Have you ever wondered what it would be like to fulfill your dream? Put all your money, time, and effort into something you really cared about? But then have it taken away? That’s what happened to Ray Pate, the owner of RPM Music.
For those who don’t know, RPM music opened in July of 2016 at 1839 Irving Park. Featuring a selection of vintage, and sometimes rare, copies of vinyl records, shopping at RPM felt like digging through a gold mine. You might pass through records you have never heard of before, records you’ve never seen before, and records you still jam to all the time but never had the physical copy.
In the past year, we here at WLUW have been lucky to partner with Ray and RPM Music a few times. The first: record store day 2018. WLUW staff members woke up early to head to RPM to table during business hours (which were extended due to the music lover’s favorite holiday) and stayed late to promote the station and RPM while Ray offered specific sales and had a variety of bands to come into the store and perform.
The other time we partnered with RPM was hosting our annual spring semester show. This past spring, we hosted one of our favorite local bands: The Hecks. From what seemed to be a very last-minute venue change (originally planned to be held at Ireland’s on Loyola’s Lakeshore campus), Ray let us use his store to host this show, decorate the ceiling and stacks with lights and WLUW merch. We are forever thankful to Ray and RPM for allowing us to host this event at his store.
When I heard about the situation Ray was in, I was devastated. Knowing how much Ray cares about his store, and how much work he put into making it become a successful business, I wanted to meet up with him and to talk to him more about what he was going through, and to share how people can help. Here is what he had to say:
I was in the bar business for 32 years. I bartended, managed, owned, did it all. And got out of that in 2010. Bounced around, doing different jobs, couldn’t find anything I liked, didn’t like working for anyone, so I opened a record store.
Was that your first dive into retail of any sort?
Well, I never owned, but I did some research in retail. I actually worked in a couple of retail stores, so I could get the feel for it.
Was it a dream of yours to open your own place?
The record store? Oh yeah, big time. I was waiting for vinyl to return, I knew it would. Because CDs never gave you the warmth, and the internet’s a joke. I mean, the music sounds terrible, and you lose the backup vocals, you lose the instruments, it’s just really bad.
When you were thinking of opening the store, were you hesitant at first, were you nervous about owning something?
You’re always going to be nervous. So, of course I was nervous. I was basically putting everything I had in the world into it. But I felt confident, I still feel confident. I’ve taken my lumps, but I’ve learned a lot.
I fell behind on rent, and I was making weekly payments to catch up, and basically doing the best I could. And then clear out of the blue sky, the landlord called and said I had to give him everything, all at once, and I said I couldn’t do that. He just started making crazy threats saying he was going to put all my stuff on into the street. So, I called some lawyers, and called the city, and did everything I was supposed to do.
Then he turned off my electricity. He turned off my water.
I still operated. Basically, just trying to build up money to move to a new location. Which I have, so now I am sitting with two empty stores.
Where is the new store at?
The new place is at 2026 Montrose.
So, not too far from the previous location, right?
That was the plan: to stay in the area. I’ve made a lot of good connections in the area, a customer base was growing, and I wasted to accommodate to customers if I possibly could. I got really lucky and I fell into this location. Just don’t have it opened yet.
Is there a timeframe of when you want it to be open?
As soon as possible. My issue is money. Which is why I have the GoFundMe to help my fight this battle with the old landlord and get the new store open. I’m out of work now, so I really need to get that store open. So, the GoFundMe is really important, and it’s going okay. If I can draw more attention to that…that would help a lot. There’s a lot more important causes, but, this is my cause, and this is all I got.
Would you say RPM Music is your life?
Oh, it is. I’ve put every penny in the world I had into that store. And, when he seized my possessions, illegally, the police did nothing about it. There is a legal way for him to seize my property, but he has to go to court. He has to get a judge to sign off on it. He has to prove how much money I owe him…and he didn’t do any of them.
What is the value on everything he seized?
It’s over $120,000 worth of stuff. That was all my money. Not to mention the fact he’s got my paperwork; my inventory sheets. He physically has all the files with the inventory of everything I had in the store, and he has all those files. He has all my files, he has checkbooks, he has deposit slips, he has tax records. He has things that he shouldn’t have.
The GoFundMe page, it’s not my last hope. It’s my only hope. I got really lucky having made some really nice connections, and I wanna get back to that. This is what I love doing, and I’m not going to give up the fight. I am trying to start over. I want to start over badly. It’s my job. It’s the only way I can eat. So, this is what I gotta do.
WLUW has been very fortunate to work with Ray and RPM music in the past year, and we would love to see us working with him in the future.
The GoFundMe can be found here.