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“Pop Culture and Vintage Goods for Funky Retro Souls:” Eccentric vintage store celebrates two years in Carbondale
February 4, 2023
On West Main Street, down the road from Thai Taste and Castle Perilous, sits a vintage thrift store known as Electric Larry’s. The titular Larry is said to spend his days “traveling through time and space to bring you the weirdest things he can find from decades past.”
In reality, Electric Larry’s is run by Meagan and Randall Majors. Opening in October 2020, the store offers a variety of products aimed at tapping into the nostalgia of customers, with an emphasis on buying and selling pre-owned items.
“Part of the concept of the store is to not add new things out,” Randall Majors said. “You’ve got that three-tier ‘reduce, reuse, recycle.’ We’re doing the reduce and reuse part.”
The name comes from several different sources. It was previously the name of a band that Randall Majors was in; it’s the name of a character in the 1983 film “Get Crazy;” it’s part of the title of a Butthole Surfers album. The name adds to the mythos of the store and its eclectic nature.
The store is described on its Facebook page as selling “pop culture and vintage items for your funky retro souls.” Most of what is sold at Electric Larry’s can be linked to the pop culture of the 1980s and ‘90s, with bits of the decades before and after mixed in as well.
Walking into the store might be a bit of a sensory overload at first, given the range of items available. Along the right wall, one shelf holds baskets of Star Wars, He-Man and X-Men toys, while the next shelf houses video games for old consoles like the PlayStation 2 and original Xbox. At the end of the wall is a shelf of cassette tapes and crates of vinyl records.
Meagan and Randall Majors moved to Carbondale in March 2020. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Randall, like many others, lost his job during the economic downturn.
“Originally, we moved here with remote jobs,” he said. “Mine got laid off, and I just decided I was gonna try to use my severance package to do something different rather than just finding another job.”
This isn’t the first time Randall Majors found himself on the wrong end of an economic crisis. He also got laid off during the 2008 recession. Having experienced that multiple times at no fault of his own, he decided to take a new path instead.
“Every major economic downturn since I was like 20, I’ve been in a corporate job that I’ve done a great job, made growth for the company, and then some kind of economic risk has hit and they start laying people off and I’ve lost my job,” Randall Majors said.
Instead, he and his wife Meagan Majors decided to create their own business. Electric Larry’s began as one of several stores in a shared building next to Traxx on South Illinois Avenue. After a year in that spot, it moved a few blocks over to its own building next to Castle Perilous on Main Street in September 2021.
“We had talked about doing a similar type of store as a retirement plan,” Meagan Majors said. “We had this money unexpectedly come into our lives. We thought about doing something responsible like paying off the car, something like that. Like getting another corporate job. But ultimately, life is too short to just do something that makes you really unhappy.”
On the wall above the toys, a small television is mounted. Any given day it could be playing a classic episode of “The Simpsons” or “X-Men: The Animated Series.” As it plays in the background, it further enhances the nostalgic atmosphere that Electric Larry’s brings.
“My favorite thing is listening to people walk around the store, and they’ll see something from their childhood, and they’ll laugh and tell us a memory about it,” Meagan Majors said.
Since many of the products found at Electric Larry’s are out of print and no longer sold by major retailers, it is difficult to find them outside of yard sales, auctions, or on resale websites like eBay. As a collector, Randall Majors saw that process firsthand even before opening up the store.
“It’s something that I’ve always done, even when I was working for somebody else,” Randall Majors said. “I was always thrifting stuff and buying stuff, and then reselling it.”
Meagan Majors added, “He is a huge collector of things anyway, so when we started the store, we put a lot of our own collections into the store.”
Because of Electric Larry’s business model, they rely on those sources for products. It allows them to work within the community to find new things that other stores wouldn’t offer.
“We’re not giving money to some distributor in some random state,” Randall Majors said. “We’re buying stuff from local people. We’re going to auctions and yard sales and buying stuff there.”
In the back of the store, a wall of DVDs, Blu-rays and VHS tapes wraps around the right side of the room. Beyond that, are shelves of books ranging from Steven King novels to science fiction stories and everything in between. On the other side of the room are bins with Marvel and DC comic books, and a display of old magazines such as National Lampoon and Sports Illustrated.
Decorating the store are prints, stickers and other works from local artists. Electric Larry’s does consignment with artists, allowing them to set their own prices while Larry’s only takes a small percentage.
“I’m a musician, she [Meagan Majors] does art,” Randall Majors said. “We like to support other people who are doing artistic pursuits.”
Electric Larry’s also hosts events, such as SECRET CINEMA, a series of movie nights celebrating lesser-known horror films throughout the month of October. More efforts are being made to ensure that Larry’s serves the community just as much as it serves its customer base.
While they are relatively new to southern Illinois, the Majors are familiar with the area and culture, having both grown up in Kentucky. They are both Kentucky Colonels, the highest honor given to a civilian by the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
Meagan Majors grew up in Owensboro, Kentucky, a town of 60,000 people. However, she described the town as missing the small business atmosphere that Carbondale has.
“They could have a really unique city, but it’s just like people only trust Applebee’s and Texas Roadhouse,” she said.
Electric Larry’s is just one of several small businesses littered around Carbondale. Between retail stores and restaurants, the college town provides a unique experience for visitors and residents alike, while also creating opportunities for people to start their own businesses like Randall and Meagan Majors did.
Staff reporter Brandyn Wilcoxen can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @BrandynWilcoxen.
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