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Humble beginnings

Kyle Hinchey Published: July 5, 2013
Guestroom Records, a record store selling vinyls, CDs and various merchandise at Western Avenue. Photo by Aliki Dyer, The Oklahoman
Guestroom Records, a record store selling vinyls, CDs and various merchandise at Western Avenue. Photo by Aliki Dyer, The Oklahoman

Justin Sowers and Travis Searle used to carry around a rubber tub filled with vinyl records, trying to sell them to friends and neighbors.

Once they graduated from the University of Oklahoma, they opened a store in 2003 in Norman. The life-changing move intimidated Sowers and Searle, who were afraid their business would fail. This uncertainty earned it the name “Guestroom Records.”

“We thought we were going to be so poor that we would have to live in a back room,” Sowers said. “It didn’t actually work out that way. It was a close call for a little bit there.”

Sowers and Searle put their entire collection of 1,600 vinyl records and 1,900 CDs into the store’s stock.

Guestroom Records found a loyal following of old-school music fans. Success allowed the duo to open two stores in Oklahoma City. The first one opened in 2007 at 3701 N. Western Ave., and  the most recent addition is in Bricktown, at 25 S Oklahoma Suite 10, which opened in 2011.

Sowers manages the Western Avenue store. He said the shopping district’s focus on individually owned businesses is what enticed him and Searle to open a store there.

“I think it’s definitely an up-and-coming part of town, and when we saw this location open up, we knew that this was where we need to be,” he said.

Part of Guestroom Records’ appeal is its laid-back atmosphere, Sowers said. Paintings of album covers cover the walls. Tony! Toni! Toné!, a cat named after the ‘90s R&B group, is usually seen strolling through the Western Avenue store.

“I always wanted a store cat,” Sowers said. “And my mother-in-law developed an allergy to this guy, so he came to live here a few years ago.”

BY KYLE HINCHEY

khinchey@opubco.com