Mark Alan Hamilton was a Navy photographer who picked up DJing while working at a Hillcrest record store.
The Cincinnati-native had ingratiated himself into the local EDM scene, playing shows in Ensenada, Tijuana, and Rosarito as well as various San Diego house parties and venues, such as Belo and the Red C Lounge.
In 2008, Hamilton decided to assume ownership of a downtown record store that he had no idea was tanking.
“Fiesta Records specialized in house, disco...vinyl records on the electronic side.”
He thought taking over a retail homebase on E Street between Ninth and Tenth avenues in the East Village was a good investment.
“The owners of Fiesta Records were walking away. At the time, I was working as a bartender at Kava Lounge, so I borrowed $600 from the cash register because I knew I could pay it back by Friday, and I also borrowed $1000 from a friend.”
Hamilton took over the lease at 909 E. Street, signing a three-year lease. But he couldn’t even keep the Fiesta Records name. “They had a $700 outstanding phone bill. I had to change the name to FeeLit.”
But that was the least of his struggles.
“Little did I know that there was a perfect storm out there working against me — the bad economy and a technology shift.”
The bad economy meant that Hamilton “couldn’t give away [the records].” The technology shift: “Every kid with a laptop had the technology to be a DJ. Every kid at San Diego State could bring 50 people to a show, so the older people, the real DJs, got shifted out of a job.”
And, worse, Hamilton says he couldn’t buy the vinyl to stock his store.
“All the distributors went away.”
Yet, Hamilton kept FeeLit alive.
“I diversified in order to survive. We carried local CDs and books and artwork on consignment.”
Meanwhile, Hamilton, 39, knew he had to keep a job to keep the business alive.
“I’ve worked for the past three years at Fluxx as a VIP bottle service [waiter] three nights a week.”
And Hamilton says the market has turned around.
“We have 8000 12-inch records. We have classical, country, Broadway, children’s, ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s...” Hamilton reports, “Vinyl unit sales have increased from one million in 2007 to 4.6 million in 2012 according to Billboard.com.”