Like most small businesses that have had to shut down or alter their operations during the coronavirus pandemic, record stores have been forced to completely change the way they operate. Over the past two weeks, Nashville retailer Grimey’s New & Preloved Music, for example, has had to send its employees home after the city’s mayor issued a stay-at-home order.
This week, though, they got a life preserver from Taylor Swift, who is supplying the store with money for each employee and three months’ worth of health care. A source close to the situation confirmed the news to Rolling Stone.
“We were very surprised, and I would have to say amazed, that Taylor Swift reached out to us through her publicist to offer some relief during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Grimey’s co-owner Doyle Davis tells Rolling Stone. “I didn’t even know we were on her radar, but she really stepped up to help after the recent tornadoes that struck Nashville and middle Tennessee, and now she’s trying to help a beloved small business in her city.
“Taylor generously offered some direct relief to my staff and to cover three months of our health care costs for our group-insurance plan,” he continues. “It’s a huge deal to us, and now I have some peace of mind as we apply for [Small Business Administration] loans to pay rent, vendors, and other expenses. This assistance from Ms. Swift helps give us a real shot at coming back on the other side of this.”
“It’s incredibly heartening and totally surreal that Taylor Swift has offered to help us out in such a significant way,” Grimey’s buyer Will Orman adds. “With so much uncertainty about what lies ahead, we’re deeply grateful to be able to look forward to returning to the store and continuing to share music and connect with our community, thanks to Taylor’s generous support.”
In the weeks since the CDC updated its guidelines for the coronavirus — recommending social distancing and copious hand-washing — record stores across the country have radically adopted their modus operandi. Where selling music over the internet seemed anathema to many stores, retailers have embraced the internet as a means to sell physical CDs, LPs, and cassettes. In addition to mailing products, some stores have also offered curbside pickup for customers in allowable areas.
The pivot to web has been especially fruitful for some stores. Davis reports that a customer who lives down the street from the store purchased two collectible records Grimey’s had previously displayed on its walls and subsequently listed on Discogs after the pandemic. “Maybe he wanted to help out,” he says. “But people are really wanting to show their support. It’s gratifying to see all the online sales.”
Grimey’s, which celebrated its 20th anniversary last year, was selected for Rolling Stone’s list of the 10 Best Record Stores in America in 2018. “With its friendly and knowledgeable clerks and a ‘we can get it!’ work ethic, Grimey’s record shop has been filling Nashville music fans’ orders for nearly 20 years,” we wrote. “In the process, it’s landed on the must list for anyone visiting Music City, where a Grimey’s T-shirt is just as coveted as a rare colored-vinyl pressing.”
Swift’s generosity during the coronavirus pandemic has extended well beyond record stores. Twenty of her fans have reported that the pop star has donated $3,000 each to their calls for financial support in the past few weeks. According to NME, photographer Holly Tuner had made a Tumblr post asking for help, and Swift wrote, “Holly, you’ve always been there for me. I want to be there for you right now.” Similarly, Swift reached out to another fan in need, writing, “I saw your post and would love to gift you $3,000 to help with the stress of what’s going on right now.”
Swift, who has donated to Feeding America and the World Health Organization and requested her fans support those organizations, has encouraged her fans to respect the CDC guidelines and stay home. “I’m seeing lots of get-togethers and hangs and parties still happening,” she wrote on Instagram earlier this month. “This is the time to cancel plans, actually truly isolate as much as you can, and don’t assume that because you don’t feel sick that you aren’t possibly passing something on to someone elderly or vulnerable to this. It’s a really scary time, but we need to make sacrifices right now.”