Remembering Eric Teisberg and Resale Records

The founder of a one-of-a-kind Madison record store died October 1.

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Madison has a really great crop of record stores for a town its size. They mostly try to offer a friendly environment, appeal to a broad customer base, and pull out all the stops on Record Store Day. Even the more under-the-radar ones, like the metal-focused Earwax and the dance-centric Jiggy Jamz, pursue their specialty niches with thoughtful selections and helpful service.

Resale Records did not concern itself with any of that. For more than three decades, Eric Teisberg sold used LPs out of an aggressively unadorned quonset hut on Commercial Avenue, near the now-shuttered Oscar Mayer plant and the up-and-coming Eken Park neighborhood. The only things distinguishing it from an abandoned, rusting shell of a building were a couple of barely visible signs on the front and side of the place.

The Wisconsin State Journal broke the news Monday that Teisberg, 61, died of a heart attack Sunday after collapsing outside the nearby Tip Top Tavern. With him dies an eccentric but beloved corner of the local music community.

"It was dark and dingy and featured a scowling man with a dog selling you bargain-basement-priced records," Madison-based musician Aaron Scholz says. That is how Resale customers show affection for the place.

A celebration of life for Teisberg will be held on Saturday, October 14 at Resale, 2401 Commercial Ave., starting at 1 p.m.

Resale's sprawling and unpredictable selection of used records attracted a devoted group of regulars. It may have been a spartan place that wasn't particularly precious about the merchandise, but that's exactly why it was such fertile ground for record collectors. That also helps to explain how the place stayed open all these years, despite having basically no advertising or web presence, and the fact that even a lot of music fans around town didn't know about it.

Plenty of places in Madison will sell you good music, but there was nothing quite as weird and fun and sometimes unsettling as browsing Resale while Teisberg hung around with his little dog Snow, often watching DVDs and ignoring customers. (For at least the last several years, Teisberg was also living in the back of Resale, a structure without insulation or heat.) Racy and campy album covers served as the space's only real decoration. The place occupied a nether region all to itself—the selection was far deeper than browsing in a thrift store, and the environment was far less...refined than browsing Strictly Discs' big basement of used vinyl. If other record stores in Madison are carefully tended gardens, Resale was the tangled undergrowth, and hacking through it took some patience.

Some of the growth was literal. Barry Adams' piece for the State Journal, linked above, captured it perfectly: "Vines grew on the building's exterior, the hours of the store were not always clear and the interior resembled more of a vinyl-centric garage sale than a nearly 40-year-old business." Adams also points out that Resale was established before any other record store currently operating in town, and I'm pretty sure that's correct. Bob Koch, who plays in Madison bands including The Low Czars and is one of the most knowledgeable record collectors I've ever met, has a great remembrance in Isthmus.

In an interview in the 2012 book 400 Saturdaysa wonderful oral-history collection by Madisonian Kim Johnson-Bair—Teisberg said that he grew up in Wisconsin Dells, and recalled getting his first radio in 1969 or 1970 as a birthday present. "Equipment wise, because of the Baraboo hills, you could only get certain stations," Teisberg told Johnson-Bair. "Late at night you could pick up AM stations all the way down to Nashville or Texas. On Friday nights, I would occasionally listen in the dark to the Grand Ole Opry."

While Teisberg may have had a crusty exterior and a growing pessimism about the record business, many regulars this week remembered his generosity and a deep knowledge of music that Teisberg seemed to access with nonchalant recall. At Resale, Teisberg also gave music fans a chance to make strange and improbable discoveries—and what more can one ask from a good record store?

We've asked folks from the Madison music community to share their remembrances of Teisberg and Resale and have posted them below. If you'd like to add yours, send it to me at scott@tonemadison.com.

Joel Shanahan, musician and Tone Madison contributor

My heart sank into my stomach a bit when I read the news of Eric's passing today. For me, Resale was more than a record store—its dusty, shack-like, and sometimes very cold interior was one of the most formative environments for driving my love of music and collecting records. My late father, Patrick Shanahan, who had a tumultuous but beautiful career as a radio personality up until the day he died, was also a heavy record collector at various points in his life and he befriended Eric in 1982, shortly after Resale Records opened its doors. Aside from a few years in Ohio and Illinois, I spent most of my youth in Wisconsin—primarily in Stevens Point—and was never more than a couple hours away from Madison.

My father began taking me to Resale Records when I was three or four years old, generally on Saturdays, which was when all of the regulars would gather and play records for each other, talk about their latest digs, drink beer, and shoot the shit about life. We did this about once a month for many of the years I spent living with my dad. While the internet's current role in record collecting culture and Eric's general refusal to accept it may have made Resale a husk of its former self in recent years, it was definitely a livelier scene in the '80s and '90s, with Eric's three dogs running around, his wife hanging out, more customers digging around, and a far more consistent flow of great records coming in, which Eric would always price to sell off the top of his head (and always well below "market value"). When I was a kid, Eric would always ask my father and me what I was currently interested in musically—be it my childish obsession with the label Chrysalis Records because I loved their logo, or The Beatles, or my fascination with psych-rock that developed from hearing "Revolution 9" and "A Day In The Life" and getting my mind blown. He'd always have records of interest set aside for this annoying little 9-year-old who would flood him with questions about every record he saw in there.

With passing years, business started to die down, Eric's life seemed to change, and he ended up residing in the unheated back room of his shop. He stubbornly kept Resale open, despite increasing pressure from the city and developers to shut down or sell out. Eric understandably grew increasingly cynical. He ran a used record store and websites like Gemm and Discogs  helped create a collector's climate where he could no longer afford to buy collections for what people wanted to sell them for, and there were a lot of long gaps where he wouldn't have any new arrivals. I'd still swing through every couple of weeks anyways and I'd find Eric sitting down watching some C-grade, straight-to-video murder mystery on his little TV. He'd often give me some exasperated spiel: "Geez, Joel. I don't even know why you even waste your time coming in anymore. You've already looked through everything and there's nothing new here, and I think it's gonna be dry for a long time." And most of the time he was right and I'd end up leaving with cheap Keith Jarrett or George Winston records because I felt bad and wanted to do something to support him.

But sometimes you'd come in and he'd have a $100 record priced for $7. Or an entire collection of '60s garage and psych records where nothing was priced over $5. I've seen first pressings of Velvet Underground records go for less than $10 at Resale, I saw a copy of Coven's Witchcraft Destroys Minds And Reaps Souls for $7, and I've seen first pressings of Zombies records for $3. It wasn't that he didn't know any better—Eric's knowledge of records and collector culture was encyclopedic, to say the least. He just didn't seem interested in gouging people with brutal prices to get the records they wanted.

I frequented Resale Records because I enjoyed Eric's sardonic wit and vast breadth of knowledge, and there was something really comforting about visiting him. Maybe it reminded me of my dad, I don't know. I'm 34 years old and Eric and his shop have been a part of life for at least 30 years. In my own twisted life, Eric and Resale Records  felt like a rare constant. I felt that they'd always just be around. Over the last few years, Eric used to talk about how he didn't even like music anymore and how his personal relationship with music ended when he began selling his collection, but I never believed him. I loved catching those rare moments where Eric would put a beloved old blues or soul record on and his face would light up. I loved when he'd blow my mind by recommending something (for instance, a Nat King Cole Trio record) that I probably wouldn't have thought to check out on my own and be spot-on. I liked that his shop felt more like a living room than a record store and that he always seemed to have a dog hanging out with him. I just saw him a couple of weeks ago and I can't believe he's gone. I'm truly going to miss Eric.

Evan Woodward, DJ and Strictly Discs staffer

When I first moved to Madison about a decade ago, a wrong turn while trying to find an apartment showing brought me past the ruddy, stenciled exterior of Resale Records. I made an immediate mental note of where I was, as its appearance seemed less that of a record store than some kind of mirage-based portal to a previous time and place. When I finally found time to steal away there, it was the dead of winter, and the idea of there being records inside that hut, to say nothing of a person also monitoring and selling them, seemed at best farfetched. But no, I open the door, and am greeted by a shuffle and a grunt from a man quietly watching Doctor Who.

I don't recall what I bought that day, if anything, intimidated as I was by the dim surroundings and his complete indifference to my presence. My fingertips had also gone numb within minutes which, aside from a barely functioning brain, are the only body parts truly needed to dig for records. But something struck me about his out-of-the-ordinary resoluteness. If this man had his door open to the public at 3 p.m. on a 15-degree jet-black January Sunday, then surely there was a reason to keep going back.  

So I did, and I found countless great records that only turned up because of Eric's commitment to having his door open no matter how cold it was outside or inside. He created a hub of Madison-area oddballs and marginals, and he let them drop a crate or two of LPs for resale, which I and other regulars were all too happy to fork over cash for.

It was easy to let Eric's standoffish exterior set the mood, but I often found (or overheard) that when stirred, his immense knowledge of music and records ran as deep as one would hope for in a denizen of a time-traveling quonset hut full of obscure vinyl. My favorite ever score there was the Magical Shepherd album by Miroslav Vitous. In a typical semi-inebriated virtual scroll through record land one night, I came across the blazing track "Basic Laws" from the LP, and came within a drunken hair of simply sealing the deal online, which is a major budget no-no. "I'm gonna go to Resale tomorrow, I bet he's got it," I think. Close tab. The next day, I head in, and within minutes it is in my hands, a record I had no recollection of seeing ever before the previous night. Excitedly, I hurry over to Eric and splutter out the story of synchronicity and wonder, and he replies with a flat "Huh. Well that's something because the last time I had that record in here was 1997." Not only was he not especially entertained by the story, but he had seen that record before and even remembered the year in which he had.

Eric and Resale were a one-of-a-kind experience that I loved taking visiting out-of-towners to, or directing random travelers and musicians to from behind the counter. His was a dedication from another era, when obsession and simplicity were not as easily overrun by practicality and business-mindedness, and he will be greatly missed.

Mark Riechers, Tone Madison contributor and internet person

It was Rumors. Not a particularly rare album or anything, but as Laurie and I were about halfway through hunting and pecking through two center racks and rounded a corner into what felt like a pocket dimension of impossibly large racks of more records at Resale, I remembered that last time we browsed at a record store, in Chicago, before we moved back home, she had been hunting for the Fleetwood Mac album.

Until then, I’d always felt out of place at record stores. Never quite sure what to be looking for. It was then, in that unassuming metal temple stuffed with a civilization’s worth of vinyl odds and ends, that the thrill was in chasing something fun to share, brag about, talk about while the player spins and the beer flows. I envisioned hunting for those odds and ends at Resale, for the spot becoming a part of our weekend routine. I was so confident that it would always be there that I started pointing it out as we settled into the neighborhood. “Oh and there’s our local record store!” That dream, emboldened further by Eric’s recent investment in a new sign for the shop, made it easy to take the place for granted.

I’m sorry to have only made it in to Eric’s shop a handful of times. It certainly made an impression. We immediately worried about what would happen to his pup Snow, who would tend to the many, many crates of consignment-sale records. His whole operation just felt like a lived-in vinyl clubhouse, unassuming and friendly.

I’m not sure what comes next for Eric’s shop, but I hope the spirit of what he was doing—a passionate person doing his thing for his own personal satisfaction—can remain as his legacy.

Geoff Kaster, Jiggy Jamz Records owner

I can't say I knew [Eric] well, but I frequented his shop many times over the years and always left with a smile on my face... and dirty fingers.

From 1998-2003 I was a fairly active DJ in the Madison / Milwaukee area. Naturally, I shopped at the stores that stocked electronic dance music and hip-hop (Nice Musique, State Of Mind, Trim Records and Strictly Discs, to name a few). It wasn't until after my active DJ years that I started dropping into Resale Records when I drove nearby on Pizza Pit deliveries. I would deliver the pizzas then sneak in for a quick digging session. Eric was always there with his dog Snow hanging out watching the T.V. or maybe napping, but I loved being greeted by his pup when I walked through the hollow tin door. Eric was not always so enthusiastic about my entrance. He knew that I was looking for more modern music and he likely thought that I wouldn't find much there. But he would always ask if there was something I was looking for, and then we'd chat for a bit while I scanned through the bins. He had a knack for making spot-on recommendations and I almost always walked out of there with a record or three purchased with my delivery tips. One of my first purchases there was post-millennium copy of Janet Jackson's Control, still sealed and sharp for 2 freakin' dollars! JAMZ!

Collecting music, especially vinyl records, is often a passion. It's an undying love that some of us carry around with us forever. Eric was no exception to that, but he had a unique way of showing it. His dedication to keeping that little hut open for all these years, despite local pressure to close-up-shop, was exactly that. He wasn't concerned with trends or technology. Honestly, I don't think he was concerned with making money either... he just loved music and lived out his dream of owning a record store.

People often say when they walk into JiggyJamz, "ahhh, the smell of vinyl." Usually, it's just a statement, something to say. Resale Records had that true smell of vinyl. That old dusty basement collector aroma... I will miss Eric's conversation and that Resale Records smell!

Jenny Wilson, friend

I first met Eric at the Up North bar, through his dear friend Michelle. Eric was always kind and very chivalrous, offering up his seat and buying beers when you knew he wasn't raking it in. We shared a love of music, and although my big love, alternative, wasn't his favorite, his knowledge was incredible. He was also wicked smart, with a strong interest in history, film, and all things trivia. A favorite recent memory of Eric was writing poems with him and Michelle at the Tip Top....He will be missed.

Steve Coombs, Trin Tran and Solid Freex

I just went in 10-12 times over the years and loved the place. Remember once going in and he had a litter of Aussie or border collie puppies in there. I loved his pricing (wasn't just about everything either $1.75/2.75 or 3.75?). I picked up a Kraftwerk record for $3.75 and I have a bunch of records from there. But man, what a bummer. Total outsider place. Fucking freezing cold. He was pretty bitter in the last few years—telling me that nothing new ever came in anymore. Sad to see a guy go like that that had such a love for music.

Mike Kohn, musician and vinyl collector

In the back of my mind, it seemed like I always knew about the Quonset hut near Oscar Mayer that sold records, it was just that I had never been there. Through the couple of years when I lived outside Deerfield, WI and would head into Madison to hit the Dig N Save and Goodwill for my newfound love of vinyl records (2003-2005) I never got around to checking the place out. It wasn’t til years later, after I’d moved several times and was residing in Central Wisconsin, that I finally pulled into the weedy parking lot next to the old Quonset hut and walked in.

And from that moment on, Resale Records was my favorite record hunting place.  I didn’t know Eric by name, but I always talked to him when I came into the store. He was extremely knowledgeable and friendly.  I didn’t need a fancy retail outlet in a prime location next to a Noodles and Co., I was there for records, man!

And records I found.  By this time, my collection was up into the thousands of records, so most visits to used record shops would prove pretty fruitless. I always found stuff at Resale Records.  It was sort of a magical haven of the undiscovered record.  My wife only went with me once, and was quickly annoyed by the…well…lack of amenities in the place (to me, it added to the charm) and the fact that I would look through Every. Single. Record.  I always struck up conversations with other collectors. It wasn’t just a store, it was an experience!

I would stop in about every 3 months to comb the place over for new finds, always leaving with a good stack of vinyl and a lighter wallet.  I was about due for another trek when I read the news of Eric’s passing. I guess nothing is forever. We’ve lost a wonderful, colorful gem once again.