2 businesses doing digital differently

The door chimes as the worn cash register clicks, blending seamlessly with the unfamiliar tunes that permeate the store. Evan Chern shuffles from behind his desk to carefully weave his way through stacks of plastic-covered music and eager vinyl hunters to explain to a newcomer the contents of a peculiarly labeled box.

Smiles grace the customers’ faces in the room, even as they squeeze past others in the somewhat cramped space.

While most businesses are using the internet to their advantage and are gaining headway by super-sizing their online presence, Yesterday and Today Records in the heart of Miami stands as a dramatic exception.

“I don’t do a lot of advertising these days. People just find us,” said Chern, the 66-year-old owner. “We’ve built up a reputation so even people from outside of the United States come to find us.”

Evan Chern, 66, directs customers towards the records they seek from behind his desk. (Photo by Hilly Yehoshua)

Chern can attribute his store’s prosperity not to colorful or witty internet posts or a website that could easily sell his content. To him, it’s all about customer loyalty, quality of service and his extensive collection of unique music.

Some of his more eclectic sounds include obscure, incredibly difficult-to-obtain psychedelic, progressive and garage bands from the 60s and 70s with titles like Reign Ghost and Robbie the Werewolf.

“I find… [vinyls] here that I can’t find on the internet — not on Ebay or Amazon”, said 22-year-old recording artist Luis Mesa. “But when I come here, I can find like five of the them new.”

Most who visit Yesterday and Today have only heard of it by word of mouth and can speak to its unplugged status.

“I heard about this place from a friend of a friend,” said Ben Arriola, a 17-year-old senior at Ransom Everglades High School.

While Chern seemed weary about the crowds and the clutter, customers spoke to the old world charm of the store, the depth of Chern’s one-on-one consultations with new clients and the experience of rubbing shoulders with complete strangers, all rare occurrences in today’s digitalized society.  

Records piled on the the desks, floor, and walls of Yesterday and Today Records. (Photo by Hilly Yehoshua)

It is with that communal character that Yesterday and Today Records has curated and cultivated a gathering center for today submerged in the culture of yesterday with almost no online aid.

However, despite the success of the Yesterday and Today Records business model, researchers at Time Warner Cable Business Class found that 66 percent of millennials (age 18-35) said that they “view a business’s website as a necessity.” Thirty percent of all subjects surveyed indicated that they might not purchase goods from a company that does not utilize social media.

“Social media kinda exploded in the last year or two for businesses”, said Kelvin Li, the famed entrepreneur behind the Rolling Loud music festival. “It’s like the number one way to market now. Before, we would just pass out flyers and it wasn’t as effective.”

From the vast reaches of online media to the ingenuity of digital delivery services to the humble confines of their own websites, businesses are using more and more technology to elevate their accessibility and widen their customer base.

“I don’t know what we would have done without social media”, said Veronica Menin, founder of Love Life Wellness Center & Café. “We post a picture of our lentil soup on Instagram and we sell out of it that same day.”  

By utilizing online services such as Grubhub, Postmates, UberEats, and Delivery Dudes, Love Life Wellness Center & Café  continues to grow due to internet savvy.

“40-50 percent of our customers come from delivery services,” Menin said. “UberEats wins big time — they are amazing.”

Although they rely heavily on digital delivery and social media, Love Life Wellness Center & Café does not approach their marketing in a mainstream manner.

“When you try to advertise or market too much, I think that drives people away,” Menin said. “Instead, it’s like you’re giving them a gift — sharing beautiful food with them through social media.”

Essentially, the success of both of these establishments raises a precarious question: can a small business, by only the excellence of their craft, survive the new age of technology and social media without adapting to the expectations of either?

For Love Life Wellness Center & Café, “it’s finding the middle ground between what people are used to and introducing them to a cleaner version of it,” Menin said.

“The walk-in traffic is enough,” Chern said.






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