A Nashville fixture since the late 1970s, The Great Escape has always made its bones appealing to the collector in us all. At first, the store slung vinyl LPs, books, and comic books. Then came the advent of compact discs, and vinyl took a nosedive; however, a comic book boom was in its infancy. By the late ’90s, the speculative comic book market collapsed, and digital ruled the musical roost; fortunately for The Great Escape, vinyl has once again become the new music medium of choice for the young/expendable-income crowd, and video game sales are shooting through
Such media malleability has allowed The Great Escape to not only survive where other, bigger media conglomerates (see Borders, Media Play), and dozens of smaller enterprises) have failed, but even thrive — indeed, at a time when others are closing their stores, The Great Escape is expanding.
Since opening on April Fools’ Day 1983, the Madison location of The Great Escape had been housed in a strip mall at Old Hickory Boulevard and Gallatin Road. Now the chain has moved into the former BuyBacks location at 105 Gallatin. Great Escape CEO Gary Walker says that the new location will boast over 6,000 square feet of space, and will include items like magazines and sheet music — previously only available at other locations — in addition to the usual selection of vinyl, comic books, movies, and
“We heard that Buybacks were relocating back in spring, and immediately contacted Kimco Realty stating our interest in relocating,” Walker says. “We started our Madison store in 1983 in a location about three doors up from Burger King, and when the building next to Old Time Pottery became available, we moved to that location, allowing us to double our small space. Because our Madison operation has been quite successful in recent years, it was a natural evolution to relocate to the Buybacks location when it became available.”
Walker says The Great Escape’s main customer base has always been the collector, and, as such, the company’s focus has always been on amassing as many collectibles as possible, operating on the idea the consumer may happen upon items they may not know they want before walking in, but soon after finding, can’t live without.
“Our philosophy of doing business has always been to buy a lot of product, pricing it to sell, and operating on a large volume of sales,” Walker says. “The variety of product that we offer for sale and our business strategy of bargain prices seems to be significant factors in our continuing to be in business almost four decades. It’s always been a part of our strategy even from the time we were a mobile operation doing flea markets and conventions. We have a 15,000-square-foot warehouse, which allows us to make large acquisitions, and we have buyers who regularly travel to other states when we hear about collections that come up for sale. We also rotate product among our four stores.”
Walker says the new store will be a boon for record collectors in particular. “One factor in our current success has been the resurgence of vinyl, and its continued growth is important to our future,” he says. “Our first priority is to expand our selection, and we expect to have twice as many preowned LPs for sale [than the old store housed]. We will also be expending our selection of singles, both 45s and 78s. We also have space to enlarge our selection of used turntables and speakers, a product line which we feel has great potential for growth.”
Walker says the very nature of his business — appealing to collectors of all sorts — means that customers will travel to find the items they want, and he hopes the location’s upgraded vinyl collection will continue to siphon customers from East Nashville
“We have never done any surveys or given any real thought to where our customer base comes from,” Walker says. “I’m sure that some of our customers, particularly those who are avid collectors, frequent both of our Nashville locations. Obviously, we believe The Great Escape has a bright future, or we wouldn’t be in an expansion mode by relocating our Madison store to a bigger location with added overhead. We believe as long as a segment of the public prefers to see and feel the product they’re interested in instead of shopping from a computer monitor, there will continue to be a need for our services.”