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A familiar face will take Bullseye Records into its next phase

The interior of a small record store with long rows of albums in bins, and CDs and cassette tapes on shelves.
Brett Krzykowski
Bullseye Records' décor isn't elaborate but certainly fits the name.

Milwaukee music fans — and more particularly fans of physical media — know Bullseye Records.

The store has its roots in the former Earwaves next to Landmark Lanes, which Luke Lavin bought and turned into Farwell Music in the mid-’90s. In 2006, Lavin moved it a half-mile down the road and renamed it Bullseye. This April, customers will reacquaint themselves once again as the store changes ownership and assumes the name of the street on which it’s located.

Yesterday, Lavin announced he was getting out of the business and that Bullseye will close its doors March 31 — but not for long and not before putting it into some capable, experienced hands.

East Side record-store staple Terry Hackbarth will partner with friend and musician Don Kurth to operate the store, which will get its grand (re)opening as Irving Place Records on Record Store Day, April 20. For Hackbarth, it’s a big but logical step in a career he might’ve had trouble imagining prior to his 12 years working at Bullseye and another 15 before that at the Exclusive Company.

“It started as a part-time thing, and it's kind of turned into a lifestyle,” he said from his familiar perch behind Bullseye’s counter. “It's definitely not a get-rich-quick thing or that you're making a lot of money. But it's great to be able to get up every day and enjoy going to work. Not a lot of people can say that.”

Hackbarth’s work day will look pretty different soon, even if the store doesn’t. Sure, there will be a new sign, and he said they’ll apply a fresh coat of paint to the interior. Beyond that, the changes won’t be too noticeable at first.

“I think we're just carrying on tradition really,” he said. “I mean, there'll be small things here and there, but it’s not broken, so I don’t want to fix it too much. … We’ll probably gradually bring in different stuff, but we’re kind of known for what we’re known for here and want to keep that going.”

Something longtime visitors to Bullseye will notice is a slight shift in inventory. Hackbarth said he’d like Irving Place Records to “be a little stronger” when it comes to new releases — whether that’s promoting the fresher vinyl or just making sure it’s well-stocked the day it hits the streets. But that doesn’t mean the newly named shop will abandon collectors on a “money is no object” quest for a certain record.

As Hackbarth and I chatted, one of those longtime Bullseye patrons/hunters strolled through the door, offered the kind of greeting only the regularest of regulars can offer and then casually forked over an eyebrow-raising sum for what I can only assume was an exceedingly rare item. I won’t say how much — clerk-customer confidentiality and all that — but the transaction served to complete the trifecta of clientele on hand during my visit.

“There's the old-time customers, they're kind of scouring for used stuff,” Hackbarth began. “There's ones that are looking for new releases. Then there's customers who are just kind of getting into it and getting their Fleetwood Mac Rumours and Dark Side of the Moon and Beatles records. But, you know, it’s all just people discovering stuff. It’s a joy to see.”

Not exactly the kind of thing you expect to hear if you subscribe to the High Fidelity model of record-store employees. As Hackbarth pointed out, that has been the case “at certain stores for sure. But this is a judgment-free zone here. I have tastes a lot of people don't like and vice versa, and it's all in the eye of the beholder — the ear of the beholder.”