UA Little Rock Alum Opens Vinyl Store in Benton

Audra McAnally opened her vinyl record store, Retro Rose, in Benton.

Audra McAnally has been out of school for less than three years, but the 25-year old entrepreneur has already opened her second business – a stylish throwback to the popular era of vinyl stores called Retro Rose

After graduating from Bryant High School in 2014, McAnally joined the University of Arkansas at Little Rock School of Business. She earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a certificate in sales, all while working around 60 hours a week managing a property preservation company.

“I went to UA Little Rock because I wanted to stay local for college,” McAnally said. “It was intense. I was probably getting four hours of sleep a night, and now I can’t stay up past 10 p.m. When I graduated, I actually planned on trying to find a job through some of the Sales Program competitions at UA Little Rock. Dr. Davis brought in so many good jobs for us to work at, but then my boss offered me a raise the week I graduated.”

The business where McAnally worked closed down just two months after she graduated in May 2018. Instead of looking for another job, McAnally put her work experience and business skills to use by opening her own property preservation business named A.M. Solutions.

“We were working with contractors and vendors, and I went out and started a business up the next month after my boss sold his,” she said. “I was 22, just graduated college, and trying to start a business. I was able to bring employees that got laid off to my business.”

McAnally has found that hard work and adaptability are the keys to her success. When the coronavirus greatly impacted A.M. Solutions last year, she continued the business part-time while converting her office at 113 E. Sevier St. into a vinyl record store.

“I opened Retro Rose Oct. 30, 2020, mid pandemic,” McAnally said. “I didn’t want to lose my space in downtown Benton since it’s becoming a prominent area. My boyfriend Brandon and I both collect records and we are super antiquers. I thought it would be so cool to open a music store where everyone feels welcome. One thing led to another, and I kept finding bulks of used records that fueled the fire.”

In addition to vinyl records, Retro Rose also sells record players, band t-shirts, stickers, and they are soon adding CDs and vintage posters.

“We want to have anything that is music related,” she said. “My store is continuously growing. We’ve started doing open mic nights. We especially want to showcase young talent. We have so many ideas that we can’t keep up with ourselves.”

The popularity of vinyl records is on the rise. Vinyl record sales increased nearly 30 percent in 2020, according to the RIAA, to $619.6 million, compared to $479.5 million in 2019.

“The surge in record sales has been insane. I’m sure everybody and their mom asked for a record player for Christmas last year,” McAnally said. “People are looking for something to do during COVID-19, and people appreciate music more when they are cooped up inside. Once you get into vinyl, you love vinyl. It’s art and it’s a whole different experience. Some people come in to buy records just for the album covers. With everything that is going on in the world, everyone can agree on loving music.”

For business students and future entrepreneurs, McAnally emphasized that hard work and drive can lead to success.

“You can put your mind to anything and just do it,” McAnally said. “If you work hard enough and push yourself daily, you’ll be able to succeed. So many people tell me that they didn’t learn that much in college, but I learned so much in college. I’ve actually been trying to find time in my schedule to come back to my master’s program.

Retro Rose is open Wednesday through Sunday. Eventually, she wants to earn an MBA and a doctorate so that she can teach college classes as well as run her businesses. 

“I want to emphasize that I did this on my own,” McAnally said. “My dad’s never been in my life, and my mom hasn’t been in my life since I was 11. I owe a lot of thanks to my brother and sister because they both technically raised me. Being someone that came from nothing, my brother and sister and I turned out well. My sister has her master’s degree, and my brother is a sergeant in the military and currently pursuing college. We have all worked extremely hard to defy all odds and change the future of our family. And I hope that our ethic can show others that if they work hard enough, they can also change the outcomes of their life.”

McAnally added that she hopes that Retro Rose will one day become a family business since she’s got nieces and nephews who love playing with the record players in her store.

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