Sisters support local music scene with record store

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“I do things in just-abouts,” said 36-year-old Leah Cunnick, as she shoved aside piles of vinyl records and assorted band posters in the cramped back office of Sisters of Sound, an independent music store nestled away in Aggieville.

Leah and her sister Sarah Cunnick, 38, opened Sisters of Sound nearly three years ago. The sisters readied the store for its grand opening in “just about” two weeks. Sarah donated her entire personal music collection to the project – some 3,000 compact discs and 2,000 records – a collection nurtured by her 10 years of employment at Street Side Records, another used record store in Manhattan.

With various small CD and record donations and some serious manpower from friends, Sisters of Sound made its successful debut in December 2004 and has only flourished since.

Sarah’s inspiration for the store came from her former job at Street Side Records.

“You never forget a store like Street Side,” Sarah said. “You could tell the people there really cared about music.”

When Street Side closed its doors, Sarah knew Manhattan needed another store like it. Coupled with her love for music and her sister’s equal passion, Sisters of Sound was born.

Neither sister has a formal background in music. Sarah was a criminal justice major at K-State. Leah graduated from K-State with a degree in art.

“I’m limited to making art for band fliers and Sarah chases down kids that steal stuff,” Leah said. “That’s what use we get out of our degrees.”

However, the sisters have been around music their entire lives. They are the youngest two of eight children and learned how to handle vinyl from their older brothers, who were disc jockeys. Once the sisters made it to K-State, they went to as many local music shows as possible and made many close friends in the process.

“We don’t go to class reunions to see old friends,” Leah said. “We go to local shows. That’s our class reunion.”

The store offers an eclectic collection of music, on both CDs and vinyl records. Mostly smaller record label bands and back-catalogued music grace the shelves of Sisters of Sound, but the greatest pull for customers is the vinyl.

“We didn’t mean for the store to become a vinyl store,” Sarah said. “I just originally had so much in my collection and wanted to get rid of it.”

Leah noted that vinyl has proved to be a real niche for collectors, since it keeps value very well, and so few new copies are made – typically only around 3,000 to 5,000 copies per record.

The customers that stop by Sisters of Sound are as diverse as the music offered.

“We have no typical customer,” Sarah said. “I have customers who are professors, construction workers, collectors, military guys – people from all walks of life.”

In addition to providing a variety of music for the community, Sisters of Sound also supports the local music scene. In fact, Sisters of Sound houses the offices of the Manhattan Music Coalition in the same small office Sarah and Leah share.

MMC advocates for live and local music in Manhattan. Leah and Sarah help the cause by distributing fliers and posting calendars of upcoming shows in the windows of their stores.

Sisters of Sound is home to much more than a small personal collection. Sarah and Leah get their music from a variety of distribution centers and customers wishing to sell their own collections. If a customer wants a CD or record not in the store, Sisters of Sound can order it for them at no extra cost.

Standing underneath a “We love vinyl” sign decked with hearts and tacked onto bright orange, yellow and red walls, Sarah smiled when asked about the success of her and Leah’s store.

“It’s a good place to be,” she said.

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