If it weren’t for the graffiti on the walls and the not-so-distant catchy music that gets louder and louder as you climb the stairs, you probably wouldn’t realize you were about to enter. a little slice of punk-rock heaven.
Blast Radius is Milwaukee’s newest independent record store, an unassuming DIY storefront run by three local musicians out of a studio in Walker’s Point. Located at 536 W. National Ave., there’s no sign out front indicating you’re in the right place — a sentiment reminiscent of DIY punk basement shows, where addresses are rarely given on flyers shows.
Instead, customers will check the store’s Instagram page—@blastradiusmke—for opening hours. A buzzer on the front door of the building will alert anyone who happens to be working, and you will be let inside.
Shopping at Blast Radius is more like checking out a friend’s cool collection than browsing a record store. A ragtag group of tattooed punks hang around at all times. A sofa in the shop invites them to relax, talk about upcoming shows or just relax and listen to records. Cult classic movies play on two old tube TVs with built-in VCRs, and a dedicated T-shirt corner is stocked with second-hand band merchandise.
“As a kid collecting records, I always loved the idea of running my own spot,” says co-owner Zach Moffat, who started Blast Radius with Austin Naamani and Drew Czarnik.
put down roots
The unexpected COVID-19 pandemic led Moffat to begin considering moving to Milwaukee. The idea of opening a record store was something he and Naamani, his ex-boyfriend in Milwaukee hardcore bands Gangstalker and Falter, had always discussed. Moffat also floated the idea of opening a vintage clothing store with Czarnik, the lead singer of her current band Big Laugh. “(Czarnik) naturally partnered with us,” says Moffat.
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Blast Radius began as a pop-up, periodically taking up residence in venues like the Quarters Rock N’ Roll Palace. The opportunity to open a physical store for the pop-up was made possible by Robbie Paulie, a tattoo artist at Shock Treatment Tattoo. Paulie rented an art studio in the building Blast Radius now calls home and helped the trio find their own place.
“He really loved what we were doing, so he helped us lock one down,” says Moffat.
The store’s initial collection was built largely from the personal collections of the three owners, as well as personal collections purchased from friends and online. “I just want to see someone give them a new appreciation,” Moffat says. “And also, to turn someone into really good music.”
The store is still buying records for those looking to sell, paying with cash or Venmo or making transactions.
And even if punk isn’t your preferred choice when the aux cord is in your hands, you’re still likely to find something you’re passionate about at Blast Radius. It’s an inviting and inclusive space that encompasses a do-it-yourself community ethos – where you’ll see a copy of Michael Jackson Evil proudly displayed next to Black Flag’s Damaged. This is a shop where you can find a British pressing of The Who’s my generation, but also networking with like-minded musicians and just hanging out.
And before long, Blast Radius will be hosting events. Whether or not this involves local broadcasts has not been promised, but news on this will come via the store’s Instagram page, so be sure to follow @blastradiusmke to stay up to date.