Outside, the winter 2018 tradition of a bi-weekly nor’easter was taking shape on a recent weekday afternoon. The streets of Maplewood, New Jersey were nearly deserted, save for the occasional truck laying down salt in preparation for the heavy snow forecast.
If you looked closely, though, you could see more than a few boot prints at the intersection of Elmwood and Boyden Avenues.
Inside, the smell of hot chocolate, donuts and vinyl mingled as a small crew of very pleased customers flipped through crates of used albums at Outsider Records & Hedge Fund.
This is where the boot prints were gathering.
Owner Michael Wynne was pricing a new collection of indie rock albums. He opened the record shop (don’t worry, we’ll get to the hedge fund part) in early March at 290 Elmwood Avenue.
An “Elmwood Arts District”
Wynne had posted on a local social network page that morning, inviting the community to check out his new brick and mortar record store and enjoy some hot chocolate while they did so. Maplewood’s Cedar Ridge Cafe brought over some donuts. And music fans and vinyl aficionados responded with a healthy dose of enthusiasm.
About a decade ago, Wynne relocated to Maplewood from Park Slope, Brooklyn. In addition to working in marketing automation for major finance and insurance clients, he’s been running an online record store for some time.
Wynne is quick to praise the community support he has received, especially the immediate neighborhood. “Boyden Park is awesome,” he says. “The neighborhood has been very supportive.”
The shop is in a prime location for the warmer months — a mere stone’s throw from the Maplewood Pool. However, Wynne is looking forward to being a part of what he refers to as the Elmwood Arts District, which he hopes will attract more small businesses and serve as a new area of interest for Maplewood, South Orange and the surrounding communities. “There really is a gap in northern New Jersey record shopping,” says Wynne.
Records…and a hedge fund.
Wynne looks up from the assortment of albums when asked about his own musical tastes. “I listen to the strange and obscure… dub reggae, krautrock,” he says. He mentions both Broken Social Scene and Yo La Tengo. “Anything suitably pretentious.”
Although he responds with a sense of humor about his music tastes, Wynne has serious political goals. This is where the “hedge fund” section of the store’s name comes in. He wants to help defeat Donald Trump in the next presidential election. In order to do so, he is creating a hedge fund with hopes to form a SuperPAC that will purchase advertising which would go to the Democratic Party’s Presidential nominee in 2020.
“The fund is real and in a private review period to build a track record,” Wynne explains. “If we fail to outperform the Standard and Poor’s 500, then there is little reason for anyone to have interest, despite our focus on political change. If we continue to produce significant delta from the S&P500 like we have in the past, then in the next six months we should be open to accredited investors.”
Meanwhile, customer purchases will go to operating expenses for the store. Even though the record store and hedge fund are separate businesses, the connection between the two may not seem so strange. “[J]ust as quants and finance people use algorithms to optimize equity allocations, people in marketing like myself use very similar tools to optimize their marketing spend. The two worlds are not as different as one might think,” explains Wynne.
The crate diggers
Wynne intends to grow his inventory throughout the spring and summer. Right now, the genres expand beyond rock, indie, jazz and reggae. A 12-inch maxi single of A Tribe Called Quest’s “Oh My God” rests between Craig Mack’s “Flava in Ya Ear” remix and Can’s “Ege Bamyasi.” “You’ll find things weird and obscure here,” he said.
But he also wants to be able to serve a wide spread of customers. “We have $10 staples and collector’s items — something for everybody,” says Wynne. “This is not the type of store where the good stuff is only in the basement or online.”
Maplewood resident Bruce Hartley has taken advantage of the snow day to venture over to Outsider with his 11-year-old daughter, Julia. This is Hartley’s third visit to the store since its opening.
As the father-daughter duo engages in quiet crate digging, their profiles resemble a Maplewood-style album cover of DJ Shadow’s “Endtroducing…..”
But Julia, who is in fifth grade at Jefferson Elementary School, is not simply along for the ride. “I like most of the stuff that my dad likes: Queen, Stevie Wonder,” she says. “I’m the only collector in my grade.”
“She inherited my old turntable,” adds her father.
Although the space feels Spartan at the moment, it’s clear that Wynne is hard at work building a big idea. As we finish our conversation, two sellers come in with a record selection. The owner excuses himself and starts to dig through the boxes. You never know when a treasured album may come through the door.
Outsider Records & Hedge Fund could very well become a new treasure in Maplewood.
What: Outsider Records & Hedge Fund
Where: 290 Elmwood Avenue (at Boyden Avenue)
Store Hours: Wednesdays-Fridays, 12pm-5pm; Saturdays and Sundays, 12pm-7pm; Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Also: Visit their Facebook page and instragram feed.