Introducing Phaseshifter Records in the Benton Harbor Arts District

Joe Davis is a record collector’s dream. He appreciates music, knows the value of good music, and is willing to share what he knows. He’s a published musician and enjoys virtually all genres. He’s passionate about sharing the backstory of the inspiration behind the music and worked at some of the world’s most iconic music outlets. Now, Joe is looking forward to bringing his life’s passion to music lovers in Southwest Michigan through his newly acquired music store, Phaseshifter Records in the Benton Harbor Arts District.

Davis is the new owner of the soon-to-be former 3 Pillars Music store in Benton Harbor. Ready for retirement, lifelong area resident Tom Ives sold his store to Davis this month. Besides a side gig of selling collectable records online, Ives is getting out of the record store game. Enter Joe Davis.

“I have a background in music retail. I was a shift manager for a long time at a store called Rhino Records in California. I managed another store briefly called Mad Platter out there, and then I moved on to Amoeba Records in Hollywood when that store opened. Love the store, love that job, but eventually moved back to Michigan where I’m from and had family. Tom was here and I’ve been helping out off and on for the last 10 years or so and we just had a great relationship.”

Asked about what inspired his move from “helping out” at 3 Pillars Music to becoming the owner, Davis said it was the right opportunity at the right time.

“Well, he offered it to me. That’s the first thing. I love what Tom has achieved here with 3 Pillars. I love the store. I’ve loved being a part of it. I had been looking for a way to do more live music in the area.”

Cultivating Live Music

Davis notes his wife works at the Krasl Art Center in St. Joseph and there’s a live music component there. Though he’s been happy to play a small role in that over the last year, he wants to see more live and local music performances in the area.

“I really was looking for some way to do promotion to do shows around here, and this is a good place to do it. It’s a small place, so you have to bring in acts that are appropriate to the space. I just want to see the Arts District survive and thrive and I want to be a part of it. I want to see the store keep going. That was the main motivator.”

About his love for music, Davis said it has been a lifelong pursuit.

“A lot of people get heavily into music in their teenage years and they just kind of grow out of it, or only love the stuff that they experienced in their teens and 20s. I just never really stopped. I still love the things I did when I was a teenager and I still love metal. I still love punk. I still love classic rock, jazz, all that stuff.”

A Phaseshifter for the Arts District

About the new name, Phaseshifter Records, Davis said Ives, the former owner, is keeping the 3 Pillars Music name because it’s connected to other online ventures, so Davis has chosen a new name and reserved related social media accounts that will soon light up with information.

“Phaseshifter is a guitar sound. It’s sort of a spacey guitar sound. It’s on recorded music all over the place, but nothing that would probably jump out at you. It’s not a subtle sound. It makes your guitar sound like it’s flying through space. I picked the name because it’s kind of a spacey sounding name and I’m a huge science fiction buff.”

Asked about buying a shop where most of the inventory is on a medium that has come and gone from the mainstream at least a couple of times, Davis wasn’t fazed.

“When I started at Best Buy (in Mishawaka), it was all CDs and no vinyl. I’ve seen vinyl come, I’ve seen it go, and I’ve seen it come again. All these formats do that. There’s a lot of young people who are buying CDs at the moment, which most older folks tell you are not worth anything, but actually there’s quite a few expensive collectible CDs nowadays. There’s also a huge indie, boutique cassette (market). They print 50 to 100 copies of a cassette, and they sell out immediately. Who even makes a player anymore?”

With the sale complete, Davis running the store, and the name change in the works, he said the next steps will emerge in the fall.

“I’m going to basically just keep it going for the summer and make some changes and then probably have a grand reopening – probably in October. Long-term plans… I love what Tom’s done with the jam band stuff and the bluegrass… my background is a little more in punk and metal and hard rock and stuff. (I’m) going to bring in some more genres to get represented in the store and make it just a more diverse array of music.”

Vinyl Wanted: Perusing record collections

Part of bringing diverse music requires Davis to find that music. He encourages people who want to sell their record collections to reach out to him directly. He recently had the opportunity to pick through a true ‘barn find’ in Kalamazoo where the owner had amassed somewhere in the neighborhood of 4,000 records. 

Beyond finding new and used vinyl for customers, Davis said the shop will maintain the current crop of services.

“We’re still going to have instrument repairs, guitar restrings, we’re still going to do stereo repairs. But my driving motivator at the moment is just to make it a great record store. That’s the part I’m good at.”

Asked about being involved in the community, Davis said he wants to make sure the Arts District continues to thrive and that the people of Benton Harbor and the entire region feel welcome.

“This store has been here a long time. I really want to bring the Black community in here more. I would love to work with any local churches or choirs or Black music groups, hip hop artists, anything like that. I want this to be a place for everybody and I want people not just to feel welcome, but to know that it’s for them and and they’re a part of it.”

The ‘no way’ find

Asked about what he wants people to think about when they think of Phaseshifter Records, Davis said it’s about nurturing the ’No way’ find.

“That’s the best thing about record stores. That’s what my wife and I talk about all the time. The best feeling for me when I’m in a record store, the thing that I love and the thing that keeps me coming back is what I call the ‘no way’ find. That’s when you pull out a record and you cannot even believe it’s sitting in this store and you’re like, ‘No way, I can’t believe I found this here.’ That’s what I want people to experience in this place.”

Phaseshifter Records (still bearing the 3 Pillars Music signage) is located at 198 Water Street in Benton Harbor. The current hours of operation are Wednesday thru Sunday, 11 am to 5 pm. 


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