Holding its tune: for local record store, tradition rings true

Whether this is the first time you’re hearing about it, you know it for its vast array of products or you just recognize the calico cat that sits outside, Rinehart’s Music and Video is a solidified part of Kirksville history.

The second oldest music store in the world — located at 114 Franklin St. — has been around for 159 years. This cash-only business buys, trades and sells anything media related. 

“If this store was not here, there would be nothing here like it,” current owner Karl Hildebrand said. “You would not have a used video store. You would not have an old school video game store. You would not have a music store.” 

Rinehart’s started as two separate businesses: the news agency was founded by Rupert Rinehart in 1861 and Rinehart’s Music was created by his brother Edwin Rinehart in 1897. When Edwin retired around 1930, however, the news agency and music store merged.

When it was founded, Rinehart’s sold and rented music recording and playing devices. Rinehart’s had an inventory of wax cylinder recordings before moving on to shellac discs for the phonograph and Victrola records. The music store also used to lease pianos, sheet music and recording machines to make records at home.

While records were new and expensive, Hildebrand said pianos and sheet music were more popular and affordable through a lease. 

The news agency was the only newspaper provider by 1914 and used to carry about 6,000 magazine titles.

Additionally, Rinehart’s used to own the electric company in town. They were responsible for wiring the city and servicing needs, Hildebrand said. The music store also housed a telephone switchboard and provided Kirksville residents the ability to make long distance calls. The Rinehart family also used to own the first commercial radio station in Adair County called Kirksville Radio Laboratory.

Rinehart’s was recognized by the Missouri General Assembly in 2016 for its support of Truman State University and A.T. Still University, as well as providing electric and telephone services to Kirksville.

Once known as Rinehart’s Electronics and Television, the family owned business has changed over time to adapt with demands. The focus of the store has shifted from mostly music to the technical side of electronics to all things media.

Although it no longer sells or leases instruments, the music store has a collection of about 4,000 movie titles, 20,000 music titles, 5,000 CDs, 5,000 cassette tapes, some sheet music, Victrola records, video games and systems.

“Everytime something new came along it was just added to the stock of trade,” Hildebrand said. “So you always add things and to be a relevant business you need to continually add the merchandise that does it and you need to keep on track with it. So while Rinehart’s has always had music and always been an active music store — buying and selling new and used music — the amount of floorspace that is dedicated to any product expands and contracts depending on what people want.”

There was a period of time when many other businesses were selling records and cassette tapes, Hildebrand explained, so the amount of floorspace dedicated to music shrunk as competition grew. 

“Modern mass media has a different perspective and place in the business world today,” Hildebrand said. “We’ve gone from having vinyls sitting in a back room and someone has to ask for them to being back out on the main floor. It has once again become popular.”

The news agency and music store were separated again after Hildebrand took over the business in 1999. Adjacent to the music store is the news agency full of written work, and it’s only opened upon request. 

Hildebrand, who enjoys all kinds of music from classical to the Scissor Sisters, retired from academics to take over the music store and news agency. He said his main interest is with the news agency and intellectual property archives, which is where his background is.

With a rich history, there are many innovations Rinehart’s has brought to Kirksville. The music and video store was the first store in Kirksville to do online sales and was the first to do video rental in the area. Rinehart’s is now the only business in Kirksville that buys, sells and trades. 

Rinehart’s pulls in many people because of its large inventory, Hildebrand said. Only 30% of the building is open to the public because a large part of Rinehart’s inventory is “unique items,” meaning there is only one of them and they are not available by a wholesaler. Hildebrand said these items are often old and difficult to find, but he works to make sure they stay in collectable condition.

“If you can buy it at Walmart or a big box store, we don’t want to have it in our store,” Hildebrand said. “There’s no reason for you to come here and get it from us.”

This storage of collectables includes about 100,000 comic books, over 100,000 books, tens of thousands of magazines and more. These items are in archival storage because they shouldn’t be handled often or exposed to too much light and pollutants. 

Rinehart’s no longer carries new video games, CDs or DVDs because of the cost of market shifts. When Hastings Entertainment was in Kirksville, customers chose that over Rinehart’s, costing the music store about $10,000 per month. Hildebrand said he sold the rest of that new inventory and decided to focus on secondary merchandise instead. 

“I am never going to reinvest $50,000 to $100,000 to carry new [items], just so the next time a box store comes in and survives a year … and watch the traffic pattern go to the new place and be stuck with inventory,” Hildebrand said.

Rinehart’s gets a lot of its inventory from estate sales, among other places. The music store also donates a lot of the items it can’t sell to local libraries and charities. Hildebrand said Rinehart’s likely has about $6 million in inventory as of right now.

Hildebrand has criteria for what he buys to sell in the store. Items must be in good condition, not a duplicate of something already in the store, somehow media related, and have a “cool” factor. This can include movies, comic books, music and pop culture collectables.

Hildebrand said Rinehart’s will always change with the times, but sometimes those changes can take months to years to roll out. He said the store is largely influenced by its owners interests and the market demand. 

“The music store is still here because I’m still here,” Hildebrand said. “We’re just not going to close it.”

Hildebrand said less than 10% of the walk-through traffic is people associated with Truman or A.T. Still, around 15% is Kirksville residents, 10% is visitors and the remaining 65% comes from people within a 40-50 mile radius of the city. Before the 1970s there would be lines around the block to get the Sunday paper, Hildebrand said, but now students are more interested in online shopping or going home to shop.

As a longstanding business owner in Kirksville, Hildebrand said he has seen the city change in numerous ways. One change he said he has noticed is the rising cost of operating a business in Kirksville, making it more difficult for new business owners to start and survive.

As for the future, Hildebrand said he thinks Rinehart’s will be in the same place and adapting to new media while still holding on to its roots.

“We never get rid of anything,” Hildebrand said. “We may sell out of it, but we never get rid of it and we’re always adding on top of that.”