How the Soul Funk Label Colemine and Plaid Room Record Store Landed in Loveland

Terry Cole opened Plaid Room Records in 2015 with his younger brother, Bob. Cole has been surrounded by vinyl his entire life. And he’s not only selling records — he’s also been making them for his on-the-rise label Colemine

click to enlarge Plaid Room Records in the heart of Loveland - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Plaid Room Records in the heart of Loveland

If you visit Loveland, Ohio midweek in the middle of the afternoon, you can get a good sense of its soothing small-town vibe. Nestled along the Little Miami River in the northeastern corner of Hamilton County (with parts of the city also touching Warren and Clermont counties), Loveland is probably best known to most residents of Greater Cincinnati for its lengthy, cyclist-friendly bike trails. At 3 p.m. on a Thursday, no one seems in a big hurry and the whirring of bikes is tranquil, almost hypnotic. 

But that’s not to suggest there’s nothing going on outside of the outdoorsy activities in Loveland, which encompasses about 5 square miles (and some of that is the river). 

By 5 p.m., traffic picks up and businesses like Paxton’s Grill in the snug downtown area are packed, buzzing with a chattering hum and the clanking glasses of pre-dinner drinks. While Loveland’s recent tourism TV ad campaign still prominently features its natural assets and biking amenities, it also spotlights the hopping local business district to show that its riverside charm isn’t just limited to those who want to sweat it up on the trails. 

Paxton’s shares its tiny block on Loveland Avenue with City Hall, Loveland Sweets candy shop and, perhaps most unexpectedly, Plaid Room Records, which, in just four years, has emerged as one of the businesses visitors flock to the most in Loveland. Enthusiastic word of mouth has also made it the top new record store in the region for both casual and hardcore record heads. 

Plaid Room — which opened it doors at its current location last fall — is a visually appealing shop, clean and bright, with rows of new and used vinyl from every conceivable genre and era. It has the kind of aesthetic that could only be concocted by people who’ve spent a lot of time in record stores. And people who spend a lot of time in record stores obviously have a deeply ingrained passion for music. 

That’s an understated description of 34-year-old Terry Cole, who opened Plaid Room in its smaller space across the street in 2015 with his younger brother, Bob. Cole has been surrounded by vinyl his entire life. And he’s not only selling records now — he’s also making them. 

click to enlarge Terry Cole at Plaid Room Records - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Terry Cole at Plaid Room Records

Before Plaid Room, Cole founded Colemine Records, a record label steeped in the tradition of ’60s/’70s Soul and Funk, as well as their numerous variations and crossbreeds. A little like the energy of Loveland itself, the music Colemine is built upon spans from a silky-smooth serenity (with classic harmony-based R&B) to a tight, punchy energy, evident in the nasty grooves of the label’s down and dirty Funk. Like Daptone Records — the world-renowned Brooklyn-based Soul/Funk revivalists that inspired Cole to start his own label — most of the music Colemine puts out is made by contemporary artists, but the music itself is based on a classic, analog sound. You’d be forgiven for not being able to tell if certain Colemine records were tracked in a basement just last week or in a studio after an Otis Redding session in 1965 or a Curtis Mayfield one in 1971. That’s by design. 

Cole doesn’t necessarily look the part of a record label impresario. His long, sun-kissed hair, fresh beard scruff and slight Midwestern drawl are more surfer dude than cigar-chomping record exec, and he has a laid-back charm that is disarming. But don’t let his easygoing nature lead you to believe he’s nonchalant. While the story of the rise of Colemine and Plaid Room is filled with a lot of serendipitous moments, and Cole often says he “didn’t know what the hell he was doing” during pivotal moments in his career, it’s been his ability to absorb information, learn on the fly and take advantage of those moments of good fortune that have brought him to this point. 

If his life in music was a Choose Your Own Adventure book, Cole has made the wisest decisions at every turn of the page. And as Colemine continues to build upon its reputation as one of the key taste-making labels in the vintage-styled Soul Funk universe — and as Plaid Room continues to attract more and more music lovers — that book still appears to be far from its final chapter.

A Life in Records

click to enlarge Plaid Room stocks an array of used and new vinyl - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Plaid Room stocks an array of used and new vinyl

Like a lot of hardcore music fanatics, Cole’s passion began with his father’s record collection. But his dad’s selection of music wasn’t like that of most young kids growing up in Middletown, Ohio — or most anywhere else. 

“When I was in elementary school, I recall having a basement full of 45s,” Cole says of his collector father. “We just had like tens of thousands of 45s in our basement all the time. There was never a time that I don't remember that.”

The records weren’t just any and everything — they were very precisely curated. Cole’s dad was fervently enamored with’50s Doo Wop and he had a strict “black groups only” policy, leaving 45s made by white groups in the bins for others. 

Cole was the oldest of three kids (he also has a half brother) and when he was entering his freshman year of high school, his parents began thinking about how they were going to send them all to college. His mom was an elementary school teacher and his dad was a steelworker. In the first of many major “creative thinking” moments to come into play in Cole’s life, it was decided that Dad would part with some of his collection to help the cause. But not the 7-inch records. He couldn’t part with those. But he did have a lot of 78s; the early 12-inch vinyl platters were played at 78 rotations per minute (RPM) vs. the 45 RPM of 7-inches or the 33 RPM of most standard 12-inch albums and fell out of favor by the 1950s. 

“This is right when eBay is starting to be a thing,” Cole says. “He didn’t want to sell his 45s, so we started selling 78s because he had no emotional connection to them. So he started teaching me how to buy and sell 78s, like, ‘Here’s what’s worth money.’ ”

Besides laying the groundwork for his future endeavors, the record-selling more immediately laid some money in his pocket. That was his job throughout high school, one he kept until he finished grad school. It also gave him the ability to pay cash for his tuition at Miami University, where he studied biology as an undergrad and then education as a grad student. Cole was already pretty savvy with money and didn’t want to pay the fees on a credit card, so he’d go to the college’s bursar’s office with $8,000 in his pocket. 

Paying tuition in physical currency understandably raised eyebrows. At one point they even called in the authorities, lest the young man studying to be a teacher was getting his money through nefarious means. 

“My junior year I had a cop sent to my apartment,” Cole remembers. “I was like, ‘What are you here for?’ And they were like, ‘Oh, bursar’s office sent me over because they said there was some suspicious activity.’ And they walk in and the whole wall of my apartment is just milk crates with 78s. I was like, ‘I'm selling records out of here, that’s how I’m paying for school.’ ”

Being around those old records wasn’t just about finances — he had to listen to them for quality control and he found himself drawn in, compelled by the music and sound design heard on the platters. In high school he started getting heavy into classic Jazz and Soul, as well as Hip Hop. A bassist, Cole formed bands and, by college, he began getting into production, specifically making Hip Hop beats, all of which gave him an inner view of the music he was obsessed with, allowing him to dig deeper into the old Soul, Funk and Jazz beats and rhythms the Hip Hop tracks were often built upon.  

Out of the ‘Mines

click to enlarge "Soul Stabs Vol. 2" compiles several of Colemine’s 45 releases in a triple-LP box - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
"Soul Stabs Vol. 2" compiles several of Colemine’s 45 releases in a triple-LP box

At Miami, he was working with a live Funk/Hip Hop band called Soundscape that was fronted by a Detroit MC named Louis Rideout. Cole found a way to combine his studies with his musical pursuits. 

“I had an independent study class in Miami. It was music composition but I was making beats,” he says. “I had this professor and Hip Hop production was completely foreign to him, but he could recognize that it was musical composition and he let me pursue it.”

The class gave him time to work on an album with Rideout that combined beat-making with live tracks. Inspired by artists like Common and A Tribe Called Quest, the Rideout & Terry Cole album The City — which Cole says was “basically my senior project” — was ready for release, with an initial run of 500 CDs to sell at live shows and area shops. Cole wanted to slap some sort of label name on the album to give it a little extra cred. The City would become the very first release to feature the Colemine Records name, a nod to his surname and also the crate-digging that collectors, producers and DJs engage in to mine for a coveted record, sound or beat. Released in 2007, The City even had the Colemine logo, which Cole scribbled on a napkin at an Oxford, Ohio Subway restaurant.  

The City exceeded Cole’s minimal expectations. After getting a boost from a renowned Chicago record store, which bought a few copies to sell, Japanese label P-Vine contacted Cole via MySpace. The label wanted to license The City for distribution. Though only netting him a few thousand dollars, Cole says it was the first time he felt as though starting a record label was a legitimate enterprise — if not profitable then at least sustainable. 

Colemine’s next release would define the tone and format of the label for years to come. Inspired by his newfound infatuation with Daptone Records and his appreciation for and understanding of the 45 format, Cole gathered some of his bandmates and, as The Jive Turkeys, recorded “Straight Fire,” a shimmying slab of tight, instrumental Organ Funk. The track became the basis for the first of what is now close to 80 7-inch vinyl releases on Colemine. 

The instrumental 45 became a niche for Colemine. The label nabbed decent distribution and, as word began to spread, Cole was able to release music from beyond his immediate circle of colleagues. Through a college radio show he did, Cole connected with guitarist/producer Tom Brenneck of The Dap-Kings, the in-house band behind Daptone Records. Horn-driven Brooklyn AfroFunk band Ikebe Shakedown had done some sessions with Brenneck, who recommended the group reach out to Cole about putting out their music.

“I was like, (tentatively) ‘Sure?,’ ” Cole says. “But I had no idea how to write a contract or what it should even look like or anything like that. So that was the first band that I signed and I had no idea what I was doing.” 

Colemine released Ikebe Shakedown’s “Hard Steppin’” 45 and a five-track CD, because Cole didn’t think the label could afford to do an LP. The band eventually signed to Ubiquity Records, a larger but like-minded label based on the West Coast, giving Cole his first taste of being a springboard to bigger things, something he says felt good. It also helped with word-of-mouth recommendations, which would become the basis for all of the label’s recording deals for the next several years. 

After grad school, Cole started teaching biology at Middletown High School, maintaining Colemine in his off time. He says he was at this point just “the bankroller” for the releases (“Which is just hilarious as a high school science teacher,” he adds), as the artists would turn in the projects fully completed, artwork and all. (Most of the production and design work for Colemine releases is now done in-house.) 

The Ikebe Shakedown material was followed by the release of a soundtrack full-length for a film called Postales that was made by Los Sospechos, a side project of the popular and acclaimed Daptone group Budos Band. Those two projects made the Colemine name known in the East Coast/Brooklyn-based Soul/Funk scene. 

The next milestone would be breaking into the West Coast scene. 

In 2009, after releasing a 12-inch by Michigan rapper Othello (which also marked the first time guest singer Mayer Hawthorne’s name appeared on an official release), the MC said the way Cole talked about music reminded him of his friend Kelly Finnigan, a Troy, Ohio native who had just joined San Francisco Funk favorites Monophonics. Cole and Finnigan instantly clicked and began talking online. Then Cole heard Monophonics’ first single with Finnigan and he was knocked out, believing that the vocals he heard were sampled from an old record. 

“I was like, ‘Where are the samples from, bro?’ And he was like, ‘Oh, that's me,’ ” Cole says. Previously known as an organist, the single was, unbeknownst to Cole, Finnigan’s first appearance as a vocalist. “And I was like, holy shit. We're like friends on Facebook or whatever and I'm looking at this white Irish dude like I'm looking in a mirror — and in my mind there's no way that this is him. Who is this guy? Blew my mind.”

Monophonics’ “Like Yesterday” became Colemine’s 10th 45 release, a rare (at the time) record in the singles series that featured vocals. Monophonics would also go on to sign with Ubiquity. 

“That’s what kind of broke it open for us with the West Coast,” Cole says. Things “exploded” for Colemine, as the buzz began spreading faster and further. Outside of Ubiquity, there weren’t many indie label options for Soul/Funk acts on the West Coast.

“Ubiquity was ‘it,’ but they weren't in the 45 game — that is how the shit grew,” Cole says.

That 45 edge ended up being crucial for Colemine. 

“It wasn't unlike the 78 thing,” Cole says, calling back to his eBay days. “We were selling 78s at a time when nobody cared. And I was pressing 45s and there were two labels pressing 45s and they were both in Brooklyn and they were both tight knit, ‘got to know somebody’ sort of things.”

The Colemine Road Show

click to enlarge Colemine releases are displayed prominently at Plaid Room - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Colemine releases are displayed prominently at Plaid Room

During the winter of 2014, Cole and his wife got divorced. In the ensuing summer, he impulsively decided to close that chapter of his life with a grand gesture, a big “vacation.” 

When he finished teaching that semester at Middletown High School, he hit the road for two months, driving across the country and visiting as many independent record stores as he could. 

While the trip was important to Cole on a personal, self-care level, it also had a business component. It was a working vacation and it paid off. 

Cole took boxes of Colemine’s releases — mostly the 30 or so 45s that were out at the time — and set out to introduce himself to the owners of more than 80 record shops across the U.S. He’d been talking with Colemine’s distributors about ways to get more traction in the shops and they complimented his outreach to the stores and how well he fostered those relationships via phone and email. 

“Just keep doing that,” they told him. 

Cole did that and then some, walking into the stores and making a human connection. The proprietors were certainly going to remember his friendly face more than an email exchange, no matter how pleasant.

It was an audacious move, but also incredibly smart. Besides mail order, mom-and-pop record shops were the lifeblood of Colemine’s sales. How could anyone resist a person who’s driven hundreds — if not thousands — of miles in an effort to get your store to stock a few copies of his Soul/Funk label’s 7-inch releases? 

“I felt like that was the next step,” Cole says of the cross-country adventure. “I just felt if I could meet (the shop owners), I could sell more records.”

The summer trip didn’t just shore up sales opportunities for Colemine. It also helped Cole formulate plans for a new venture that would complement the label and offer a new revenue stream. Though it wasn’t on his radar at the start of the journey, a lot of what he saw on his sojourn would inform his decision to start his own record store.

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

But it would take a big jolt of disillusionment at his “day job” to really push Cole into taking the plunge and starting his own storefront retail operation. 

Cole returned to teaching after the summer trip, energized by his label work but still excited to get back to working with the students. But by mid-fall, administrative changes in the district crushed morale among the staff. Cole estimates that, by the end of the school year, nearly 50 teachers had left the district. (In a Journal-News story about the exodus from 2014, a spokesperson from the district said the turnover was not unusual and was similar to other districts.) 

For Cole, the breaking point came when the district’s new superintendent came in to observe him teaching a zoology class. At the end of the day, he asked the school’s principal if he’d offered any feedback.

“He said the students were really engaged, you know, seemed like they really enjoyed being in your room,” he remembers being told. “He said he does think it's inappropriate how long your hair is, though.”

Even as he talks about the moment now, Cole sounds astounded and angry over the superintendent’s disconnect.  

“I have 30 kids that can't pass a math test to save their life, don't have a home life, all somehow engaged in the evolutionary history of sharks,” Cole says. “So why don’t you calm the fuck down? They were interested in learning about evolutionary biology and instead you’re going to focus on the length of my hair?”

At the end of that day, the superintendent addressed the whole staff. As he spoke, Cole was plotting his escape, wondering how he could increase revenue from his musical pursuits enough to cover the loss of his teacher’s salary. As impulsive as Cole was on his summer coast-to-coast meet-and-greets, he’s also very pragmatic. He says the label’s income at this point was only covering about 20 percent of what he’d need to live on. 

“I remember I had a piece of paper and was writing down different possible ideas and one was (opening) a record store,” he says. “I could do that. I just saw 85 functional record stores and what that looked like.”

Immediately after the meeting, Cole drove to Loveland. He and his brother Bob had relatively recently started going there to ride bikes. Within two days, he’d scouted out a location right in the heart of Loveland’s quaint and casual downtown district and came up with a business proposal. He says that while (again) he felt like he didn’t know what he was doing, he did know he needed to do it with someone else. 

Cole knew his brother Bob (who’s 30) had a similar passion for music and they had shared experience selling records through eBay while growing up. Bob had just finished grad school at Miami and was seemingly on his way to a lucrative career as a computer engineer. He had just finished a six-week post-graduation camping vacation in Minnesota and Cole called him as soon as he knew Bob had phone service. 

“I think I want to open a record store,” Cole said.

Cole told Bob to meet him in Indianapolis, the site of the final stop on his 2014 record store tour. Indy’s Luna Music was one of his favorites — clean and organized, with employees who were nice and “not judgy.” 

Plaid Room Records opened in February 2015 with the idea that Cole (who by that point had moved to Loveland) and Bob would work at the store after their day jobs ended. To cover day shifts, Cole says, “we just needed somebody that was nice.” While building the store, wedding photographer Whitney Pelfrey brought some clients by and seemed to perfectly fit the bill. She and Cole are now a couple; they live about a mile from the shop with Pelfrey’s 7-year-old daughter. 

“That summer trip was massive and I didn't know that,” Cole says. “I was sort of doing research about how to be a record store. And if I would've known, I probably would have asked a lot more pertinent questions.”

After four months, Bob quit his job to do Plaid Room full time and Cole followed suit after finishing out the 2015 school year.

Indications of Things to Come

click to enlarge Durand Jones & the Indications’ breakthrough debut on display at Plaid Room - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Durand Jones & the Indications’ breakthrough debut on display at Plaid Room

Through their divorce, Cole’s ex-wife gave him the nudge he needed to travel across the country and ultimately formulate a business plan for Plaid Room. Her pre-divorce reaction to a potential new Colemine signee also helped facilitate another watershed moment for Cole.

In 2013, an Indiana University student named Blake Rhein contacted Cole about interning with Colemine, which was at the time being run out of Cole’s basement in Middletown. Rhein had family in Cincinnati and he and Cole would hang out and work on studio techniques. Rhein fixed his Hammond organ and they worked on drum loops together. 

Rhein was a budding Funk/Soul musician and was a fan of the music Colemine was putting out. He’d been recording with his band in Bloomington and played Cole the unfinished tracks they’d been working on. Cole thought the tracks were good, but the band had vocals and he was still fairly focused on instrumentals. 

“It's gonna sound crazy,” Cole says with a chuckle, “but it had vocals and it almost felt too poppy compared to the cutty Afrobeat shit we were doing and these breakbeat tracks.”

“This is too mainstream,” he says he remembers thinking after his first exposure to what would become the most important signing to date for Colemine Records — Durand Jones & the Indications. 

Cole says the Indications recordings did leave an impression… on someone else. While he was listening to the tracks, his ex overheard them and said, “Oh, I kind of like this,” which Cole says was highly unusual, as she’d never shown interest in Colemine’s previous releases. 

“I was like, ‘Hmm, OK — I’ll log that in my brain,’ ” he says.

After the divorce, the road trip, the launch of Plaid Room and the decision to leave his teaching job (and salary), Cole began brainstorming ideas for how to make more money through the label and shop. He began sifting through music on his laptop to see if he could find any tracks worth licensing for commercial use (another big income source). Instead, he came across the Durand Jones & the Indications recordings that had been sitting in his hard drive for about a year and a half. He and the band had been talking about doing a 45 (they eventually released the track “Smile” as a Colemine single), but Cole suggested doing an entire LP since there were eight songs that were mostly finished. 

The band wasn’t enthused. Not because they didn’t want to release it through Colemine — they just didn’t think it was good enough to release at all. 

Cole remembers the musicians pleading with him: “You can't release that. It’s just not that good. It was just for fun when we were in college. We don't want you to take that risk.”

Most of the members had graduated and/or were moving on to other pursuits, so the Indications were barely even a band anymore. But Cole persisted. And just as his ex’s enthusiastic reaction to the music a year and a half earlier gave him a fresh perspective on its potential, some in-store test marketing also raised hopes. 

“We started playing the album in the store and people would ask, ‘What is this?’ It started to get a lot of questions,” Cole says. “So that kind of gave us confidence, like ‘People like this shit.’ ”

He finally convinced the band to let him press 1,000 copies of the Durand Jones & the Indications self-titled album debut. It was slated for release in July 2016 but they received copies in April and continued playing it in Plaid Room. Cole ultimately sold 100 early copies to shoppers and he helped kick up nationwide buzz by calling other retailers and telling them that the same people who were buying Leon Bridges and Charles Bradley albums were going to be all over it. He also sent out several promo copies for retailers to spin during business hours — a proven technique. 

Durand Jones & the Indications’ burgeoning fanbase became visibly apparent when the group played a pre-release party at Plaid Room and 150 people crammed into the shop on a Wednesday night to experience it. 

“I mean, Durand Jones & the Indications — that is the biggest tipping point for the label and the shop and everything,” Cole says.

Soul to Keep

click to enlarge Colemine 45s - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Colemine 45s

Though the label was instrumental in launching the Indications to unanticipated levels of success, the escalating attention — bigger tours and festival slots, high-profile management, a Google commercial — also almost put the band out of Colemine’s league. Majors and large indie labels were making offers to sign the group. Cole didn’t have the money other big-timers had to throw at the band, so they sought out a partner they could trust to continue the relationship and offer the best deal for all involved parties. Ultimately, Cole found the people at the well-distributed indie label Dead Oceans (home to acts like Mitski and Japanese Breakfast) shared the same goals and values. Dead Oceans re-released the self-titled Indications album last year and, earlier this year, released the follow-up, American Love Call; both releases still feature Colemine branding. 

Cole says he’s pleased with how the deal worked out. 

“The band was outpacing us and we didn't want to be holding them back like that,” he says. 

Some of what was lost financially from the Indications moving on was made up for by a boost in exposure and credibility for Colemine, with sales for the entire catalog seeing an increase in the wake of the band’s success. 

And working with Dead Oceans gave Cole more insight into running a label on that higher level, helping Colemine’s release schedule pick up, with a huge slate of full-lengths dropping over the past year and many more on the horizon. Among the new releases: Chicago’s New Orleans-tinged Funk artist Neal Francis will release his anticipated debut LP through the label’s sub-imprint Karma Chief (for music that falls a little outside of Colemine’s usual sound) next month; Ikebe Shakedown is returning to Colemine for their new full-length, Kings Left Behind, which is due Aug. 16; Southern Gospel act (and Eli Paperboy Reed students) The Harlem Gospel Travelers have a Colemine album coming Oct. 11 titled He’s On Time

The label sporadically releases archival material, including the 1968 album On the Rise by Cincinnati Soul singer Barbara Howard, wife of local business legend Steve Reece and mother of former Cincinnati vice mayor Alicia Reece. Next on the reissue docket is music by funky ’60s/’70s Detroit vocal group The Brothers of Soul, which Cole describes as “the best music ever made.” An LP compilation of the trio’s 45s is being prepped for Record Store Day next year. 

Colemine’s success with Durand Jones & the Indications also allowed them to take offers from new, larger distribution companies. Cole ultimately chose to go with the respected Secretly Distribution, which is part of the Secretly Group, the umbrella company that includes the labels Numero Group, Jagjaguwar, Secretly Canadian and Dead Oceans.

The deal — as well as Plaid Room Records’ standalone success — gave the Coles a chance to upgrade the shop as well.

More in Store

As Plaid Room grew, the used record inventory majorly increased. Always keeping his production skills sharp, Cole was also recording some of the artists on Colemine in the shop on the tiny performance stage (where the store hosted live music) but he was desperately wanting a more controlled environment — in terms of both space and time. 

“The store just gobbled up the stage more and more, so the Hammond organ has like the Jazz section on it,” Cole says. “And I can't make very much music because I have to run the shop and then I have to do (the recording) at night. I can't do it during the day — just walk in and start making tracks.”

click to enlarge Cole’s studio space above Plaid Room - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Cole’s studio space above Plaid Room

So when the two-story building across the street went up for sale, the Coles' interest was immediately piqued. But the former owner was asking way more than they could afford. It was way more than anyone could afford apparently — after the price was lowered twice, the brothers and Pelfrey began to more seriously envision taking over the space. They purchased the building last summer and opened “Plaid Room Records 2.0” in November. 

The larger ground floor not only gives Plaid Room a big, open (and, yes, very clean) space to set up the cases of records and elegantly line the walls with even more vinyl — there’s also a mini-warehouse to store Colemine product. And there’s more room in the back of the building for shipping Colemine’s releases and for Plaid Room’s mail-order servicing. Cole says the store’s website — which features tons of new vinyl releases — has become one of their biggest sources of income. Likewise, on the second floor, Pelfrey rents out space to groups for meetings and events. 

Nestled away in the back room of the spacious, well-designed top floor (Cole says Pelfrey gets all the credit for the feng shui flow) is Colemine’s new in-house studio. It’s a little disheveled, but still an eye-catching sight to behold, with vintage organs, amps and other gear scattered about. Acts like Northern Ohio’s Wesley Bright & The Honeytones have been laying down tracks in the new space lately. The space also gives musicians and other guests (Cole recently hosted visitors from Colemine’s publishers, Rough Trade) a place to crash when they’re in town. 

“This place has been like a hotel lately,” Cole says. 

With every step of the label and store’s success, Cole has continued to grow and learn from each experience. He’s a little more careful with artist contracts and he’s been producing as much of Colemine’s output as he can, so that if someone gets poached from his roster, he’ll be in a better position to negotiate. 

But just because Cole’s open to learning new tricks of the trade doesn’t mean he’s a clueless rube. Though he doesn’t mind if certain people think so. He says he’s flattered that others are paying attention to what Colemine is doing but finds it hilarious that he occasionally gets calls from people at major labels looking to just “pick his brain”… or maybe pick his pocket.

“I’ve had people call, just like, ‘What are you into?’ ” he says. “ ‘Hey, I really love what you guys are doing. Yeah. I'm an A&R… really dope shit. Love Durand. Love that Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio. What are you into right now?’ It's like, ‘Whoa!’ I think they just think I’m totally stupid.”

“Which is fine,” he adds with a mischievous smirk. “I love being the underdog.”

Predictions and goals haven’t really had much to do with how the label has gotten to where it is today. Still, Cole says he does think a lot about Colemine’s legacy. 

“I don't want to make records (with a certain sound) because it feels like a hot thing right now,” he says. “Whenever we're putting records together, I always try to think, ‘Is somebody going to want to listen to this in 10 years? Is somebody going to want to listen to this in 20 years?’ The goal is just to make good albums. I want it to stay progressive. I don't want to get stagnant. I don't want to just make the same R&B record over and over again.”

Besides the music, Cole says he wants Colemine to be remembered for the love and attention to detail put into each release, right down to the earthy production, the retro-styled album design and the overall physical packaging, including the quality-constructed album sleeves. It’s the main reason he can’t envision ever selling off the label to the highest bidder. 

“I’d just worry that they’d press the records at some shitty pressing plant,” he says, half-joking, about any sort of seven-figure corporate buyout. “I want people to always look back at our records and be able tell that a lot of care was put into them. I want people to know we’re a record-centric label.”

 For more on Colemine Records’ catalog, visit Find Plaid Room Records’ mail-order offerings and more info on the shop — located at 122 W. Loveland Ave., Loveland — at

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