Mellow Matt’s still spinning in Bowling Green

Matthew Pfefferkorn is the owner of Mellow Matt’s Music & More. Mellow Matt’s is located on Smallhouse Road in Bowling Green, Ky and carries everything from new and used vinyl, CDs, DVDs, and music equipment as well as holds live music events in store. Pfefferkorn has been around music his whole life which led him to open the store 5 years ago. “Music is what Iv’e always known,” Pfefferkorn said.

Drake Kizer

Nearly five years have passed since 48-year-old Matt Pfefferkorn opened Mellow Matt’s Music and More. In that time, he has helped Bowling Green’s first “true independent record store” solidify itself as a hub for music lovers.

Pfefferkorn was born in New Jersey, but he said he spent most of his childhood in South Carolina. In 1980, Pfefferkorn and his family moved to Bowling Green. Since his family’s arrival when he was 10 years old, Pfefferkorn said he has never moved away.

When it came time for Pfefferkorn to attend college, he chose to stay close to home and attended WKU from 1988 to 1992.

Pfefferkorn has been a music fan his entire life. He got his first job in the record store business as a teenager by starting out with inventory work at Record Bar inside Greenwood Mall before eventually landing a full-time position. Pfefferkorn said he has worked at many different record stores over the course of 30 years.

After years of working for larger chains, Pfefferkorn decided to open up his own store in 2013. He said his wife was his biggest supporter, since she knew it had always been a dream of his. Before then, Bowling Green did not have a local record shop to call its own, so Pfefferkorn created Mellow Matt’s Music and More.

“When we opened, we wanted to make a footprint in the community and make it be a better place,” Pfefferkorn said. “I’ve grown up here; my daughter has grown up here; we live here. We’re not going anywhere, so we just wanted to make Bowling Green our home and make Mellow Matt’s a part of Bowling Green.”

Without help from Pfefferkorn’s friends in the record store game, Mellow Matt’s may have never become a reality. Pfefferkorn said he has known Mike Grimes and Doyle Davis, the co-owners of Grimey’s New and Preloved Music in Nashville, for many years. Before he opened, he “picked their brains” and asked them for assistance adding Mellow Matt’s to what he has dubbed a “great coalition” of record stores in the area.

Jason Thomas Broadrick, the owner of JTB’s Groovy Record Room in Cottontown, Tennessee, is another acquaintance that Pfefferkorn contacted before opening his own operation. Broadrick, whose shop opened two years prior to Mellow Matt’s, has known Pfefferkorn for over 20 years. He said when Pfefferkorn told him about starting a record store, he offered his friend words of encouragement.

“People up there knew Matt already,” Broadrick said. “I told him, ‘Man, just do it. People already know you and it’s going to work.’ He’s a record head, and you ain’t gotta Google nothing around him because he’s knowledgeable about all that stuff.”

To Pfefferkorn, the most important measure of Mellow Matt’s success in its first five years is the fact that it is still in business.

However, he said the store is always striving to do more, especially regarding outreach. According to the store’s website, some of Mellow Matt’s current partners are D93 WDNS – Bowling Green’s Classic Rock and Blue Holler Brew Supplies.

Mellow Matt’s also takes part in Record Store Day, a national event honoring local record shops. Each April, Mellow Matt’s celebrates “Christmas for the music lovers.” Multiple bands and local artists take part in the festivities, and in 2018, patrons could even register to vote, which Pfefferkorn said was a great way for his business to expand its community involvement efforts.

“We’re happy to participate, and it’s just a great thing for independent record stores,” Pfefferkorn said. “We try and make it a party essentially because it is a celebration. With something like Record Store Day, we just want to get everybody in the community together as one.”

In the past few years, Mellow Matt’s has become an institution in Bowling Green. The store maintains a special section for local musicians, and Pfefferkorn said a lot of the reason why his store has found success is because of the positive relationships he has established across the region.

“We want to get people excited about music and excited about coming to Mellow Matt’s,” Pfefferkorn said. “When bands are playing at local clubs, they want to stop in and do a set here. We do special releases with local bands or bands traveling through, and we might have them do signed copies for us.”

In 2015, Mellow Matt’s hosted Cage the Elephant for a signing.

Both new and used records are available at Mellow Matt’s. Classic vinyl is priced according to its condition, while new vinyl has a standard list price. Pfefferkorn said while new albums are ordered weekly, used records are acquired through various other channels.

“We’re always on the hunt and looking around,” Pfefferkorn said. “We go to estate sales, and we also go out and look at collections. We’ve gotten calls about people’s collections from everywhere, from here in town to Tennessee and Ohio. We also have people that bring stuff in for us to buy all the time, whether it’s five records or 50, you never know.”

According to Nielsen, “Vinyl had a renaissance at retail [in 2017] by experiencing sales growth for the 12th consecutive year, comprising 14 [percent] of all physical album sales.” Pfefferkorn said the dramatic increase in younger people shopping for records is probably the biggest transformation Mellow Matt’s has seen since the store opened its doors in October 2013.

“That first year or so, we were getting the regular record buyers,” Pfefferkorn said. “Since then, I’ve seen young teenagers getting into vinyl and buying their first record players. Now we’re selling Sam Smith, Taylor Swift, Imagine Dragons. Younger kids are really into records, but not necessarily just the new stuff. They’re discovering the Beatles for the first time, the Stones, Madonna even. It’s real cool to see that happen.”

Although the record industry is constantly changing, Pfefferkorn’s store remains focused on one thing: music. He said unlike other shops, which might dabble in comics and toys as well as records, Mellow Matt’s is a record store first and foremost.

“One of the things I think we have succeeded at is creating a place that people can come and just hang out and talk about music,” Pfefferkorn said. “We want them to come in and find something that they were looking for and go, ‘Wow, that was a great store and great people there.’”

Features reporter Drake Kizer can be reached at 270-745-2653 and [email protected] Follow Drake on Twitter at @drakekizer_.