Timothy Wilson: Transitions: University Ave

Timothy Wilson, owner of Urban Lights Music, discusses his business and how they are navigating through the construction

Interviewed by: Diamante Hayes
Photos by: Nancy Vang and Allona Patterson


Hi, my name’s Demonte Hayes and I’m from Gordon Parks High School and I’m here to interview you. So my first question is, what is your name and the name of your business?

Timothy Wilson, Urban Lights Music.

Could you tell us a little bit about the origin of this place?

We opened up in 1993, store used to be called “Northern Lights” for you know, people who know the history of St. Paul. And we’ve been here like 20 years. We bought the store back in ’93, changed it to more the music that we like. I used to joke with a couple of friends I had that we always wanted to own a record store so the opportunity came up for us to buy it and you know we all came together and made it happen.

Could you tell us a little bit more about your business?

Music. We’re the place to be as far as music in St. Paul. We do custom CD mixes. We customize iPods, you know, we sell music videos, the latest and greatest in mix CDs. You know, vinyl for the DJs who are still out here spinnin’ records. You know we got a little bit of everything, a lot of history. It’s like Cheers. If you want to just come hang out, you know, see what’s up.

What are your concerns about the light rail being built on University Avenue?

I don’t know, you know there’s a lot of issues with it that I think they moved a little too fast with the situation. I don’t think it was well planned out. It’s you know, they obviously thought they had a plan in place but the plan that they put in place actually put a lot of small businesses in jeopardy. A lot of people closed over the last 365 days. Those of us who are still around, you know we’ve had a little assistance. It’s not what we feel like we deserve. You know, the shut-downs in traffic, the electricity fluctuation problems, uh you know the list goes on. So I’m not a fan.

Is that your main concern about the project being built over here?

No. The main concern is just that, one -- in doing it they’ve scared customers from coming to the area. You know, people -- we have a lot of customers from Minneapolis. They hear what’s going on over here so they don’t want to make the trip because they don’t know about the parking. They don’t know if they can move up and down University Avenue. So, you know, there’s a number of issues. That’s the main issue for us, is just people being able to get to us -- accessibility for our customers.

And that brings me to my next question. How do you manage to keep your business going if you don’t get as many customers as you do during the construction?

Man, you know we had to hustle, change our hustle really. You know, get more internet savvy, you know be in the social networks a lot more letting people know that hey, they can still get here. You know, different sales going on, concert tickets, what have you. So really it’s, honestly, it’s working the internet and to be honest with you we have a loyal customer base and so you know, we got to shout out to Saint Paul for really standing by us through the drama times…

How have you been involved with our high school, which is Gordon Parks?

Uh, honestly, just, it’s just allowing the school to come in, talk to us a little bit, interview. Demonte, my man here doing his thing here with the interview. We try to give back a little bit, aspiring interviewer. So you know, we feel we can give a little bit back, and just get the kids interested and let them know what’s going on, what’s really happening. I feel that’s the way we can stay involved.

Are there any final comments you’d like to make abou the light rail project?

You know, still the same thing. I’m not a fan but it is what it is. You know, it’s for the greater good for St. Paul, whatever that may be.

Made possible by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the vote of Minnesotans on November 4, 2008. Administered by the Minnesota Historical Society.