Sweat Records was founded in 2005 by Lauren "Lolo" Reskin, along with Sara Yousuf, who had been a DJ on the University of Miami's WVUM.
They set up shop on NE Second Avenue near 24th Street. This was back when crack was still a hotter product on the streets of Wynwood than art. Furthermore, they opened in the year of the greatest slump in vinyl sales since the format's invention.
"We started at the lowest point of vinyl sales," Lolo says. "But beginning in 2006, they've gone up over 25 percent a year. So, thankfully, the vinyl boom grew along with us."
See also: Miami's Five Best Record Stores
Lolo (left) and the crew at last year's Sweatstock.
Photo by Monica McGivern
Of course, local record shops like Sweat are more than just businesses; they're community spaces that become sacred ground.
"One guy proposed to his lady here on our old purple velvet couch," Lolo recalls. "And we have another couple shooting their engagement photos here this week. Record stores are magic that way."
Love is a force of nature. So are 130-mile-per-hour winds and floodwaters. "In 2005, we survived the hurricane, but our building didn't," the Sweat owner says, remembering the devastation of Wilma.
Roof repair can bankrupt a business quicker than a slap in the face from God himself, so Sweat packed up and found a home inside Churchill's Pub, in a 400-square-foot room between the backyard bar and the green room. There were no windows and no big street-facing sign. But there were lots of clubgoers who would slosh in with their cups full of booze and peruse the racks with beatific smiles on their faces.
However, Lolo had greater ambitions, and she wanted that front window. So after a year, she signed a lease for 5505 NE Second Ave., right next door to the pub. It was a beautiful new beginning, but the shop had more challenges to face.
In 2008, a burglary cost Sweat $13,000 in electronics. The thieves also smashed a beautiful saltwater fish and coral tank, kindly built and tended by Coral Morphologic. "They completely trashed the place," Reskin says. "That was really heartbreaking."
Three years later, the shop got robbed again. The perps stole the cash register and the iMac computer that the store's entire inventory system lived on. But this time, Lolo and crew were prepared.
"We had tracking software on the computer, and the first shot it sent me through the webcam was of two guys on a couch in their boxer shorts, sitting there, holding their junk. We got the computer back! And I still have that picture."
Iggy's Raw Power on the rack at Sweat Records.
Photo by Monica McGivern
Another important moment in Sweat history was becoming pals with a Little Haiti punk called Iggy Pop. In 2009, when the store was having a benefit for an AC system, they slapped Mr. Pop's face, with permission, on a T-shirt designed by Claudio Picasso, and they put on a show with Awesome New Republic and the Jacuzzi Boys. The money was raised, the store was saved (from horrendous heat), and a beautiful friendship was born.
It's one of the many instances of support that have allowed Sweat to flourish. The shop has also won two Knight Foundation arts grants for a total of $290,000.
According to the store's fans, this longevity and success is well-deserved. DJ Ted Megawatt of the Firewall DJs, a founding member of pirate radio stations Soul104 and Mixx96, says: "This is an awesome spot. It's the home of music and the perfect environment for an artist, musician, or DJ to catch the new styles. I've probably been coming here for nine years. And the comedy nights are cool too."
Rod from Virginia agrees. "I love the store," he says. "There's always good people and great records. I come here to try and find stuff my parents listened to, the music I grew up on, to retrace my steps musically. I hope Sweat stays open forever."
The store's number-one seller of all time is Illmatic by Nas. "It's just a really well-priced record," Lolo says. "And people here love hip-hop, which is awesome."
Her favorite creative release is a Record Store Day special by Jack White, who made a clear seven-inch with peach, silk rose petals embedded in the vinyl.
Record Store Day has always been a boon for the shop. It's also the day of Sweat's annual Sweatstock music festival and anniversary celebration.
In 2012, though, RSD and Sweatstock was extra special. "Iggy Pop was the Global Ambassador for Record Store Day that year. It fell on his birthday, he was in Miami, and he took the time out to come to Sweatstock, sign stuff, and take pictures with fans. We bought him an ice-cream birthday cake."
The shop's family atmosphere has led to a high retention rate for employees. "We've had 20 or 30 of them," says Lolo. "A lot of them stuck around for a while."
Ale, a friendly young lady working the register says: "I love it. This is the best job I've ever had."
Longtime crew member Jason Jimenez is still part of the Sweat family, and Emile Milgram is the managing partner and music buyer. "She's a brilliant organizational mind," the store's owner gushes.
In ten short years, Sweat has grown from a CD shop that sells records to the opposite. It also sells "metric tons" of coffee and is a leading purveyor of vegan treats.
The most impactful new addition to the Sweat portfolio is its mail-order business. Whether you're in Cutler Ridge or Tokyo, you can go to SweatRecords.com and buy just about everything the store sells. It is also the official webstore for Otto von Schirach, Iron Forge Press, and anyone else who wants to join.
By Reskin's estimate, Sweat has also thrown "thousands of in-store events" while "Casa de Haha is the longest-running comedy night in the city."
For Lolo, it is a passion that's still growing.
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"I love that we've been able to create this place," she says. "People think we just sit around and listen to Wu-Tang all day, but we bust our hump, nonstop. We constantly analyze data and find ways to improve the store. We have a new stage, new lighting, new curtains, and way more inventory than we've ever had. Miami deserves a world-class shop, and this is it."
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