Editor's note: This is the first of occasional stories on unusual businesses in Roseville.
As the owner of Mr. Zero's, Rik Schwinden marches to the beat of different retail drummer.
Schwinden's Roseville shop, now celebrating its fourth holiday season, carries a vast array of eclectic pop culture merchandise. Items range from vintage LPs and 45 single records to video games, posters and board games.
The shop, at 1744 Lexington Ave. N., is as unusual in its merchandising and pricing as it is in the offbeat memorabilia it carries. Records, for example, are priced at odd numbers such as $3, $5, $7, and $9 per item.
Meanwhile, Mr. Zero's is running an 11 percent discount on items through the holiday season; at other times of the year the store has sales with discounts set at 11, 13, 17 and 27 percent.
What's with that name?
And that odd name: Mr. Zero's? Schwinden, a hardcore fan of the 1960s pop group The Monkees, said the name is taken from a 1968 episode of the music group's TV show. The episode, called "The Devil and Peter Tork" had as its backdrop a store called Mr. Zero's Pawn Shop.
Meanwhile, the store's business mascot, a kind of clown or courtjester, was designed by Jose Delbo, the Argentinian cartoonist who did the illustration on the Beatles' animated movie "Yellow Submarine."
Schwinden said his shop represents a nearly extinct breed of retailing as scores of similar stores and chains have gone out of business.
"I'm trying to keep alive a dying art for people who don't want to sit on the Internet," said Schwinden, whose career in music retailing has included stints at the Record Shop, FYE, Sam Goody, Wax Works and Warehouse Entertainment.
Customers at Mr. Zero's range from grade-school kids to retired folks in their 70s.
In buying and selling used records and other items, Schwinden said he has come across a plethora of unique items including an autographed Billy Joel album cover and signed guitars.
Schwinden said he got the idea for his shop after working for a similar business in Minneapolis and concluding there was room for one on the east side of the Mississippi River. After studying the east Metro's demographics, Schwinden settled on locating his shop in Roseville.
"We felt Roseville would be the place to be in the next five years and when the economy turns around," he said.
Since opening the store in November, 2009; Mr. Zero's sales have steadily grown, increasing about 10 percent annually.
Schwinden said that running his own store has had its joys and challenges.
One of the best things he likes is that "people bring me rare things which is cool," Schwinden said. "I meet some of the most fascinating people, too." They range from rock musicians to writers, he said.
But on the downside, Schwinden said he frequently encounters customers who don't respect his business or realize he is not running a thrift shop. "We're dealing in top of the line stuff here," he said.