“IT MADE SENSE IN THE ’60s,” Electric Fetus co-founder Keith Covart has said when asked about the record and gift store’s name. Stating the obvious, it’s a unique name, even now more than 50 years later. As difficult as the name is to explain, the store is equally as difficult to define.
The Fetus, which at 2000 S. 4th Ave. is on the southeastern edge of downtown Minneapolis—along with a second location in Duluth—prides itself on being so many things to so many people. It’s a hangout. It’s a place to check out what’s next and discover classics in music. It’s a locale to hear the latest on bands and upcoming albums from informed and knowledgeable staff members. It’s a venue to see an in-store performance. And, with more than one-third of its footprint dedicated to a gift section, it’s a go-to for clothing, home accents, and various novelty items.
The Fetus is also a forum for local music artists and artisans. “We’ve been doing local since the very beginning, before there was a big movement to shop local,” Covart said. “It’s just the way it was back then, and it’s who we are still today.” The Fetus celebrated its 50th birthday in 2018 and—like any small, independent business—the store has seen its share of curveballs and wrenches.
Recently, it’s faced off against big box stores and free digital music, it’s battled a tornado and flooding, it’s smack dab in the middle of the 35W corridor construction project, and this year had to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and community protests.
No matter: the Fetus is dedicated to staying true to its original mission and is proudly local and independent. The challenge of evolving what the Fetus is in these recent years and where it’s going is on the shoulders of Covart’s co-owners, his daughter Stephanie Covart Meyerring and son-in-law Aaron Meyerring. The Meyerrings are facing the realities of retail in the 21st century with a consistent staff full of institutional knowledge. It has a loyal and passionate core team that counts its time of employment at the Fetus not just years, but decades. “Our staff takes seriously the concept that we are selling an experience—an experience that hits all five senses and simply can’t be duplicated by technology,” Aaron Meyerring said. “The customer comes first; we wouldn’t be here without them, so we always try to really deliver a great experience and are continually looking to advance.” With that in mind, the Fetus continues to think big and has expanded its in-store performances and its annual events. More than anything the Electric Fetus is a place just to be. Always. “My dad would say that this is a place for people to come to get away from it all,” Stephanie Covart Meyerring said. “And that’s true today, and it will always be the case. What happens out there doesn’t matter; it all changes when you walk through the front doors. We want it to feel inviting and unique in here.”
She noted that local stores have a special relationship with their customers. “We have a strong bond with our customers and have for years,” Stephanie Covart Meyerring said. “There are so many stories about how people met here, or have been coming here for many years, or that it’s just a place for people to feel at home. That strong customer relationship builds loyalty and it’s extremely important for local businesses.” Even after 50 years, that still makes plenty of sense.