MadCity Music has a new owner – Isthmus

Dave Zero is proud of all he has accomplished at MadCity Music, where he’s worked for 27 years including the last 17 as its owner. But now he is ready to hand over the oldest continuously open record store in Madison to his right-hand man, Bobby Hussy, a change in ownership that’s been long discussed between the two men. The transfer becomes official July 1.

Hussy, who wears shoulder length brown hair and rectangular glasses, is a self-described “punk garage guy who’s slowly getting older.” He recently returned from a two-week tour with his band Whippets that took him across the Great Plains states, Texas, and parts of the South. As Zero’s employee at MadCity for the past 13 years, Hussy was integral in helping with the store’s move in 2017.

The store had been located in the Gateway Mall  on Williamson Street since 1989. Zero jumped at the opportunity to move onto bustling Atwood Avenue, with neighbors including the Barrymore Theatre and Monty’s Blue Plate Diner. Their current location is the largest venue MadCity has operated in since originally opening in 1981, and Zero feels they are “settled in the perfect spot.”

Business is good. Vinyl shops, once frequented primarily by musicians, have seen a “resurgence” in recent years. The medium is “mainstream, but not in a bad way,” according to Zero.

That description could apply to MadCity Music as a whole. The store’s “ethos,” according to both men, is to have something for everybody, a philosophy that’s evident while examining the display shelves lining the walls. The latest Charli XCX album is next to a collection of Afro-Cuban music, which is adjacent to an Alice Coltrane record.

“I like mainstream artists and I like underground artists,” Hussy explains. 

Alongside the rows and rows of records are also stacks of CDs, which Zero says have made a comeback as well. He sees plenty of young adults buying used cars with CD players, and some even installing one.

For all the deep dives into jazz and limited-edition garage band collections, there are also “certain records [a vinyl store] needs to have,” Hussy says, listing Nirvana’s Nevermind and Radiohead’s OK Computer as examples. “When you start looking into it, there’s a lot of albums like that.”

Young people are increasingly turning to vinyl, which Zero speculates is a reaction to the “terrible quality” of downloaded and streamed music. “People want something tangible,” he says.

There are some days when records are displayed on the wall only to be sold within an hour. “The store is doing great,” Zero says, proudly. All the more reason why now it “feels right” to step away. 

“I feel ready,” he says. “It’s the natural evolution of the store. I get to leave on a high note.”

Hussy envisions few changes after taking control. “I think I’m gonna keep it very similar to how it’s rolling,” he says. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

As a musician himself, Hussy carries on a tradition at MadCity Music. Dave Benton, the store’s owner before Zero, played in the Madison band Spooner and the store has long been a gathering place for many local artists. Artists hand out flyers to upcoming shows, sell their records, and work behind the counters.

“MadCity is so ingrained in the scene, it’s easy to forget about it,” Zero says. “Musicians are a huge part of our ecosystem.”

With Hussy in charge, that seems unlikely to change. He is excited by the opportunity and feels prepared by his many years alongside Zero. He may end up putting more merchandise on the walls as a way to show off cool items. But mostly he wants to keep the store a place for everyone — regardless of taste.

As for Zero, he’s excited to “take a vacation.”

He is unsure what comes next, but knows it will not be selling records. He hopes for some time to listen to them instead.

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