Just before the start of my sophomore year of college, my soon-to-be boyfriend and I were hanging around in Wheaton, Illinois, on a Friday evening with literally nothing to do. We were standing outside the library, which was already closed even though the sun was still up. Both of us being music lovers, it hit us what this town really needed was a good, old-fashioned record store. What we didn’t know was that, even as we spoke, someone was working to make that happen.
Michael Paeth opened Mile Long Records at 350 W. Front Street in the fall of 2014. It was the culmination of many years of both creative and entrepreneurial work. Originally, Mike was on the other side of the turntable. He began to play guitar in college, and formed several bands over the years, including Gold Coast Refuse and Scattergun. Mike describes their style as “Oasis meets Wilco.” According to him, none of these bands really “went anywhere.” Besides cycling through drummers on a routine basis (think Spinal Tap without the spontaneous combustion), there was the constant problem of time. These musicians had day-jobs and families to think about, and were unable to make the bands a priority.
While they did not achieve commercial success, Gold Coast Refuse and Scattergun were partly responsible for the first incarnation of Mile Long Records. In 2005, Paeth started this company as a way to record albums for these bands. He had little prior experience with recording technology, but learned on the job. A few other bands joined the lineup, but none of them became widely known. Eventually Paeth became disenchanted with the recording business, since the technology was shifting from analog to digital.
Music has not been Paeth’s only creative outlet. After experiencing a vocational crisis early in his college career, he made the switch from computer science to graphic design. He began to express himself visually, which turned into the day job he would juggle along with his guitarist duties. Paeth had a long run with a company that created packaging for various products, eventually starting his own business in that area.
With his extensive experience in music performance and recording, visual art, and running a business, resurrecting Mile Long as a record store was the next logical step for Paeth, who already far preferred vinyl as a medium. So far, the business has been a success. It has filled the LP-sized gap in the Wheaton community, providing a space for music lovers to connect with one another while sifting through albums.
It has been a dream of Paeth’s to be able to host live music events in his store. He has attempted it in his current location, but the size and layout of this space have so far prevented that from taking off. “It really is standing room only,” he says, remarking that customers did not have room to shop, and those standing in the back were unable to see the band.
There are few, if any, venues for music performance in downtown Wheaton, excluding events on the nearby Wheaton College campus. Paeth’s vision for Mile Long‘s future would be a welcome solution to this need. He has had thoughts of migrating to a larger space to be able to accommodate live music events. Paeth especially hopes to be able to provide an outlet for high-schoolers with bands and talent but nowhere to play.