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Local record store rocks on after closure

T-R Photo by Trevor Babcock Wax Xtatic Record Audio Stereo Shop’s owner John Blabaum (right) and employee Carl Giannetto (left) worked to re-open their store over the past year and four months.

Closed for a painful year and four months, Wax Xtatic Record Audio Stereo Shop has returned to Marshalltown’s Main Street.

“There was a lot of work to get this thing ready, and it’s not quite ready yet,” Wax Xtatic owner John Blabaum said.

Wax Xtatic is known for having one of the widest collections of used and new vinyl in Iowa. Since moving to the new location, the store has been able to triple their selection of new vinyl.

But Blabaum’s vision for Wax Xtatic is more than just a place to buy vinyl and audio equipment, with plans to cultivate a hub for anyone passionate about music. A live stage and recording studio are the next phases of construction.

“After the tornado with downtown being decimated, I’m hoping that this is ground zero,” Blabaum said. “A place where we can grow entertainment and have a destination for not only talented people, but for anyone around here.”

In December 2019, two buildings to the west of Wax Xtatic’s original location at 108 W. Main St. were demolished due to damage from the July 2018 tornado. Sharing a wall with one of the buildings, heating the store became an issue after demolition.

“I had open rafters and we couldn’t heat it,” Blabaum said. “It was a snow squall that came through one day and we couldn’t heat up beyond 48 degrees. I said, ‘Yeah we need to close.'”

He almost gave up Wax Xtatic completely, but enough customers and friends encouraged him to continue on. When the Apgar Photography Studio went up for sale at 18 W. Main St., Blabaum made the purchase.

But the real work had just begun. While gutting out the new building and updating the looks, the COVID-19 pandemic and the August 2020 derecho delayed re-opening efforts.

The set date to re-open the store was constantly pushed back until April 10 of this year, customers were buying records again.

“There was a celebratory mood throughout the whole day,” Wax Xtatic employee Carl Giannetto said. “I didn’t get off the register all day.”

Giannetto said since reopening he’s seen lots of new faces, caught up with old faces and has even seen customers traveling from across Iowa and beyond to come check out the store.

“Your customers become your friends,” Giannetto said. “I’ve made friends in the store just by discovering there’s someone that likes the same music you like or someone turns on to a type of music you’ve never heard before. It’s a very social hobby.”

Customers come in all ages and with all music tastes Giannetto said, with younger buyers coming in more frequently over the years.

A goal for Blabaum has been to make Wax Xtatic a hang-out spot, a place where anyone can talk and listen to music.

“When I was a kid I hung out in record stores, It was a part of me,” Blabaum said. “I’d like people to come in and think this is a vibe, maybe like your hometown bar. You just come in and hang out.”

Since the age of 14 Blabaum has wanted to own a record store, and his passion for sharing music with others is what led to his dream becoming fulfilled.

“I like music and I like people,” Blabaum “I still get excited about music when I hear it. If I really like it, I want to tell people. I want to share it with them and I want them to get it.”

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Contact Trevor Babcock at 641-753-6611 or tbabcock@timesrepublican.com.

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