The cat is out of the hat. What may have been "the worst secret ever," according to Dave Zero, perpetual man behind the counter at Mad City Music Exchange, is now public knowledge. He has purchased the popular east side record store where he's worked full time since 1999.
Known for its eclectic stock of quality LPs and CDs, and a perennial Isthmus Favorite, the store had been owned and managed by Dave Benton since 1986. Benton, according to Zero, plans to work on various music projects, do a little traveling, yet still put in hours at the record store as needed.
"Dave was just ready to try something new," says the new owner, whose real last name is shrouded in east side legend and deep layers of Polish mythology. Once Benton started hinting around at the idea of selling, says Zero, "I definitely wanted to buy it, because, you know, B Side wasn't hiring."
Zero plans to keep the store at its current location, 600 Williamson Street, but does have other plans for change. Longtime patrons of the store can rest assured, however, that he intends to keep it "very Mad City."
"I'm going to make a point of, for everyone who likes to shop there, to keep them happy," says Zero. "But I'm going to go out of my way to try and expand the clientele. I just want to improve on an already great store."
The improvements will include adding more hand made music related craft items as well as original art from Sam Johnson's Firecracker Studios. Remodeling projects to expand the sales floor and bring in new display racks will take place throughout the coming year, as time and money allow, says Zero. Expansion will also include a fully functional website, projected for early 2008, to supersede its current web presence on MySpace.
Zero, 31, is well known among fans of Madison's community radio station WORT 89.9 FM. Until late last year, he hosted a popular Friday afternoon program, "Hootenanny." Since moving to Madison in 1994 he has also been active as a musician and more recently as a booking agent.
Acknowledging the changes in music industry retail, Zero, a confirmed iPod user, maintains a healthy outlook on trying to keep people shopping for hard copy editions of their favorite releases.
"I'm under the philosophy that, in this day and age, you can totally rationalize never having to step foot inside a record store ever again," he says of the trend toward digital downloads. "I want to have [the store] be a desirable place for people to come to and hang out and feel good about buying tunes. I just want to make it fun."