Record Store Day at Bucket O’ Blood!
I ignored the social media site’s first suggestion for an event near me that I might enjoy. About the zillionth time it recommended the same location to me, I finally took a look. I confess. It was Buffy and Facebook that got me there. Was I interested in watching two fan-chosen episodes in a room full of geeks at a genre book and record shop call Bucket O’ Blood on a Friday night? I had a friend living in the neighborhood. I could always crash there if needed. OK, Facebook. I’m interested.
I’ve been back to three events in the last month. I’ve moved past interested. I’m committed.
The huge, graffiti inspired sign identifies Bucket O’ Blood as somewhat of an unusual bookstore. Open since 2010, and at its current location in Avondale since 2015, the shop serves up an eclectic mix of fantasy, horror, science fiction, graphic novels, vinyl, and community.
Jennifer Kilgore and Grant McKee bought the store from Marc Ruvolo in the summer of 2013. A musician, Ruvolo opened the record/book shop to sell his labels and favorite genres. When he needed to sell the store in 2013 to tour Europe, Jennifer and Grant were there to take over. “My interests were already in line with the existing store,” Grant told me, “but we felt we could build on the groundwork that was there. It was a good shop that had a lot of potential.”
“It was mostly just a gut feeling and being in the right place at the right time,” Jennifer added.
“I’d pretty much always wanted to own a shop…”
“I’d pretty much always wanted to own a shop,” Grant explained. “I’ve always been into geekier media: horror movies, science fiction, comic books, and lots of music. At times, I had various plans, but Bucket O’ Blood ties together a lot of my interests. Like Jennifer said, there was a huge ‘right place at the right time’ factor, but I would have done something similar at SOME point.”
Taking over someone else’s shop posed more than a few challenges for the couple. They had to balance maintaining Bucket O’ Blood’s customer base while making it their own. “We wanted to keep it a genre bookstore and punk/metal record store but infuse it with our personality and cultivate a welcoming atmosphere and community for people to gravitate towards,” said Jennifer. Grant wanted to expand into more of his interests and grew the metal vinyl selection, bulked up the graphic novels section, added horror movies, and ditched the CDs.
“We always worried about the records freezing and getting ruined in winter with no heater.”
Beyond repositioning the store’s target market rebranding, the condition of the shop came as a surprise to the new owners. Jennifer described the building as “typical Chicago,… tiny dingy and nothing worked.” No heat. No AC. A host of electrical issues. “We tore out the gross carpet and painted all the walls,” Jennifer told me. “We did the best with what we had. We always worried about the records freezing and getting ruined in winter with no heater.”
When a leak ruined hundreds of dollars worth of rare books, the two knew they needed to find a new location. They stayed there for two years waiting for the lease to end and they could move. In looking for a new spot, the two wanted the largest space they could afford as close to the old place as possible.
The new, well lit, leak free location afforded them significantly more square feet for product and an area for gatherings in the back. It’s a multi-purpose community center. During the party for the 20th Anniversary of Buffy, this back area acted as a comfortable screening room.
“We wanted to create a space for people to come together and enjoy being with each other.”
“We don’t think of it as a screening room.,” Jennifer explained. “We wanted to create a space for people to come together and enjoy being with each other. We have 2 book clubs that meet monthly. We do book releases, author signings, acoustic music, poetry readings, etc. We’ve had a one-woman show, stand-up comedy night, art show with live painting, a spiritual workshop, all kinds of stuff.”
“Oh yeah, we hosted a 24-hour theater project. I can’t even remember all the stuff we’ve done!”
“We always try to do what’s right and we are honest and fair with our customers.”
The couple credits their success to the character of the shop. Jennifer pointed out, “We are genuine people that are looking for genuine connections with other people. We always try to do what’s right and we are honest and fair with our customers. People appreciate that.”
Since opening in the new location, the shop started selling new books in addition to used. It carries inventory not found at other bookstores in the city and Jennifer and Grant can talk about the genres in a way very few others can. “We truly care about our community, music-lovers, book-lovers, geeks and nerds of all types.”
This Saturday, the shop will host their favorite event of the year, Record Store Day. “People get super excited for that day and there’s a huge turnout of music lovers and record collectors. We choose a theme each year and throw a huge party. Last year’s theme was political because of the election and we had red, white, and blue jello shots, and red, white, and blue cans of beer, hot dogs, apple pie, etc. and everyone got “I voted for Bucket O’ Blood” buttons. There was a Statue of Liberty photo booth cut out and just silly stuff like that. Everyone had a blast. A previous year we did a fiesta theme and had a piñata, tamales, Mexican pastries, margaritas, Tecate, etc. We get creative with it.”
This year, Bucket O’ Blood will be teaming up with Great Lakes Brewing, Beer Temple, DMen Tap, and Dr. Martens for a luau extravaganza. The shop will serve Great Lake’s Turntable Pils throughout the day. Someone will even have a chance to win a special, custom record player.”
Bucket O’ Blood Books and Records. Come for the great selection of genre fiction and vinyl. Stay for the great people you’ll meet there.