LOVELAND, Ohio -- It all began with a fake record label. Which became a real record label. Which became a real record store. And that became one of downtown Loveland's most energetic and beloved new businesses.
But let's start at the beginning.
When Plaid Room Records co-owners Terry and Bob Cole were young children in Middletown, their steelworker father instilled in them a love for the sound of music on vinyl.
"Our dad was a doo-wop music collector," explains Terry, "so growing up we always had a basement full of records."
But records weren't just a pastime in the Cole household; they'd soon as well become lucrative means for the Cole children's future.
"There were four of us, and when it came time for college, there was no way we could have afforded tuition," Terry said.
With their father's blessing, the brothers sold some of his records on eBay, which in turn paid for large portions of the Cole brothers' college educations.
After college, when Terry -- then working by day as a high school zoology teacher -- was playing in bands in the Miami University-Oxford music scene, he cut an album of his own. He just didn't know how best to market it.
"I wanted to sell the album at our shows, so I thought 'We're not signed to a record label, but wouldn't it be cool if we could make it look like we were?'" Terry said.
This creative hoodwinking was the impetus of the aptly named Colemine Records, which Terry would continue to foster even as he taught school and which would become a legitimate label of its own.
Today, Colemine Records houses around 35 soul, funk and blues artists, producing vinyl records for the musicians and handling distribution, promotion, marketing and artwork for each new release.
"Bob and I have always had the attitude of 'instead of paying someone to do it, we should learn how to do it ourselves, which is why we've continued to grow," Terry said.
Terry remained a schoolteacher, moonlighting with work on the Colemine label, until a particularly disheartening day at work left him sitting in a faculty meeting and making plans for a big change.
"I wondered what else I could do and I thought, 'I bet I could open up a record store as a front for the record label and do that well,'" he said. "So that day I started looking at possible locations. We'd always liked Loveland because of the river and the trails, so I went there that day to start asking around about property."
He called Bob, who was returning from a weeks-long solo camping trip in Minnesota, and the two convened at an impromptu meeting in Indianapolis. The duo, along with the Coles' third brother, Dave, submitted a business plan three days later. Once the plan was accepted, Plaid Room Records, a new record store and the hub for the Colemine record label, was born.
"It was important to us to find the right place," Bob said. "We didn't want to pull customers away from the area's other good record stores, because we liked them, so we wanted to find a way to create our own new market."
"In Cincinnati, you often have to drive to get to most good record stores," Terry said. "So we thought that if we're going to ask people to drive, why not ask them to drive to a really nice, great downtown area like Loveland?"
The township offered another unique opportunity for the brothers' shop, as the property sits along the increasingly popular Loveland Bike Trail. Since Plaid Room's cozy boutique environs serve as the business headquarters for the record label, it also attracts people traveling the trail through the town's downtown district.
"Probably 90 percent of foot traffic that comes from the trail are people who may not necessarily buy records," Bob said. "But it offers great word of mouth, and those people have other people who they'll tell about this place."
The brothers have also helped to launch a vinyl rebirth in the quiet town, having sold an impressive 180 turntables in their 20 months in business.
"There are a lot of people who come in here who've never owned a record player or even listened to music on a record player," Bob said. "We see parents bringing their kids in who want to buy records, and by the end, the parents are buying their own records."
Plaid Room has since become a hub for Loveland-area music lovers; the shop hosts in-store concerts among its stacks of vinyl and has applied for a liquor license to accommodate those who want to browse even more casually.
But for Terry and Bob, the everyday thrill of managing both Plaid Room and Colemine Records still comes with finding great new music and avenues by which to introduce it to others.
"All the information in the world is out there, available on the internet," Terry said. "But it still takes someone who can tell you, 'Hey, you should check this out' or 'You should try listening to this.' A record store is a place to learn about new music, to walk in, to look around and ask, 'What's this?' "
"And that's where we come in," Bob said.