by Shanell Dupras
On April 19, 2012, all that could be seen above 42 Albert Street was a plume of smoke and fire. A fenced in hole in the ground was all that War on Music customers found the following day. It is assumed to be an electrical fire. The building was torn down within 24 hours.
The fire left music fans worried they had lost one of the few independent music sources Winnipeg had to offer, and the only one that was devoted exclusively to punk and metal. Wondering also if the War on Music record label would stay afloat, or would also come to an end. Winnipegers were left with many unanswered questions. Luckily, just a month after the fire, all those questions were answered.
War on Music opened their new location June 1, just a block away old location, on the second floor of 91 Albert Street (also home to Mondragon and Natural Cycle Worker Co-op). The new location is, as part-owner Charley Justice described it, “like a fancy, nice boutique compared to the last one. The last one was like, parents walk in and they’re kind of scared that they walked in there. This one’s kind of got this uncharacteristically nice vibe to it.”
That “nice vibe” is slowly beginning to fade away. War on Music already has the black walls and somewhat frightening album covers that customers remember back in place, and soon they are planning on adding signage, like an upside down, bright pink neon cross to use as their “open” sign.
It took the co-op a short amount of time to decide that they would re-open at a new location. Charley explained that they received three or four huge shipments the week after the fire and that for much of their new inventory they had to pay brokerage when it was delivered. It was at that point that they had to decide whether they wanted to take the new inventory, or return to sender.
“It was a close call,” says Charlie, “we just sat down and went back and forth about it for a few hours and came back the next day and made a decision.”
War on Music has now been open for two months and, stock wise, the store looks relatively the same as the last one. “We reordered all our shop worth,” explains Charlie, “but we don’t have any back stock, so this is all we’re sitting on.”
Losing the entire inventory they had put together for five years, they had to take the time to hand select all new inventory and find the places to order it from. They are slowly replenishing back stock, but as it stands if a customer takes something off of the wall, a hole is left behind.
What’s shocking is how quickly the owners managed to open a new location in such a short amount of time, regardless of having accumulated a large amount of debt from the fire. Much of the stock they had in the old building was not yet paid for, “and then a lot of people bring consignment in and just drop shit off and then get paid when it sells, and so all that’s gone, so we owe everyone for consignment too.”
To help raise money to lower this newly accumulated debt, War on Music hosted three fundraiser shows in June. These shows raised between $700 and $800. “It’s not that much but it’s money that will help,” admits Charlie. “It was kind of an excuse to spout our address a thousand times.”
Another interesting concept about War on Music is that there is no single owner of the company; it’s a registered worker cooperative. Everyone who works for the business is part owner, no one person is financially liable, and all owners have a say in what happens to the business. This works wonders for their current situation. “If we were ever to fold or go bankrupt,” Charlie explains, “it’s the organization that collapses but it’s not on the heads of any single individual.” However, this is not stopping them from keeping the business going.
The public have so far had positive feedback towards the new location and tons of sympathy.
“For the most part, pretty much all the regulars from the old place started coming again right away. Everyone at least says they like the place, more, or at least as much.”
This is obviously wonderful news for music loving Winnipegers. So get down to the new location, tell some friends, check out their brand new stock, and keep an eye out for all of their new releases.