An Interview with Karl Groeger of Looney Tunes Music and More

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The owners of Looney Tunes get creative with county's plastic bag law

Forward by Joe O’Brien
When I was 11 years old, as requested, my parents got me a boom box for my birthday. They took me to Looney Tunes to buy some CDs. I remember getting AC/DC- Back in Black and Jackson 5 Greatest Hits. I had never been in a record store before and was amazed at how much music was sitting there waiting to be listened to. From there, my musical appetite and taste grew. I would go to Looney Tunes every week with my allowance and get the next Led Zeppelin or KISS album I had been dying to listen to.

As an adult, I still go there to buy records and see in-store performances. I have seen Bayside and Frank Turner there. I will never forget the time my mother surprised me by getting a ticket to see Taking Back Sunday there, at the last minute. I was unable to go and my mother went inside and recorded the whole concert for me. She waited in line and got the whole band to sign the poster. However, the best part is that the people at Looney Tunes took a picture of my mom (as well as every fan that went up to the table for an autograph) with the band. They put their favorite pictures on their website and there was my mother standing next to the band in her track suit.

Why do I tell you all these memories? There are some places so ingrained in my being, as far as music goes, that it can be hard to put into words. Looney Tunes is one of those places. Looney Tunes was the place that helped me discover music and as such, I have always felt at home there. Their success as a business leads me to think many others have had the same experience and feel the same way. You can visit Looney Tunes at 31 Brookvale Ave, West Babylon, NY 11704 or check out their website here. If you are ever in the area, check out Looney Tunes and remember to support your local record shops.

Please enjoy this interview with Karl of Looney Tunes by Andrew Daly:

Andrew:
Karl, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. Tell us about your backstory. Where did you grow up? What got you get into records? When did you know you wanted to sell records?

Karl:
My father opened Looney Tunes in 1971 and I started to work at my dad’s store at age 6. I’ve always wanted to be part of this store. I bought it from him in 1988 along with my brother Jamie.

Andrew:
You and your brother, Jamie have been running the store for some time now. I’ve been shopping in the store since I was a kid growing up in Babylon, and I remember seeing you guys in there for what seems like forever. What’s it been like running the store?

Karl:
They say if you love your work its not work – we love what we do every day.

Andrew:
As I mentioned before, Looney Tunes opened in 1971. What was the music landscape like at the time? It kind of feels like Looney Tunes was an answer to what LI was lacking at the time. Where there a lot of record shops around here back then?

Karl:
Almost none. We were one of the first and still one of the only ones around now again.

It was 3 years ago today that I thought it was all over….

Andrew:
If my memory serves, in 2007, you guys had an awful fire that basically decimated the entire store. How did it happen? How devastating was that?

Karl:
Yeah, that was a sad day. We had the whole store burn down in 2007 and we were devastated, but we decided to rebuild and we were open in just 3 months later to a new and even better store. We hand made all the browsers, the stage, the register area etc. I think the store looks fantastic now. We are always changing things around. We just built a new vinyl listening station area just yesterday with now 3 stations!

Andrew:
One of the things I remember is the entire community sort of rallying around you guys, and in what felt like no time, you guys were back, and better than ever! Even though the new store is awesome, I still remember the original store so vividly. Do you ever miss it?

Karl:
No, I really don’t. I mean, I loved the store back then too. I will always be reminiscent, but I love the new store, it looks a lot nicer and cleaner – I do miss all the stuff I lost in the fire. Over 100 signed guitars. Over 100 RIAA plaques. But those are all material and we were blessed that no one was hurt.

Andrew:
After the fire, was there ever a moment that you thought it might be all over? What was going through your mind at that time?

Karl:
It was hard. The fire was on August 31st. I walked around in a fog for 3 days not knowing what to do. The industry was not in a good place and lots of people told me to do something else. Jamie and I had no intentions of going away. Screw that. My legacy will not be ruined by a fire. We wanted to rebuild and got to work the next morning and reopened in AMAZING time on DEC 1.

It was 3 years ago today that I thought it was all over….

Andrew:
You guys are pretty well known for your in-store appearances. I’ve seen a bunch there! How important have those been to your success?

Karl:
In store events and autograph signings have become an integral part of our business, and without them we would not be able to survive. They are very important to us and a lot of FUN. We can get fans right up close to their favorite bands! There’s nothing cooler then that.

Andrew:
Shifting gears now, is there anything within the industry that you would like to see change for the better? What improvements would you like to see that you feel would be beneficial to us all within the Vinyl Community?

Yikes. Got 10 hours? It seems that everything the major companies do is screwed up. They have no idea what is really happening on the ground level. They do just about everything wrong. If we had more control over the way they do things- all stores would be in a much better place.

Andrew:
A lot of store owners have mixed feelings on RSD. Some love it. Some hate it. What are your feelings on RSD?

Karl:
I think it’s an absolutely fantastic organization and we are proud to be part of it. There will always be haters but they are just being silly. It’s a wonderful event each year and run by amazing people who we care a lot about.

Loony For Looney Tunes - Long Island Weekly

Andrew:
We know you love music, and this may seem like an obvious question, but do you collect records? How many records do you have in your own personal collection?

Karl:
When we re opened the store after the fire we filled the store will a lot of new records and CDs etc . BUT we had no used LPs and CDs. So, My brother and I did what my dad did when he started the store. We just put in all our own collections. I had about 10K records and 15K CDs. All just put back into the store. I have a much more modest collection now. Maybe 5K CDs and 2K records. So, if you think about it, my store is all my records, so you could look at it that way too. LOL.

Andrew:
What are some albums you don’t have, but hope to find one day? Are there any albums you’ve given up that you wish you hadn’t? Are you like some of us who purge records only to rebuy them again? 

Karl:
Oh, I’m buying LPs for myself and selling stuff daily. It’s part of the fun. In the fire I lost a REALLY clean Beatles Butcher cover. Since the fire, I have not been able to find a good one for myself. One day…

Andrew:
What are/ were some of your favorite shops to buy vinyl in around NYC and Long Island? Do you like to travel and buy vinyl as well?

Karl:
No one in the area is even close to Looney Tunes. But when I travel around the country and world I always stop in the local store and do some shopping. Found a cool place in Kyoto, Japan last year that was fun to shop in that I found some great stuff.

Home | Looney Tunes Record Store

Andrew:
2020 was a weird year, but we still saw a lot of great music released. What are some of your “must have” albums of 2020?

Karl:
Wow, that’s a tough one. So many good records. If I had to pick one, I really like the new Jason Isbell Reunions record. That’s a good contender for record of the year, so far. But loving a lot of Metal and Jazz too.

Andrew:
I have a feeling you’re a Metal head. How do your tastes differ from Jamie’s?

Karl:
I am a Classic Rock guy and Metal head for sure. Jamie leans more toward Indie Rock and what I tend to like is heavier and louder. LOL.

Andrew:
I can’t imagine the Long Island music scene without Looney Tunes. You guys are true survivors on so many levels. You and Jaimie are still young, but can’t do it forever right? What does the future hold for Looney Tunes?

Karl:
I intend on doing it forever! We love Long Island and our community. We really want to make sure local bands get time to grow and have a place they can always bring their music. We love stocking local bands on consignment (with over 500 now) and helping them in anyway we can. We have to. It’s our responsibility to help local bands as best we can.

Andrew:
I’ve often heard that you have to be at least a little bit crazy, and have a whole lot of drive and passion to open a record store, let alone succeed.
Would you agree?

Karl:
Yes. Don’t do it! It’s too hard. LOL! But it’s in my blood and the store and my label, Brookvale Records, will hopefully be around for a very long time.

Andrew:
Is there anything else you want all of us here as well as the general record consuming public to know?

Karl:
We love our STRONG ISLAND. COVID sucks but we will all get through this.

Peace and Love and BE KIND TO YOUR NEIGHBORS and the rest will fall into place.

Karl Groeger Jr.

Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interviews

Published by Andrew Daly

Since he was a young child growing up on Long Island, NY, Andrew has always loved writing and collecting physical music. Present-day, Andrew is proud to share his love of music with the world through his writing, and the result is nothing short of beautiful: articles and interviews written by a music addict for fellow music addicts. Andrew lives on Long Island and works as a Horticultural Operations Manager by day and runs the Vinyl Writer Music website by night.

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