Home » Sports » Ashwaubenon » “Say it with me” The Exclusive Company THANK YOU

“Say it with me” The Exclusive Company

Tom Smith, manager of The Exclusive Company Green Bay branch, reflects on his time at the iconic record shop

By Rachel Sankey

Audrey Thomas Photo

Tom Smith said he’s always been enamored with vinyl – a hobby he’s had the opportunity to indulge in throughout his working life. He has been with The Exclusive Company since August 1988. Before that, Smith said he spent four years working at Galaxy of Sound, an old record store in the Port Plaza Mall.

“My whole life I’ve only wanted to work at a record store,” he said. “So, so far, I’ve pulled that off with two jobs. Sadly, that streak will be ending at the end of July, but what can you do?”

After The Exclusive Company’s owner, James “Mr. G.” Giombetti, passed away, family members and those with the company knew the stores could no longer go on without him. The announcement to close all The Exclusive Company stores came April 7. The record store chain opened its first retail location in 1956.

Coming to terms

After working with The Exclusive Company for the last 34 years, Smith said he has come to terms with the Green Bay location closing.

“I still wish it wasn’t happening, but I understand our late owner’s family’s decision,” he said. “I respect their wishes and they just feel that The Exclusive Company can’t go on without Mr. G. I’m at peace with the decision they made. I’ve got to focus on the rest of my life.”

With the store planning to close in July, Smith said he is looking forward to taking some time off for himself. He said he has only had four days off since May 2020, due to COVID-19. Without getting into too much detail, Smith said a few opportunities have been presented to him, but is in no rush to jump into something new.

“My biggest fear is that I’m going to get another job too fast,” he said. “I know I’m a good worker, and I have a good work record. I’m confident that I’m an employable individual.”

An outside shot of The Exclusive Company, with it’s classic slogan, “Say it with me.” The record store has been open since 1956. Josh Staloch Photos

‘It means everything’

Smith said his time at The Exclusive Company means everything to him.

“I only ever wanted to work at a record store,” he said. “It’s a job that I super love, and have a lot of passion, energy and excitement for. It’s a cool job because I love music and working where I work. You’re always learning about music. It’s a forever, ongoing learning process. And, I mean, me working in record stores is kind of like my whole sense of identity or sense of purpose, you know? Part of me feels obsolete.”

Working at The Exclusive Company is where Smith said he got the majority of his social interaction, which he said will be a huge adjustment for him when he says his goodbyes.

However, Smith said the store’s closure won’t stop him from being involved with music. He said he’s been promoting shows for the Lyric Room since August 1986, and doesn’t plan on stopping.

“I’ll still be buying records, and, who knows, maybe someday I’ll be working in a record store again,” Smith said.

Over the years

Through his many years of working at The Exclusive Company, Smith said one of the biggest changes he noticed during his time were the advancements in technology.

“When I started there, we didn’t even take credit cards,” he said. “Nor did we have a fax machine. We actually didn’t get the internet until 2009 in our store. Our company was kind of behind the times with new technology.”

On top of the technological advancements, he said he watched vinyl’s popularity die out and come back again – though The Exclusive Company never stopped selling records during that time.

“We had less of a selection, but we always had vinyl,” Smith said. “And one of the reasons we did it is because the people who were into punk rock and garage rock, they still wanted vinyl.”

CDs roared to high popularity in the 1990s, but then dropped – however, he said they are allegedly making a comeback.
As for the types of vinyl sold, Smith said there are so many genres sold now from when the store first started.

“Years ago, I don’t think I would have thought that Doja Cat would be on vinyl,” he said. “That’s the cool thing about it, like this vinyl resurgence, it’s across all genres. No genre of music is superior to another genre of music. You have to respect all forms of music. There’s no reason to be snarky on anyone’s selection of music or anything like that. Embrace all music.”

The Exclusive Company has been a place for music enthusiasts to make connections with one another and find favorite vinyl tracks. Smith said music is a powerful tool that can change the direction of someone’s life.

Famous visitors

Smith said Reggie White, the late Green Bay Packers’ Minister of Defense, visited The Exclusive Company quite often, and he enjoyed talking with him.

“He was quite the commanding presence when he would enter the store,” Smith said. “I got along well with him. One of my favorite times was after he had been a customer for a while. He came in, and the previous weekend during an NFL game his former coach at the Philadelphia Eagles, Buddy Ryan, was then the defensive coordinator of the Houston Oilers. During the game, Buddy took a punch at his own team’s offensive coordinator. And I knew how much Buddy meant to Reggie and how much he loved him, so I wanted his take on the situation. So I said, ‘Oh, what do you think of all that last weekend?’ And the coolest thing is Reggie White took point on the question. Seeing him passionately defend Buddy Ryan was actually one of my favorite things ever at the store.”

Smith said other famous football players to visit include Micah Hyde, Sterling Sharpe and Brett Favre.

“Sterling Sharpe was funny, because he’d only come in on his days off,” he said. “And when someone asked him for an autograph, he’d say, ‘Sorry, not on my day off. I thought that was hilarious. In fact, I learned quickly that when I talked to him about music and not football, I got along with him a lot better.”

As for famous singers, Smith said the lead vocalist of Green Day, Billie Joe Armstrong, came in to visit.

He said there have been many underground bands that have visited The Exclusive Company, such as the Pointer Sisters and Tesco Vee from The Meatmen.

Every well-known person or band who has come in has been nothing but kind, Smith said.

A few of the many selections available at The Exclusive Company.

The community

Just like Smith’s sentiments towards The Exclusive Company, he said the store means a lot to the community, too.

“Especially before the internet existed, it was where people went to find out about things – flyers on doors and what not – that’s not really a thing anymore, but it’s still a meeting place where kindred spirits can discuss music,” he said.

Smith said The Exclusive Company has been a place for people to discover music they may have never found.

“Music can be a really powerful instrument to steer someone in a certain direction in life,” he said. “That interaction with people can be really big, because people bring up things that I don’t remember. Like that I had recommended something to them 25 years ago, and they’re still happy about it.”

It also means a lot to the bands that have played behind the store, he said, and has been a way for the staff at The Exclusive Company to contribute to the community.

If customers remember one thing about the store, Smith said he hopes they remember that The Exclusive Company was always an outlet for the best of the recording industry, and at a great price.

Mr. G.

When asked if he has any fond memories of The Exclusive Company’s late owner, Mr. G., Smith said he has many.

He said Mr. G.’s meetings tended to be extremely long, but all of a sudden he would present his point and illustrate it well.

“He truly always wanted his employees to do it The Exclusive Company way,” he said. “He was quite the character, quite the force of nature.”

One of his favorite memories, Smith said, was from two Christmases ago from a virtual meeting where Mr. G gave another one of his motivational speeches.

“I was ready to run through a brick wall for him after it,” he said. “He’s kind of like the Vince Lombardi of record store owners. When you work for someone for so many years, you think the same old spiel would get tiring, but he could still give you one of those fired-up speeches.”

“Say it with me” one last time

Smith said that Green Bay’s Exclusive Company will be open until mid-July. From now until then, the store is having a liquidation sale.
He said the store will also still be participating in Record Store day on Saturday, April 23. The store will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Tom Smith’s all-time favorite records:

Blonder and Blonder, The Muffs
Scared Straight, New Bomb Turks
Positively Sick on Fourth Street, Humpers
Saucer to Saturn, Boris the Sprinkler
Selling the Sizzle!, Smugglers

Rachel Sankey is the associate editor of Green Bay City Pages. She can be reached via email at [email protected].

Facebook Comments
Scroll to Top