From the Providence (RI) Sunday Journal, December 29, 1957 (courtesy of Carl Doshay)
Record Maker Got His Start Peddling Old Jukebox Discs
By GENE HANDSAKER
LOS ANGELES — (AP) — Ten years ago Carl Doshay was peddling used phonograph records from cardboard bins in supermarkets. Today he has a record factory he says will gross five million dollars in sales this year.
"That's wholesale," adds the 38-year-old president of Tops Records. "Retail, eight million."
Once he had to sneak his cartons of juke-box castoffs into some markets to show managers that housewives would buy them at nine to 29 cents each. Now he hires stars like Ann Sothern, Dan Dailey, Connie Haines, James Melton and Lena Home to make long-play hi-fi albums. The discs sell in grocery, drug, department and dime stores for $1.49 — less than half the cost of major labels whose racks have moved in beside them. Sales in both categories have been stimulated, Doshay says.
"We help each other. Somebody comes in to buy a King Cole (Capitol) and buys one of ours, too. And vice versa."
Doshay, who says he'll sell nearly 10 million records this year, aims his discs at teenagers and housewives who can't afford higher prices of better known labels. His albums are sold in more than 7,000 supermarkets and drug and department stores.
But his success didn't happen overnight.
Ten years ago he sold his watch-repair business in his native New York City for $10,000 to buy a turkey ranch in Southern California. He had been stationed here in the Air Force and liked the climate. His money became tied up in escrow proceedings delayed by the death of the ranch's former owner.
Doshay, living in a tiny apartment with his wife and two children, had to bring in some cash. Hitchhiking to a possible opening for a salesman, he asked a truck driver about the load of old phonograph records he was carrying. The driver said he was hauling them to the city dump for jukebox operators who had replaced them with newer hits.
"Go ahead, take a few for yourself," the driver invited. Doshay did. That night he played some on a borrowed record-player.
"Certainly not new," he recalls musing, "but they could be worth a few cents. Why throw playable records away?"
Next morning he packed about 25 in an open cardboard box and wrote with crayon on the side: "Your favorite old records, nine cents and up." He took them to record stores. Managers turned him down flat, declaring such a sideline would ruin their business in new records.
Starting home, Doshay went to a supermarket to buy groceries. He set the box of records on a counter while he shopped. Housewives flocked about the old records. He asked one woman to return the discs she had selected, "I will not!' she said. "Buy your own records!'
At that instant Doshay got his big idea: sell records in supermarkets. He made a deal with the manager simply by bringing him over to the crowd of milling housewives.
A friend since boyhood, Sam Dickerman, a garment cutter, came here from New York to join Doshay in the new enterprise. They needed money to buy more records from juke-box operators. Doshay's $10,000 was still in escrow. A bank official told him: "Get some additional security and I'll recommend an interim loan until your money clears."
Doshay decided to build the business until it would serve as the security. He scurried from store to store with cartons of old records he had bought from juke-box operators with his dwindling funds, for from one to six cents apiece.
He'd see that the store had customers, walk in quietly with his carton and set it on a counter. Waiting until housewives had begun picking records, he would introduce himself to the manager and sell him on the idea.
"Sometimes they respect a man who has enough push to do something like that," Doshay says. In six days he opened enough accounts to satisfy the bank. Juke-box operators were glad to have Doshay haul away their old records by the thousands for as low as a penny apiece. Occasionally he'd find a collector's item like a rare Crosby and sell it for $5 to $10.
A carpenter friend built record racks in his spare time. Doshay painted them. Eventually he had 400 used-record outlets in Los Angeles and nearly 1,500 in 11 Western states. The markets got 40 per cent of the price. Doshay and his partner grossed $50,000 that first year, 1947, and in time were buying records all over the country.
In 1950 they decided to make their own records of current hit Songs; pricing them far below competitors and still selling them in markets. Their first record, "My Happiness" and "Hair of Gold," was made with unknown musicians Doshay found in a night spot in Los Angeles' Negro district. He retailed it at 39 cents and:
"It sold everywhere we put it. We were reaching the mass teen-age public that couldn't afford a 79-cent record."
The partners sold their used-record operation at a profit to another firm, Julian Brown Enterprises, Inc., and moved from a small plant into a two-story, half-million-dollar factory — a former mattress works — south of downtown. Two hundred employees work two shifts stamping out, labeling, packaging and shipping 33, 45, and 78-r.p.m. records. There are offices in Chicago and New York.
On making a business prosper, Doshay says: "With a little imagination and good merchandising policies, there's room for growth."
And on top of Tops he has his ranch: 255 acres, 14,000 chickens and a few hogs — in the west end of the San Fernando Valley.