Waterloo Records (now Waterloo Records & Video) began in Austin in 1982 with the slogan “Where music still matters.” Waterloo is the original name of the city of Austin; the store’s logo is of the Waterloo tube stop in London’s Underground.
Wikipedia: Waterloo Records
Waterloo Music, officially known as Waterloo Records & Video, is an independent retailer in Austin, Texas that has been an integral part of the city’s music scene since 1982. The store derives its name from the original name of the Austin region, Waterloo. The store’s original location was at 221 South Lamar Boulevard, just south of Lady Bird Lake. Waterloo later outgrew that 1200 sq. ft. space and moved ⅔-mile north on Lamar to their present location at 600A North Lamar.
Waterloo is noted for its knowledgeable staff and an emphasis on customer service. The store prides itself on “catering to the music consumer” and features a ten-day return policy for goods in new condition. Waterloo regularly hosts events featuring live performances by both local and nationally-known artists. It has been awarded “Best Record Store” in the Austin Chronicle’s Best of Austin awards nearly every year since it opened. In addition to local acclaim, Waterloo Records is often listed alongside similarly iconic music stores (such as Amoeba Music) as one of the best record stores in the United States.
Waterloo Records: About Waterloo
When Waterloo Records opened its doors on April 1, 1982, Austin was not quite the same town that it is today. The computer industries had arrived in the mid-seventies, but had yet to begin drawing the number of people into town that they would start to bring by the turn of the decade. Nor had Austin’s reputation as a premier arts town – especially in both music and film – swelled its ranks of the creatively inclined. The boom years of the eighties had yet to fully take hold of the sleepy town. Simply put, Austin was a lot smaller.
But while a good deal more modest, Austin’s music scene was well established. Texas music had always seemed to be vital and important, not only at home but far beyond the confines of our own barbed wire fences. From The 13th Floor Elevators to Willie Nelson, Texas artist were known internationally and their music respected around the world. Austin, however, had yet to become recognized on a national, let alone international, level as a live music mecca. The birth of South by Southwest still lay 5 years into the future and the Austin Record Convention, now one of the largest in the country, was no more than a suckling itself, having only come into being during the Spring of the previous year. Even Stevie Ray Vaughan wouldn’t release his first album with Double Trouble, Texas Flood, until 1983, igniting a blaze of guitar still burning its way down the strip on Sixth Street. The Austin scene was vibrant and alive, but it was different.
Some things about Waterloo were different too. A building a mere 1,200 square feet housed the store at a location 2/3 of a mile further South on Lamar. Compared to the relatively roomy dimension of 6,400 square feet that Waterloo’s main store enjoys today it’s hard to imagine how cramped that original store must have seemed. Size, however, certainly didn’t seem to matter to our customers, voting us best record store in the Austin Chronicle readers poll that first year, an honor they have granted us every year since.
Back then, what Waterloo really had going for it wasn’t all that radical. It came more out of understanding the customer’s viewpoint than planning a marketing strategy. It rose from the kindred soul of merchant and customer. Instead of catering to the music consumer, Waterloo catered to the music lover, if only because we were music lovers too. It was true then, it certainly still is today.
From the outset, Waterloo’s policies were a success. Customers could listen to any album in the store before buying. Not unprecedented in the history of music retail sales of course, but since the advent of shrink wrap, a virtually forgotten practice.
The logical extension of this listening policy was our attitude towards returns. Even after purchasing a record, taking it home and playing it, customers still had ten days in which to return it – for whatever reason they chose! Whether they accidentally bought a live album by mistake, forgot that they already had the record at home, or just didn’t like it, no questions were asked and a full exchange was provided. As long as the product returned to us in the same condition it went out in, both customer and store enjoyed a symbiotic relationship – we provided the leeway and trusted they wouldn’t abuse it.
These ideas, which served us so well in the beginning, have never changed. Along with a knowledgable staff and an emphasis on customer service, they form the cornerstone of what Waterloo Records is, has been, and will always be about. Add to that an extensive selection of music spanning all styles, a special propensity for Texas artists, and a simple genre free a-z filing system, then it becomes readily apparent what Austin’s music lovers have been shouting about.
Waterloo Records: An Austin Original
December 10, 2007
Since 1982, Waterloo Records has been providing Austin with music for all tastes. Winning “Best Record Store” in the Austin Chronicle Reader’s Poll since its inception explains why Waterloo Records still stands when many other record stores have fallen.
John Kunz partnered with Louis Karp to open Waterloo, and five years later he became the sole owner. Waterloo Records was originally located at 221 South Lamar, and sold vinyl records exclusively. After outgrowing the 1200 square-foot store, Waterloo moved 2/3 of a mile north to its current location at 600 N. Lamar. Though they have expanded into CD and DVD sales, they still pride themselves on having a large selection of both new and used vinyl.
Since Waterloo Records is in the hub of the “Live Music Capitol of the World,” John Kunz has kept his promise to local musicians by carrying any and all local acts that have a release to grace the shelves. Most would assume that a record store in Texas would carry predominantly Texas artists and would pander to traditionally popular genres in Texas, such as country-western, blues, and rock. But Waterloo has always been known for an exceptionally wide variety of mainstream and independent artists of every possible musical persuasion. From electronic dance music to Stevie Ray Vaughn’s box set, Waterloo has it all (or they’ll order it). 25 years after Waterloo Records opened for business, the store’s slogan, “Where The Music Still Matters” actually means what it says.
Austin American-Statesman - Talk of Austin
Share your favorite Waterloo memories
Tuesday, April 3, 2007, 02:40 PM
Waterloo is 25 years old!
Yes, the little store “where music still matters” can now legally rent a car.
We know you spend all of your time and money there and we want your thoughts about the veteran record store.