The Self-Made Man: Larry Jeter
Unlike a lot of TSB’s past Self Made Men, Larry Jeter isn’t someone many of our readers have heard of unless they live in Baltimore. Even then, it’s doubtful that they’ve heard of him. Which is a shame, because Jeter boasts some pretty impressive credentials as an entrepreneur: he owns and operates Dimensions In Music, a CD and record shop that’s been a local mainstay for decades, and it’s one of the only African American-run independent record stores in the United States.
He was also the drummer for Belle Farms Estates, but we shouldn’t hold that against him. The 1980s were a rough time for a lot of people.
Anyway, Jeter opened Dimensions after years of working retail in other stores, spreading his obsessive appreciation for jazz around to as many customers as he could. “You had to be a bad cat to work in a record store,” he told Citypaper back in 2007. “I mean, you really had to really know your shit.” Jeter is nothing if not plainspoken.
His original storefront was on North Charles Street, where the Tremont Grand conference center is now. Back in the 90s, however, it was much less glamorous, and therefore perfect for Larry. The store became a success, and gave life to a live jazz series that became a public-access TV show for eight years.
Sadly, his store was squeezed out of that location, necessitating a move to the store’s current location on Park Avenue, not far from Lexington Market. The store looks like a bookshop from a Terry Pratchett novel, with items from his 150,000-piece inventory stacked and stashed everywhere, which is exactly how Jeter likes it. The second floor of his shop is all vinyl, by the way, and his collection has been recognized by local media more than once for its impressive depth and range.
As for why he opened his own shop in the first place, and why he continues to spit into the wind at a time when the traditional business of record sales is turning upside down, his reasoning is both simple and brave. “I decided early that I would never let anybody control my destiny,” he told The Spokesman last year. “I didn’t want the worries that so many people have today of maybe being fired or the company closing on me.”
His advice to entrepreneurs, published in the Examiner in 2012, is equally determined. “Whatever you do, do something you have a passion for that you like and are good at doing. I would never open a business that I haven’t mastered. Everybody has a talent – something they do best. When you do what you do best, it works for you. You should always strive to do your best.”
Well put, Larry Jeter. Well put.
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About Dave Kiefaber Dave Kiefaber is a Baltimore-based writer who regularly contributes to Adfreak and the Gettysburg Times. His personal website is at www.beeohdee.blogspot.com.