more vinyl daily. Right now, we’re experimenting with a few new titles as well, but those are just ones that the original pressings are very pricey and very difficult to find. Our focus will always be on original first pressings.”
While vinyl still takes up a huge part of Off The Beaten Path’s real estate, the bigger space allows for inventory outside of LPs. The store boasts hundreds of CDs and cassettes for music lovers who haven’t jumped back on the vinyl train just yet. Magazines, buttons, shirts and other music memorabilia are also for sale. Audio equipment is another huge focus for Krause, who converted the store’s back room into a repair shop for gear. He says the new location has attracted new Bay View area customers who are excited to have yet another record store in their neighborhood.
“So far, the transition has been great. It’s actually gone better than expected,” Kruse explains. “We are always pretty slow in summer, but it’s been better this year since the move. Shoppers are definitely a mix of previous customers from the East Side and new ones from Bay View.”
Though moving can be stressful and uncomfortable, Kruse says the new Bay View location has proven a refreshing change of pace.
“The first couple weeks, it felt weird,” he said. “I really enjoyed the old space and grown so accustomed to it after six-plus years. It took a while for this one to start to feel like home. I think we’re nearing that point now.”Off the Beaten Path is located at 3201 S. Howell Ave. The store is open Thursdays and Fridays 12 p.m.-7 p.m., Saturdays 11 a.m.-7 p.m. and Sundays 11 a.m.-4 p.m.