Omega Music | Photo by Omega Music
Located within the Oregon District in Dayton, Ohio, the music store Omega Music has become an oasis for music lovers from across the region by hosting CDs, vinyl records and cassette tapes from all genres.
The family business
Gary Staiger founded the shop as Omega Thrift’n Records in 1979. A native of Turners Falls, Mass., Staiger became an Air Force medic during the Vietnam War and was stationed at Dayton’s Air Force Base.
He bought an old pottery and antique store in the city’s Five Oaks neighborhood for about $500, selling plants, used records and antiques.
Staiger soon began to focus solely on selling records, and the store was rebranded as Omega Music in 1983.
Gary’s son Alex is the store’s current owner.
“I think that’s where he saw his sales at, and that’s what his passion was: music,” Alex Staiger stated. “I think buying up the thrift store was kind of like his entry point. ‘How do I get into the business? How do I get a small business retail shop started?’ That was an easy way for him to do it.”
Omega Music moved to its current location at 318 E. Fifth St. in October 2010, about a month before its founder passed away. Alex and his siblings Greg and Katie took over the business following their father’s death, and Alex became its sole owner around 2016.
They received the first perfect score from Goldmine Magazine reviewer Dr. Disc in 2019, an honor that Staiger described as “pretty awesome.”
“I wish my dad was here to see it,” Staiger said.
Surviving in the age of digital music
Omega has been a member of the Coalition of Independent Music Stores since 2015, a partnership that Alex Staiger highly values.
“It’s really cool to be a part of that group. There’s a lot of smart people in those stores,” said Staiger.
The coalition was formed in 1995 in response to the music industry placing much of their faith and support into big-box stores such as Best Buy and comprises 40 independent music stores across the United States.
“The music industry was putting all of their eggs into big-box stores and kinda forgetting about small mom-and-pop shops. Then, Napster came and downloading, and we’ve kinda been on a rollercoaster ride ever since,” said Staiger.
Even with these modern conveniences, vinyl sales have been increasing over the past few years, and Staiger is glad to see this.
“It’s a whole different love,” he explained. “I think it’s good that people are getting back into it. When you listen to an album, you stream it and you like it, and kids come in and they’re like ‘I wanna own that’. Nobody wants to come over and look at your phone. If you had company over, you could bring out a record and turn on the turntable. It’s kinda like a thing to talk about, a conversation starter.”
The impact of the coronavirus pandemic
As a small business, Omega Music has been dealt a heavy blow by the pandemic. They have cut their number of employees in half and reopened with reduced hours while encouraging customers to sanitize their hands upon entry and requiring face coverings.
The shop will be participating in Record Store Day this year, an international event that was delayed due to the pandemic. The 2020 celebration will take place over three days: Aug. 29, Sept. 26 and Oct. 24.
Customers will still be allowed to browse the store in-person during these days. However, if they are ordering records during the event, customers must fill out a list posted on the Omega Music website, pay for their items over the phone, and pick them up at the store.
Due to the pandemic, many of the records that Omega Music have been attempting to order have been unavailable.
“It is a system that was not really prepared for a pandemic, and we’re just trying our best,” Staiger explained.
Though this has caused frustration for the store, Staiger is optimistic about the future along with the return of live music, especially in Dayton’s rich music scene.
“The community has been really supportive, and that’s been wonderful. We wouldn’t be here without Dayton, you know, the community, and we’re really thankful to still be in business.”