Eclipse rises againby Chris Roberts, Minnesota Public Radio
A popular teen hangout in St. Paul that's been closed for several years has risen again. Eclipse Records used to be one of the few all-ages music venues in the Twin Cities until neighbor complaints and red tape led it to shut its doors on Grand Avenue in 2004. A couple months ago, Eclipse reopened at a new University Avenue location, this time with the city's blessing and financial assistance.
St. Paul, Minn. — As Eclipse Records owner Joe Furth surveys the spacious post industrial interior of his new digs on University, he smiles. It's all still here, the records and cds, the old school video games and pinball machines, the performance area and the rock bands...
Only now the new space is three times as big as it used to be.
"I guess I didn't want to mess with success so we're just kind of doing it on a grander scale, than what we did the last time," Furth said.
Teens from all over the Twin Cities used to flock to Eclipse when it was on Grand, to see gritty indie rock shows and play pinball. But nearby residents got tired of the noise and loitering and began a constant chorus of complaints.
The city clamped down when it discovered Eclipse was violating an ordinance that prohibited live music in businesses other than bars or restaurants. That ordinance was later amended to allow Eclipse to feature music, but when Joe Furth's landlord refused to renegotiate his lease, he gave in to the pressure and closed.
"I think maybe the store was a little ahead of his time, you know with the live music, with the record store, us having an arcade also," he said. "They didn't shut us down but they made it uncomfortable for us there."
Now, instead of a neighborhood nuisance, The new Eclipse Records is seen as the possible savior of a somewhat vacant stretch of University Avenue that's trying to turn itself around. The City of St. Paul awarded Furth a 15-thousand dollar Star Grant to help with the move.
Joe Spencer, Director of Arts and Culture for St. Paul, says Eclipse is important not only for economic development, but as a destination for young people.
"Providing an all ages venue is really critical need, not just for the city of St. Paul, but for the entire region," Spencer said.
A 16-year-old we'll call Tim is making his first visit to Eclipse. Tim hails from Stillwater, where he and his friends spend a lot of their free time just cruising around.
It's kind of like the characters in the movie American Graffitti, only instead of hanging out at a drive-in hamburger joint, they go to LeeAnn Chin's. Tim says Stillwater doesn't have anything like Eclipse Records.
"It's just really dull and like antique shops everywhere and like the cops a lot of the time, like past curfew and stuff they make big deals about that," he said.
Tim was impressed by Eclipse's music selection, live music and socializing potential, but best of all...
"It's nice to go somewhere faraway," he said.
Back in the early days of Eclipse Records, Carl Wedoff of St. Paul didn't have to travel far to make it his main hang-out. Wedoff's rock band Malachi Constant cut its teeth playing shows there.
Now a law student, Wedoff believes places like Eclipse keep young people from moving away after they graduate from college. He thinks it helps teens become rooted in their communities.
"If you let places like that go and you don't support them, then its flyover country, you know?" Wedoff said.
After a four year hiatus, Eclipse Records is trying to re-build its customer base and is relying mainly on word-of-mouth to do that. Owner Joe Furth loves his new location, but there are a few drawbacks.
"One thing that I miss about being on Grand is we've lost a lot of foot traffic," he said.
But Furth does think that being able to put on loud live music shows without being hassled by neighbors is a fair trade-off.
- Morning Edition, 07/28/2008, 7:54 a.m.