Vintage record covers ranging from Elvis to Sonic Youth cover the walls of Whole Wheat Records and Comics.

The shop's "regulars" pore over countless bins of records and don headphones to sample music in recliners.

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Located in the lower level of St. John's Block on the corner of Third Street and DeMers in downtown Grand Forks, the store now occupies the historic building's long-standing void.

Breathing life into a space vacant for about 15 years, co-owners Jeremy Swisher and Terry Demars hope to recreate the atmosphere of past businesses located in the basement spot -- Sprouts Deli and later, Bobino's Delicatessen, which called it home in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Swisher recalls developing his love for music in his youth at Sprouts Deli, which was one of Grand Forks's first "trendy" coffee shops and hosted live music events on the weekends.

Since moving from its South Washington location about six weeks ago, Whole Wheat Records and Comics has already held several live music shows on weekends.

"I want to provide something for the youth in Grand Forks," Swisher said. "I wanted to create a small venue for all ages."

While he hopes to target UND students, customers of young and old frequent the store on a regular basis.

A new start

Swisher and Demars decided to make the move after six months on Washington because the former location didn't provide the atmosphere they wanted. "It was hard for customers to find things and for us to display items properly," Swisher said. He built all the fixtures in the store himself and continues to work on organizing and alphabetizing the records, as the store's only employee.

Swisher hopes the new location also will give the business better exposure, with all the vehicle and foot traffic that passes by daily. "We're excited for the spring season and summer events," Swisher said. He hopes the store attracts walking traffic from events in Town Square, such as the weekly Farmers Markets and the annual downtown Art Fest.

Whole Wheat Records and Comics primarily stocks vintage comics and classic rock records, but the store doesn't claim to be genre-specific. Patrons can also find classic country, soul, funk, R&B and blues records. The store also plans to carry vinyl from more recent artists, as well, mainly from the indie genre. Swisher also said the store places special orders for customers.

Swisher already has ideas for expansion. He hopes the store will soon have a larger stock of posters and T-shirts, even suggesting he might add a used bookstore section.

Swisher said Whole Wheat Records and Comics has items for customers seeking a nostalgia trip and for serious collectors alike. The self-proclaimed "junk dealer" has several $1 bins of comics and records. Customers can also purchase record players at the store, as well as accessories such as record player needles and other types of audio gear and sound equipment.

Swisher enjoys hearing his customers say they remember certain albums or comic books from their youth. He said customers with some time to spare quickly submerge themselves in the bins of vintage vinyl. "We have some gems you might have to dig for," he said.

Swisher said he wants to cater to the customers; he set up wireless Internet in the store so one of his regulars can listen to his favorite cultural music.

"I see the store as more of a hangout that's open for people to relax," Swisher said. Swisher's regulars don't hesitate to talk music with him or request a track from their favorite record be played through the store's speakers.

Whole Wheat Records and Comics is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Friday and features live music with extended hours on select weekends.

Kaitlin Ring is a reporting intern at the Grand Forks Herald. Reach Ring at