(Photo courtesy of Don Miller)
For two decades, Don Miller operated an eponymous record store with a bi-coastal following. An avid record collector since adolescence, the New York native (he was born in the Bronx, raised in Queens, and a longtime resident of Brooklyn) opened the first incarnation of Don’s Music in the early 1990s. For its first two years, Don’s was literally a stand on a Brooklyn street, before Miller finally saved enough to rent a storefront. For a decade, Don’s became a gathering place for New York’s most ardent record collectors. In 2000, the Village Voice even gave Don’s a category of its own for the newspaper’s annual Best of Awards – Best Record Store Named After its Memorable Owner. Miller moved to Los Angeles several years ago and brought Don’s to Southern California. Recently, Miller closed the shop and returned to Brooklyn, citing the tough economic climate in California and the difficulties of owning a brick-and-mortar record store in today’s Internet-dominated environment.
Don’s Music also holds the special distinction of being Light in the Attic’s first retail customer. Miller recalled, “I saw an ad in what I think was Wax Poetics. I called the Seattle phone number and spoke to this dude (Josh Wright, Light in the Attic’s co-founder), and I guess we clicked. He was just cool and we rapped about music and whatnot. I sensed he was a real-deal dude ready to make some solid music shit happen. Light in the Attic were releasing fantastic stuff and I would always ask about what was coming next. They were doing an amazing job on the sound reproduction, packaging, and most of all, the art. A lot of the reissues done today are real shit, with warpy wax and shitty flat art.”
Closing the shop was bittersweet for Miller. He’ll continue to sell records, but on a much smaller scale at online sellers eBay and Discogs, and hopes to return to selling records at a street-side stand during the warm-weather months. He also hosts an online radio show called Ah Yeah! with Freakstik and Re (Miller is Freakstik), and is hoping to land gigs as a live DJ, as well. While in L.A., Miller played with several bands, and was a bongo player for the band Manhattan Murder Mystery. The act recently played at South by Southwest, and Miller said he will record with the group next month before touring with them in August. As for his old shop, Miller said what he’ll miss are “free records, girls, the awesome people I’ve met from around the world, meeting and being friends and respected by musicians and artists that I totally dug and respected.”