Every day, Miss Simpson, the original owner of Simpson’s Records, on Detroit’s east side near McNichols and Joseph Campau, greets customers with warmth from behind the counter. After almost 50 years in business, she suspects her store is now the oldest record store in the city. The photographs that cover the walls and backs of the display cases tell the story of the evolution and history of the store, her family and the surrounding community.
In the early 1960’s, my husband owned his own security business on Detroit's east side. I wanted to open my own business, a family business that our kids could be part of, but I didn’t know what kind of business I wanted to open. While checking out at the grocery store one afternoon, the cashier mentioned something about a record store and I knew that’s what I wanted to open.
In 1966, I took over half of my husband's storefront to open Simpson's Records. We shared the space for many years until the records started taking over more and more of the store.
Kids would come hang out after school and listen to music. We would help them with their homework, and attend their school plays, musicals, and sporting events. The store had really become an important part of the neighborhood.
My husband Calvin and I had 6 children. Here we are with four of our sons: Lonny, Donny, Reginold, and Harry.
Inspired by his upbringing in a Record Store, the Simpson’s son Donny grew up to become a Radio DJ in Detroit and then in Washington D.C.
The photo wall in the current shop started one day in the late 80’s or early 90’s when Donny came home to Detroit for a party.
We set up an autograph signing and homecoming for Donny at the store and people from all over the city came to meet him. Harry took photographs.
Donny and I with a limousine in front of the store.
In the early 90’s a landlord who wanted to build a parking lot asked us to move. I closed my doors and looked for a new location. I didn’t want to leave the neighborhood. In 1993, my husband found this building on East McNichols near Joseph Campau. We've been here ever since.
We used to go to a lot of parties with musicians. This is me and Calvin with Busta Rhymes.
Donny and his family with Michael Jackson.
At a party with Kool and the Gang.
Me and Martha Jean "The Queen".
Since we started the photo wall, people have been bringing in their photos to put up. Neighborhood kids bring in their pictures for us, and people who move away from the neighborhood stop back in to bring us their pictures.
This woman wanted us to put her photo up for her 70th birthday.
Record sales are slower than they used to be, but I make extra money by selling candy and people still stop in to purchase music and give me the titles they want so I can order them special. I’m pretty sure we’re the oldest record store in the city at this point.