Today we are chatting with one seriously cool dude, Harry, owner of T-Bones Records & Cafe in Hattiesburg, MS! From the local Jazz music he brings in to the delicious coffee, we could not WAIT to feature him for #mississippimonday! Read on for more info about T- Bones Record shop + photos!
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What/who exactly is T-Bones Records & Cafe?
T-Bones itself is the brand. It's the experience of being here. The smell, the crew, the customers, the music, the coffee....it all goes into the feeling of being here, socializing here, existing here.
How did you get started and what was the inspiration to take the small business leap?
I worked for the original owner of T-Bones from 1999-2001, and was offered to buy the store when he decided to move to California in 2002. I originally began working here to buy music at an employee discount (on average 8 albums a week). I loved it, needed it, and wanted to talk about it. This was the perfect place for that. My parents were crucial in making this become a reality, and their experience as entrepreneurs helped keep me from making dire mistakes. After about 6 years, we thought it was time to turn an abundance of office space into a cafe. Plus, I always wanted to be my own boss.
How does Mississippi play a role in your business?
It's hard to say. It's like asking how does blood play a role in your body. T-Bones could have only happened in Mississippi. It could only grow as it has in this place.
What are your goals for your brand?
I guess my main goal with the T-Bone's brand is to build a relationship with the customers. I know that's cliché, but people want to feel like they're part of something. Big box and online commerce have sterilized the marketplace, and it's all very impersonal, so the best way to set yourself apart as a small business is to foster a space where people feel like they know you, which isn't as easy a task as it sounds. It gets tricky. We want to be fun and weird, without alienating our lunch crowd. We want to be dependable and consistent, without feeling sterile.
I still get excited when i see T-Bone's stickers on cars, or someone wearing a T-Bone's t-shirt. It tells me we're doing something right. I don't feel like the statement people are making is as simple as, "I want you to know where I buy my records and coffee."
T-Bone's had awesome customer service, and made great coffee and sandwiches before I ever came along. So the brand was already developing, because people were forming positive opinions about us. So in developing the brand, we weren't trying to steer public opinion. We were simply trying to solidify those opinions (from "I like T-Bone's" to "I LOVE T-Bone's!") with more concise, more deliberate efforts, especially when it comes to social media, posters, stickers, t-shirts, etc. There's more to a brand than graphics, obviously; they're just there to sort of pull it all together. The best mark in the world can't compensate for lousy service or bad product, and being fun and engaging is moot if it doesn't translate into sales!
What is your background?
Dropped out of college. Played saxophone and bass in several bands and always have needed music in my life.
Where do you find inspiration?
Everywhere. Our brand needs to be eclectic, to reflect the variety in the record racks. I love the graphics on old LPs from the 60s. Not so much the titles or artwork, but the little badges that say "STEREOPHONIC," etc. That was the inspiration for our mark, the "T" with lightning bolts. Recorded music starts as an electric signal, whether from a mic or an amp, then reaches your ears via electronic reproduction. We're the conduit between the artist and the listener. And that mark is essentially the only real constant in our visual brand. The rest is in constant flux.
What do you like to do when you aren't "at the office"?
Spend time with my fiance, Laura. Listen to records. Canoe. Think about work. Movies. Walk Duncan the Dog. Cleanse my mental palette.
What are your favorite local places to shop and dine?
Tabella for amazing Italian, Twin Forks Wine, Bombshell Comics, Sacks Outdoors.
What are some of the reasons you call Mississippi home?
I was born here for starters. I have been fortunate to see much of the US, and travel abroad. The more I got away, the more I didn't want to call any other place home. The populations is also low compared to many other places. You still have plenty of room to breath, and lots of space when you need it.
How do you think what you are doing is helping to shape your local community as well as the image of Mississippi?
I try not to focus on that too much. T-Bones being the best it can be from within is what I strive for. That being said, creating a unique place within your city helps make your city unique as well. There's not another T-Bones floating around somewhere. The experience you get here is only available here, in Hattiesburg.
Searching for a new, cool record? Go visit T-Bones Records & Cafe, located at:
1201 Hardy Street, Hattiesburg, MS 39401
Not local? No prob! Check them out here: