Ahead of Saturday’s final day, past employees of The Exclusive Company reflect on what made the Green Bay record store so special – Green Bay Press Gazette

GREEN BAY – When The Exclusive Organization closes its doors upon Saturday after nearly 37 years ,   it’s the end of an era not just for customers who have been browsing the music racks since 1985 but also for employees past and present who have such fond  memories of  time spent there.

After the particular Wisconsin chain of record stores announced in April it was closing all of the remaining locations following liquidation sales , we caught  up with some  of the familiar faces  from behind the counter  over the decades who helped give Natural Bay’s Exclusive its character. They reminisced about the particular camaraderie of the staff, midnight openings, unforgettable clients, the power of music and how working plus shopping there changed their lives.

Without a doubt, they also talked about manager Tom Smith, who has put his indelible stamp on the store since he started working there in 1988.  

The particular sweet nostalgia of Imports Plus, Surfin’ Bird and the  PhonoLog

Who: Jeremy LaLuzerne, West Allis

Years worked: 1993-2000

How he landed there: Growing up on Green Bay’s west side, LaLuzerne and a friend would frequently walk up Broadway, stop in at Imports Plus,   visit the Surfin’ Bird skateboard shop, hit The Special Company  just a couple of doors down and then head for Port Plaza Mall.

“That was our ritual, ” this individual said.

“It was always the same, ” LaLuzerne said of the lure of The Exclusive Company. “You knew if you just needed to get out of your brain for a half-hour or an hour or whatever, even if you weren’t going to go buy anything, it had been usually an escape for me. ”

He hung out at the store so much that Jones once told him he or she thought he was stealing. But when he learned LaLuzerne has been into some of the same songs as he was, punk bands like  The Dictators and Ramones, Smith might loan him music plus, as LaLuzerne says, “feed the flame. ”

He was 16 when this individual was hired and about in order to graduate from Notre Dame Academy when the opportunity to be the assistant manager under Smith came up. It was decision period: Go to college or even work in the record shop?

“Chose the record store, obviously, and you couldn’t ask for a better environment in order to work in. ”

What had been cool about it: Not only did their friends constantly know where to find him, but he got to know customers so well over the particular years, he’d see a face and know exactly what they were there to buy. Perks like free concert tickets plus CDs made up with regard to the meager wages.

“It was a tremendous amount of work, to be honest with you, working right now there without the computer, yet you went to work with your own best friends, ” he stated, laughing regarding the massive PhonoLog, a beast of a directory associated with recorded music by artist that was quadruple the size of the phone book and heavily used by personnel as a reference.

Flashing back: When Nirvana’s “MTV Unplugged in New York” came out inside 1994, local TV news covered the midnight opening. LaLuzerne remembers his teacher in first hour the particular next morning  asking your pet what having been doing up at 1 a. m. selling CDs. “Totally busted, ” he said.

A few words about Tom Smith: As a teen, LaLuzerne marveled at Smith’s work ethic and still pulls from it today. He thinks of the midnight openings when Smith worked all day, would certainly go home and perhaps catch a quick nap,   return to get ready for the midnight event and after that be back in the shop first thing Tuesday morning.

“I have so many simply insane good memories through the Golf course Bay store, ” this individual said. “After working from other areas (including assistant manager at The  Exclusive on Farwell Avenue in Milwaukee), I will say that one has something more to it. I think it was the way Mary ran it. He had an extra unique passion for it. ”

Somewhere between Tori Amos and Motorhead, she met her future husband

That: Angie LaLuzerne, West Allis

Many years worked: Three, beginning in 1994

How she landed there: There was seldom a time the girl went within to shop that the lady didn’t ask Smith in case he was hiring. Then came the particular call one day while a student at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. He needed someone to work Tuesday and Thursday mornings, and it just so happened her classes didn’t start until one p. m.

“It has been the best day associated with my life. I was so excited, ” LaLuzerne mentioned. “To put it simply, it’s just really still the coolest job I’ve ever had. I’ll probably never top this. ”

What was cool about it: The crew working there all had different tastes in music, but they embraced the team mentality it took to make displays, function midnight opportunities and keep plan the particular customer traffic on new release days (before you could just pull  new music  up on your phone).  

She also fulfilled her husband, Jeremy LaLuzerne, while they were both employees. It wasn’t necessarily their taste in songs that 1st brought them together. His favorite bands were the Ramones plus Motorhead. She was into Tori Amos and Nine Inch Nails.

They’ve found common ground in the particular 25 years since then. Not many couples can say they saw Motorhead together on their own wedding day — or entertain their two sons with stories of how they sold Aqua’s “Barbie Girl” on CD by the armfuls within the mid-’90s long before it became the TikTok sensation.

A few terms about Ben Smith: “I don’t think it’s a good understatement to say Tom changed lives. He’s just so passionate about, whether it’s a band that he or she loves and wants to sell their latest album, or if there’s a band coming to town, whether it is one he set up or even not, this individual just wants people in order to go. He wants people to take the chance upon something new he thinks is great.  … He’s an institution regarding sure. ”

Her Rolling Stones-loving dad turned her on to the shop, then she got a job there

Who: Erin Cruz, Dallas area

Years worked well: 1993-1997

How the girl landed presently there: Before she was on the payroll as a 15-year-old Preble High School student, the lady had already been coming in the store as a kid with her father, who loved music and  the Moving Stones in particular.   This individual always had Smith ordering him Stones imports and other goodies. Whenever Cruz told her dad  she wanted in order to get a job with the shop, he cautioned her she would be functioning the rest of the girl life. Did she really want to begin already on 15?

“But I just thought it seemed like the coolest place to work, plus it had been, ” the girl said.

Flashing back: She started out as a runner prior to she proved helpful the register, so the girl was often stocking, organizing and refilling the back wall. She recalls Green Day’s major label debut, “Dookie, ” blowing up in 1994 and stacks of it flying out the doors.

Christmas season, in the pre-online shopping era, was a wild ride. There was clearly the frenetic energy those weeks, and it was generally all hands on deck. Then on Jan. 1, the entire staff reported for duty to do inventory.

“That was kind of the ultimate beat-down work, where we would count every single item in the store, ” the lady said. But even that, with pizzas ordered within, was fun.

What she’s likely to miss about this: Every summer when she gets back to Green Bay to check out, The Exclusive Company is a must stop in order to buy vinyl. No matter how it has changed with time, she said it nevertheless feels such as exactly the same place she adored, thanks in no small part to Smith. Her kids, ages 8 plus 11, get a kick out of  seeing this.  

What the particular city will be going in order to miss without it: “It really is type of a cultural hub for the city of Putting surface Bay, to me,   and a place to not only buy music but for individuals to find out about live shows. Sort of this somewhat counterculture presence that is alive in little ol’ Environment friendly Bay and a place for people who want some thing that’s not necessarily on the particular radio or mainstream, ” she stated.

“I feel like it leaves the hole, yet at the same time, Tom is such a central figure in order to that whole community and culture that I feel like whatever is usually next intended for him, promoting (punk plus rock) shows or what ever the case may be, it’s not like it will completely vanish  — at  least hopefully not. ”

Putting some muscle into the classical songs section; no ‘junk’ allowed 

Who else: Gerald Frisque, Green These types of

Yrs worked: 1989-2008

Exactly how he got there: He or she didn’t go looking for any job. It found  him. The classical music section when the particular store  very first opened has been less than dazzling. It consisted primarily associated with five composers: Bach, Beethoven, Mozart,   Tchaikovsky and Vivaldi. As a customer, Frisque wasn’t shy about griping about the slim offerings.   He figures management decided when they couldn’t shut your pet up, they would just hire him to fix it.

This individual accepted the particular offer to be the classical buyer, so long as he had full control of that area. He obtained busy adding six to 10 brand new composers each month, bluntly refusing to carry what he or she called “junk, ” including opera greatest hits of any kind. He or she called those “coasters. inch

The store’s rich traditional inventory became a regional destination for shoppers, including all those in Chicago who bypassed Milwaukee plus those within Iowa that skipped Madison and instead came to Green Bay.

“I always took that as a compliment, ” he said.

This individual wasn’t, however , above a rare swing along with a miss. He remembers looking at one  new release  coming out on cassette and COMPACT DISC and thinking to himself, “Who the hell would want that damn thing? inches He ordered three copies total.

This was the original The 3 Tenors.

“Of course, the thing went multiplatinum and (National) Public Radio was  playing on earth out associated with it. By Saturday early morning, we were sold out of it in 2 seconds. I experienced a list of 40 people who wanted it, ” Frisque mentioned. “I felt like a good a–  to get missing that one. ”

What was cool regarding it: “I had a job for 19 years that I wouldn’t have  traded pertaining to anything. We couldn’t possess had a better job for me. I cherished it, inch Frisque  said.

“We had been all passionate about our music. It just wasn’t something where we there in order to punch the particular timecard plus go house, like you’re flipping burgers or some thing.   We took a lot of pride in it, ” this individual said of the staff. “Everybody basically knew the color of everybody else’s underwear.   There was a closeness regarding it. Everybody pulled for everyone else. inches

Blinking back: This seemed the staff has been always fighting a battle on 1 thing or even another  whenever it arrived to the particular brick building at the corner associated with 423 Dousman St . This individual remembers the particular summer the air conditioners proceeded to go out  — all three of them.

“You walk in there and in 60 seconds you were taking the bath in your own clothes, ” Frisque said. “Customers weren’t even staying in there. inch

Buying Deep Purple, The particular Beatles records on the day of his First Communion

Who: Michael Zink, De Pere

Years worked: 1995-2001; manager his last year and a half

How he or she landed right now there: The initial two albums he remembers buying at the store, on the particular day associated with his First Communion,   were “Perfect Strangers” by Deep Purple and “Let It Be” by The Beatles. He  still has all of them both. When he turned sixteen and it was time to find employment, the store was tops on his list. He applied multiple times along with no luck, and right after stints in De Pere Cinema and Hot ’n Now, assistant manager Jeremy LaLuzerne, who else attended a similar high school, put in the good word for him.

That which was cool concerning this: It was the perfect gig for a music guy such as Zink — huge Frank Zappa plus Mothers of Invention fan, Beach Patrol bassist and somebody which, then plus now, revels in being around information. He got an education in music from hearing what Cruz or LaLuzerne played inside the shop, which was continually whatever these people wanted. There were summer time nights with the doors open listening to Television and the Flamin’ Groovies. When Smith handed him a Figgs CD one day, it turned into “an obsession for life. ”

His was employed there during the era when  Smith had been managing plus booking displays at Concert Cafe, the all-ages live music  venue on Main Street that will hosted community and touring bands. The store was the unofficial hub associated with local songs, Zink stated, but there was a tunnel directly in order to Concert Cafe.

“If there was the time to work at The particular Exclusive Business, which was the particular time, inches he mentioned.

Flashing back: He or she loved this when Wesley Willis would come in and hang out in the store. The 6-foot-5-inch, 300-pound beloved Chicago underground musician was known for greeting people with a headbutt plus a “say raaahhw. ” Zink recalls selling your pet a Monkees CD and also a bunch of Overkill.  

The few phrases about Jeff Smith: “At the risk of sounding like I’m kissing the guy’s a–, he’s iconic in his role as manager associated with The Unique Company. He is synonymous using the place. Their work ethic is beyond admirable. Just what he’s done obviously for the particular music scene in Eco-friendly Bay, it cannot be overstated. It’s the sort of thing they’ll write books about eventually. ”

The hole the store will leave: “For me, not really ever really giving the (expletive) about the Packers, this is definitely worse than the Packers leaving Green Bay. This is devastating to the non-Packer culture side associated with Green Bay.

“So much of my existence literally today is still informed by my time from The Special Company, whether it be whatever report I listened to this morning being something I bought generally there when I was 18 or going over to Jeremy and Angie (LaLuzerne’s)  house and our kids hanging out and playing video games. Simply innumerable things about that place have affected me personally, that in the event that it were not there I’d be a completely various person. ”

A Kutska’s Hall show  and Pearl Jam midnight opening almost all in a single night

Who: Paul Wanish, Door County

Years worked well: 1992-1998

How he landed presently there: He was within his third year with UW-Green Gulf and got worked other jobs this individual didn’t particularly enjoy, so when Smith offered to hire him and accommodate his  class schedule, it absolutely was an easy decision meant for Wanish, who  was a regular shopper.

How it landed  your pet in Boris the Sprinkler: When the Green Bay punk band’s original drummer, Ronny Johnny Kispert, quit, Smith suggested they will recruit Wanish, and  the particular band’s John No . 2 was born. Wanish was also in local noise band Nostril at the time, therefore naturally their area of expertise on the shop was punk rock and noise artists.

Blinking back: Whenever Pearl Jam released “Vs. ” inside 1993, The Exclusive Firm did a midnight starting. Wanish recalls many of the workers had been at a show at Kutska’s Hall in Howard earlier in the evening plus then came back to function your local store, exactly where a couple of hundred people were waiting in line.

A favorite memory: He’ll not soon forget the Rhythm Chicken’s 5-minute performance behind the particular drums at Record Store Day within April. It’s an act you might say is close to Wanish’s heart. The Rhythm Chicken’s first gig  at The Exclusive will go down as the last in-store performance.

A few words about Tom Jones: “Tom is the coronary heart and the soul associated with that shop. Him becoming such the pivotal, central figure to the Natural Bay music scene, it turned out just profoundly coincidental or cause and effect-wise that he was also the one who setup most of the concerts, brought a lot of great bands to Eco-friendly Bay. It had been just an amazing alignment of circumstances. Totally invaluable to  Green Bay  that will he was the person that he is plus did exactly what he did for thus long in Green Clean. ”

It started with slipping out of Port Plaza Mall to create secret visits to Pipe Dreams

Who: Todd Tousey, Suring

Years worked: Eight, beginning in 2001

How he or she landed right now there: Before this was The particular Exclusive Corporation, the building was home to Pipe Dreams record store. Tousey grew up a good hour north of Environment friendly Bay but would come to downtown’s Port Plaza Mall within the late 1970s and early ’80s as a child. His mom would tell him he could go off and look in records because long since he stayed within the mall, but he would sneak out, stroll across the particular Fox River and head to Tube Dreams with his paper route and allowance money inside hand. If he bought a record there, he would make sure to also buy one particular on the shopping mall. That way this individual could switch bags, so his mother didn’t understand where he or she had actually been.

He or she was an Exclusive Company customer when he or she was buying Megadeth plus Danzig cds at midnight in 1992. He became the store’s resident metal expert when he required employment nearly a decade later. It absolutely was a time when bands like Manowar and Dimmu Borgir  were heavy hitters and the Iron Maiden revitalization has been happening.

What has been cool regarding it: Tousey, who played in local metal band Aggressor during the time, liked having a job where he could talk music at work and have got conversations along with customers. Scoring tickets in order to shows plus backstage passes to meet Ronnie James Dio wasn’t bad either. In case Smith hadn’t played The Hellacopters in the store, Tousey might never have come to think of them as “the finest rock ’n’ roll music group in the particular world. ”

There had been a sense of excitement plus a social  connection to songs buying during those many years that Tousey thinks can be missing inside the age of downloads and streaming.

“There’s nothing quite like being able to go into a store and see something right there in front of you that weren’t expecting to find. Instant gratification. Being able to be surprised, like, ‘Wow, a person have this particular?! Awesome! ’ And you’re fired up, ” he said. “For a music fan, that  (expletive) can be so important to you when you find some thing you were not looking to discover. ”

Several words and phrases about Dan Smith: “Tom, for the amount of hours and the amount of his life that will he spent there, is pretty amazing. He might as well have slept in that creating for the last 10 years. He’s really already been dedicated to the job plus to the cause. I give the people in charge of The Distinctive Company credit. I think it was the really a great effort they did to keep it going. ”

Her  car broke down  throughout her pink hair phase, and the particular rest is usually history

Who: Victoria Vox, Costa Mesa, California

Many years worked: 1999

Just how she arrived there: Because a student at Preble High College, she was just starting to play guitar and discover folkies like Dar Williams and Ani DiFranco because a teenager shopper with the store. Cruz introduced her to the likes associated with Matthew Sweet and R. E. M.

She was in between semesters from college whenever she has been back in  Green Bay and the girl car broke down. She decided to just stick around home designed for a semester, working  with the shop (during her pink hair phase) just before returning in order to Berklee College of Music and eventually making a name for herself as a touring singer/songwriter and ukulele musician.

The thing that was awesome over it: Exactly what wasn’t? “For the most part, everybody who also worked generally there, everybody whom came in presently there was great, ” Vox said.

The girl time as an employee had been brief, but the store and Smith’s impact on her career have been immeasurable. She sold the particular first cassette she made in high school, one the girl burned their self on a double tape deck and made duplicates, on consignment within the store and countless of the girl CDs given that.

That was one of the things that set their grocer apart from chains such as Sam Goody inside the mall, Vox said. It gave local independent performers like her space within a brick-and-mortar store to get their music in the particular hands of fans.

The girl frequently emerged back to Green Bay during her  breaks through Berklee to play open mics and displays at Live concert Cafe. Smith was at all times telling the girl she should have her own CD. The girl wasn’t capable to swing the expense at that time, therefore Smith sponsored her debut album, “Victoriand the Ultra Pink Bicycle Incident. ” 

A couple of words about Tom Smith: “Tom was simply the best. He is certainly the hottest, ” the lady said.

“I would proceed into The Exceptional Company plus Tom would always be there. Sometimes I would just say, ‘What’s new? What’s good? ’ And he might recommend collections to me. It was just a really great way to listen to new music, because all of us only know music as far as what we all hear, and so I was really thankful for him to kind of open my eyes and ears to songs that I actually might not have heard otherwise. ”

Contact  Kendra Meinert  at 920-431-8347 or [email protected] gannett. com. Follow her on Twitter @KendraMeinert .  

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