2nd Avenue Great Escape Parties With Marty

This appeared in the Nashville Banner - June 19, 1995

The new Great Escape store on Second Avenue is the classic example of something old, something new. Like the Great Escape stores on Broadway and in Madison, the new downtown shop features used and collectible records, tapes, compact discs, baseball cards, comic books and other merchandise.

But the Second Avenue store has teamed up with country singer Marty Stuart and added a new dimension: a "Marty Party Headquarters," featuring music, T-shirts and other memorabilia for Stuart fans.

The store at 112 Second Avenue North has had a steady flow of customers since its opening two weeks ago during Fan Fair week, owner Gary Walker says. Unlike other Great Escapes, the new store is a joint venture with Stuart, whose Marty Party Headquarters and mini-museum cover about a fourth of the store.

Walker's link with Stuart stretches back 18 years to the day the first Great Escape store was opened on Broadway. Stuart was among the first customers. "Since then he has built his record collection predominantly through purchases from the Great Escape," Walker says. "We have gotten to know each other and become very good friends."

"Marty and I share a similar interest--emotionally and spiritually--in the history and heritage of the music industry. He is a living icon bridging the old and the new," he says. Stuart is steeped in traditional country music, he says.

Walker says he and his wife Peggy, the business manager for the five-store Great Escape chain, had been seeking space downtown since the first of the year. "It was inevitable that this would be the core for tourism, and we needed to have a presence," Walker says. "We have tailored it to tourists to some extent. It's smaller--1,200 square feet, a sort of streamlined version--and it has a different tone to it," he says.

His other stores are more than twice that size. The new store is smaller by necessity, since street-level space on Second Avenue is hard to find. Walker sees the Second Avenue store as a "sampling" of the other stores and expects customers to be impressed enough to visit the other stores.

"I see it as a promotional concept for the other stores. We hope they will come here and then we will tell them about Broadway and Madison. "We already have a lot of customers who shop both stores."

Walker says he considers part of the $70,000 start-up cost downtown as a promotional expense for the other stores. Walker started Great Escape in 1977 after his son Greg, then 14, became interested in comic-book collecting. Walker, a 25-year veteran of Music Row, worked over the years for Acuff-Rose Publishing, Cedarwood Publishing, Combine Music and eventually as co-owner of Fidelity Studio.

A native of Missouri, Walker's music career started as a songwriter and his songs were recorded by such artists as Brenda Lee, Webb Pierce, George Morgan, Jim Reeves and Kitty Wells. A key to the Great Escape's success has been its relationship with the artists and industry people. Artists have been used to promote the shops with in-store appearances.

By Mary Hance

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