Local retailer diversifies

By HermineBloom

Rock posters aren’t plastered on every inch of wall space at the Logan Square neighborhood’s local record shop—one that opened May 2010, a tumultuous time for music sales. Soon, however, widely published, black-and-white comics will be elegantly displayed in the uncluttered, spacious retailer, which acts as a cultural haven rather than a mom-and-pop record store out of necessity.

Having been published in magazines such as The New Yorker, Time and The New York Times Magazine multiple times, highly accomplished, Brooklyn-based cartoonist and author Emily Flake is offering a new platform with which to view her work at Saki Records, 3716 W. Fullerton Ave. Flake will showcase her original illustrations, which depict the absurdity of everyday life, from Nov. 13 until the end of December in a gallery setting. This is a rare opportunity for her because the art is designed primarily for print.

Comics from her acclaimed strip “Lulu Eightball,” which first ran in the Baltimore City paper in 2002, and continues to run in other various weekly newspapers will be for sale. Other selected illustrations will also be featured. Flake will also be signing books and give a spoken word performance while attendees enjoy snacks and beverages at the opening.

Flake has written two books: “Lulu Eightball,” published by Atomic Books in 2005, which is a collection of her best weekly strips, and “These Things Ain’t Gonna Smoke Themselves,” published by Bloomsbury in 2007.

The record store seemed like an ideal venue for one of her first gallery shows, as Flake lived in Chicago from 1999 to 2004, which is when she worked at Carrot Top Records as a sales representative. Saki Records exists under the Carrot Top Records umbrella and its sister distribution company, CTD Ltd. In 2004, Flake moved to Brooklyn and worked at Caroline Records. She quit four years later to draw full-time.

“I have a history with Chicago,” Flake said. “It’s really great to have an event there, see friends and have a venue to show and sell artwork. I really like what they’re doing with that space—using it as a cultural space instead of just a retail space.”

Since opening in May, Saki Records employee Leah Andrews said the shop was always intended to serve as a multi-use performance space in addition to being the retail and mail order division of independent music distributor CTD, Ltd. Flake’s art showcase will be the store’s fourth art show since opening, she said.

“We try to keep what’s on the walls to a minimum—[mostly it’s] whoever the artist is of the month,” said Andrews, who has interned for Carrot Top Records since she was 15 years old.

Featuring in-store performances by any number of bands signed to indie-folk label Carrot Top Records or otherwise, as well as hosting cultural events that speak to the neighborhood of Logan Square are examples of diversification of events at Saki Records. For example, an astronomer night is in the works, which will include a lecture on urban astronomy coupled with a performance by Chicago-based band The Astronomer and astronomy-themed art.

Up to 70 people have attended various events at the unconventional shop, Andrews said. She hopes more people attend Flake’s opening on Nov. 13.

Patrick Monaghan owns and operates all three entities—Carrot Top Records, CTD Ltd. and Saki Records, which includes the Saki online store—and founded the label Carrot Top Records in 1992.

Monaghan said he was surprised when his friend Flake said she hadn’t shown at many galleries despite her successes.

“She portrays herself a lot,” Monaghan said. “It’s usually a pretty unflinching look at herself, from her body type to her habits. She’s able to do that in a funny way to make us look at our own foibles, accept them and laugh at how goofy we are.”

Flake’s interpretation of her cartoons, often involving doughy characters and witty captions using ink and pencil, is quite simple.

“I don’t really care if people see [comics as] an art form or not,” Flake said. “I don’t want to say that what I do is just as good as painting—because it’s obviously not creating works of art for the age—but it’s what I can do, so it’s what I do.”

As for the retail turned cultural space that will house Flake’s work, Monaghan attributes its concept to the notion that “you can’t just open a record store anymore.”

“Buying music is optional; everybody can get it for free if they want to,” Monaghan said.

“We wanted to create a place a lot broader and more anchored in the community. To do that, you have to engage the local community and the broader music community in a different way.”

Flake’s art show is one of many showcases intended to reflect Saki Records’ cultural identity. Monaghan said six months from now the shop will likely look different, as he hopes to expand its event calendar.

For more information on Saki Records, visit SakiStore.net. To view Emily Flake’s work, visit EFlakeagogo.com.