A coffee shop, record store, basement, art gallery, performance venue and haven for misfits and music junkies.
In its ten years of business in downtown Ames, the Vinyl Grind has managed to establish itself as all of the above — and then some.
The Vinyl Grind is a part of the network of small businesses making up the heart of Ames’ local music and arts scene and offers more than just steamed milk and coffee.
Owner Blake Delaney, a former flooring contractor turned small business owner, is a music junkie himself.
“I’ve never pigeonholed myself into one genre," Delaney said. "And I’m old enough that I don’t have guilty pleasures anymore. I just like what I like."
A number of different genres can be heard floating through the shop on any given day, mixing with the sweet scent of espresso.
Both an avid fan of Dire Straits and Devo, Delaney takes his passion for music beyond the turntable.
Located at the foot of a narrow staircase at 303 Kellogg St., just beyond the twist and shove of a rickety doorknob and occupying a space no larger than a living room, the Vinyl Grind serves as a venue for people to showcase their craft in an intimate setting.
In addition to holding open-mic nights every other Sunday evening, the coffeehouse hosts various events in the same vein of local art and entertainment.
“We’ve had comedy showcases, poetry showcases down here," Delaney said. "Every year at Max[imum] Ames we have two or three shows in the space. And we move the tables and it just becomes one of those things that you remember.”
Delaney is one of around seven people who make up the organizing committee for Maximum Ames Music Festival, a four-day celebration of local artists and musicians that takes place in downtown Ames every September.
“[We are] a loose conglomerate of people who were friends with the former organizers, basically,” said Bryon Dudley, an organizer for Maximum Ames.
With the help of a strong sense of community between businesses in the downtown district and a willingness to make it happen, the festival has been going strong for nine years now.
“It’s a long road to put on a four-day music festival,” Delaney said, adding that the team essentially had to start from scratch when taking on the task.
Vinyl Grind served as both a box office and a venue for this year’s Maximum Ames Music Festival.
Copies of the album “More of That” by the Hex Girls, one of the headlining performers for this year’s Maximum Ames festival, are on display, hanging above crates of records for sale.
Beside the records hang colorful paintings done by local artist and Ames native Jordan Zantow.
In addition to music, the cafe showcases an array of art forms from local creatives, ranging from paintings to bronze statues.
One of the driving forces behind the cafe’s success, as a coffeehouse and haven for local art and culture, is its mission to provide a safe and inclusive space for anyone who chooses to walk through the shop’s doors.
“I feel like we’re the place that, if you don’t have anywhere to hang out, [or that you] feel comfortable, this is your place,” Delaney said.
Delaney said he sensed something special in the space from the minute he first walked through the shop’s doors.
Upon taking his first step into what at the time was called the “Vinyl Cafe,” Delaney told Ben Hull, the owner at the time, that he knew he would one day want to buy the shop from him.
Five years later, Delaney received a phone call. It was Hull, offering to sell him the business.
Knowing he had always wanted to own a record store, Delaney accepted the offer, and has spent the past five years carrying out his vision for the Vinyl Grind, one record and one cup of coffee at a time.
Despite being the owner and operator, Delaney notes Vinyl Grind has become just as much his customers’ business as it has his own.
“It’s a beautiful mesh of business and friendship," Delaney said. "I just own the key at this point."
Upon opening in 2010, the shop was called the Vinyl Cafe. After receiving a cease and desist letter from a Canadian public radio show by the same name, the shop changed its name to the Vinyl Grind a year and a half ago.
With a new name in place, Delaney said he felt it represented the final piece step in the process of making the business his own.
Delaney gets the cafe's beans from Broadway Roasting Company in Kansas City — a fortunate arrangement, Delaney noted, adding Vinyl Grind is the only shop to which the company will sell its beans.
Although the coffee is what keeps people coming back, for many, the Vinyl Grind is more than simply a coffeehouse.
“There’s something special about what we’ve carved out in this basement,” Delaney said. “I dare people to come on down. We don’t bite, unless that’s what you’re into.”