In 2010 Ian McGregor was thirty years old, married, and bartending at a high-end hotel in Dana Point. He started selling all of his CDs through eBay in his spare time between late night shifts at the bar. He got sick of “poisoning people for a living” and decided to start up an online store in hopes of working for himself one day. He found a retail location in Dana Point, CA through an extended family member who owned the building. He sold most of his own personal collection just to get by at first, and in June of 2012 he opened up McGreat Deals Records. That location ran up until October of 2013. In February of 2014, McGreat Deals relocated to San Clemente. In the down time between stores Ian sold records at his parent’s house out of the garage.
If you find yourself in south Orange County, his store is worth checking out. They offer music lessons in the back and even help local bands by letting them practice at the shop. I chose Ian’s store because I grew up in San Clemente and because he’s such an easy person to talk to about music. There are not a lot of places for kids to go in San Clemente. Ian welcomes everyone as long as they’re there for the music. The store is dead center between my old high school and my mom’s house. Had it been there when I was a kid, maybe I would of been a little less misguided. I hope you enjoy the store and what he had to say.
Ryan: Why did you name your store McGreat Deals Records?
Ian: That was the website name. I was so into my eBay store and my eBay life that my friends would bust my balls about it. I told everyone I was going to start this online store and it was gonna be my jam. My friend was giving me a hard time asking me what I was going to call it. I was like, “I don’t know. McGreat Deals records?” I said it as a joke. I love it. It’s so cheesy, but I love it. We did all these classic punk and metal images with it and it just stuck. Kids love it. I had a girl tell me she was going to get it tattooed on her.
Ryan: What is the best part of owning a record store?
Ian: The best part is the kids. You get to prescribe the best medicine ever to people. They’re not leaving your place full, or drunk, or hung-over. They get music. They get something awesome from you. I like the interaction with people. I’ve always been a people person. I like being a positive influence on these kids. I try to tell them to be themselves and do their own thing, but to be smart. Don’t waste your talents on some identity you’re trying to achieve. I think hearing that from me is better than them hearing it from their parents sometimes—or their counselors at school. I want them to be here as long as they’re here for the music.
Ryan: What is the worst part of owning a record store?
Ian: One of the worst things that freaks me out is people in this generation who aren’t used to going into record stores. They come in, look for one thing, and if you don’t have it, they leave. To me, that’s just so foreign and weird. The other bad things are when you have an in-store and someone is smoking heroin in front of the store or you have to beat someone up for stealing.
Ryan: Have you beat someone up for stealing?
Ian: He hit me in the chin. I tackled him in the parking lot because he took a stack of Venom shirts. I was closed. I went out back to take out the trash and I walk back in and I see this kid with a stack of T-shirts walking out. I yelled at him and he ran through the parking lot, so I just booked it and tackled him. Then he threw the shirts at me, trying to divert me. I grabbed him and tackled him. I kept asking him, “Why are you doing this? Why are you stealing from me?” I was more upset than anything. He started swinging at me and I was dodging him until he got me in the chin. I hit him four times. I don’t like fighting, ever, but if my safety is in check, what can you do? After the last hit, I freaked out and stopped myself. I grabbed the shirts and walked back to the shop. Jose from Surfin’ Chicken was chilling, watching me, and said, “That went well.”[laughs]
Ryan: Have you had a lot of people try to steal from you?
Ian: I’ve had people switch tags. I’ve had people steal little things like buttons. People at the old store would walk out on the patio with records. I’d say, “Whoa, what are you doing? That’s how people get hurt.” I’d point up to the baseball bat on the wall. We used to have a big baseball bat that said “steal here, die here.” Now we have a samurai sword and the sign says, “If you steal here we will kill you.”
Ryan: So was the guy with the Venom shirts the most aggressive incident?
Ian: When I first opened the old store, this kid came in to sell me records. It was right when we opened so I didn’t really know the ropes of running a record store. The records were Herb Alpert, Neil Diamond, and basically a bunch of records I don’t need. He said he was just going to look around at records even though I wasn’t going to buy what he had. He was putting my records in between his records, making a little sandwich (putting the records he was stealing between the records he brought in to sell).
I was talking to him on his way out about Celtic Frost and all these metal bands. I’m thinking to myself, “This guy knows his stuff. Why is he trying to sell me Herb Alpert?” He was with a friend who kept going in the bathroom with CDs, but not coming out with them. He had on these super tight pants and I could see the CDs in his pants. I went and locked the door. They asked what I was doing. I told them, “We have a problem. I’m either going to break your hands with a hammer or you can call the cops.” I think I had just watched Casino and there was a hammer on the counter because I had been working on something.
Ryan: How old were they?
Ian: One was sixteen, one was eighteen. I grabbed their wallets out of their back pockets and made them pay for everything they took. I put everything in a bag, and told them, “I don’t want to hear anything about this from you or anybody. I know where you guys live now.” I noticed one of them lived in The Hunt Club and said, “You’re loaded bro. Why are you trying to steal from me? What the fuck is the matter with you?” But that was it. Those two issues were the only ones like that.
Ryan: Going back to the old store—did you have any plans or goals in mind when you started out?
Ian: I’ve never had a long-term plan for anything in my life. I wish I did. The only things I really wanted to do were start a label, get the online store really going, and represent the locals bands while carrying a good, eclectic mix of music.
Ryan: What about now? You’re in a new location and you’ve had more time under your belt. Do you have any goals now?
Ian: Right now I want to be like FDR. I want to be the New Deal, to create jobs for kids and make more facets for revenue. I want to have the online thing going on—so kids can do that—and have a good job with music. I’d like to do more with apparel, T-shirts and things like that. For now, I want to focus on the retail store and get all that ironed out. The other thing I need to do is get out of the whole punk rock mentality: doing my accounting correctly, getting my taxes done on time, paying rent.
Ryan: You mentioned that you want to start putting records out and we’ve talked about it in the past. Where are you at with all of that?
Ian: There’ve been a lot of bands I’ve talked to about it and they said they would send me recordings and this and that, but I haven’t had the money to do it. I’ve been thinking about doing a cassette for one of the local bands and starting there. My deal is that I’m not going to start another project until I finish this one. I need to get the store set up to where I don’t need to be there to run it. I’d like to say that we’ll put out a record in the next six months. I just want to learn how to do it.
Ryan: So talking more about records—what was the first record you ever bought and what was the last?
Ian: The first new record I ever bought was the Metallica Creeping Death single. I bought it from Rasputin Records in Berkeley when I was in sixth grade. I lived up there until I was thirteen. That’s where I first got into records. The last one I took home that was a new record was Iron Reagan. I usually go to a show every week and I try to get a 7”. Around the same time, I also bought a Somali Pirates record. They’re killer. I love them.
Ryan: What are your thoughts on Record Store Day?
Ian: I think RSD is a really cool holiday. Everyone comes out that day. Last year we had CH3 (Channel 3) and No More Saints play. I had a really great day but I don’t enjoy spending all the money. It’s like baseball cards and comic books—you get a nice boost of revenue—but we don’t make a whole lot of money on new records. But it’s a good thing. It’s during the part of the year when we get really slow. It gives you a big boost and you can get through to the rest of the year. I don’t like that it’s this gimmicky thing.
Ryan: What do you mostly sell down here in the cul de sac of Orange County?
Ian: In Dana Point I sold a lot of hardcore. We’ve always sold a lot of punk overall. Classic rock is the thing that pays the bills—Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and all that stuff. You have to have it. All of the eighties staples. I always keep my jazz bins really well stocked. It’s kind of like a matriculation of music. You get into Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, then you get into Megadeth and Metallica as you evolve as a person. You go through puberty and you’re angry and you like Black Flag and Dead Kennedys. Once you get a little more wise, you move on to Big Boys or Gun Club.
Ryan: What are you currently recommending to people?
Ian: The Bronx to kids who are into punk music and might not be familiar with any punk bands from this decade. For jazz, Getz and Gilberto. Metal, I’d say High On Fire, some Red Fang, Weedeater. There’s some cool sludge out there that you don’t have to be cool and have a beard to listen to. Old Ike And Tina, The Hunter; I’d recommend that record to anybody. The cover is rad and you know that song, “The Hunter” by Danzig? That’s a cover. He changed the words around a little bit, but yeah.
Ryan: For these next questions, they’re just more recommendations for people in a certain scenario. What would you recommend to someone about to go surfing?
Ian: The Tiki Men or The Mummies
Ian: Miles Davis.
Ryan: Someone comes in and they’re saying “bro” a lot.
Ryan: A housewife comes in and she’s looking for something for her son.
Ian: If it was for her, I’d say Marvin Gaye, Barry White, Isaac Hayes [laughs]. But if it was for her son I’d say, the Stones, early Beatles, or Bill Haley. Old rock‘n’roll.
Ryan: Dance party.
Ian: Bloc Party, Hall And Oates, the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, or—you know what?—Neil Young’s Trance. It’s the freaking dance mix of the eighties. It’s so good. It’s like Daft Punk style. It’s killer.
Ryan: Have sex to.
Ian: Beethoven’s 9th Symphony or something like that.
Ian: Reggae, King Tubby.
Ryan: Make your neighbors think you’re murdering someone inside the store.
Ian: That would be Burning Love or The Secret. Or Merciful Fate, Entombed, something like that.
Ryan: Drive on Pacific Coast Highway to.
Ian: I’m a gnarly driver, so I need something mellow. Probably the Talking Heads or Oingo Boingo would be good for me.
Ryan: Deal with the traffic on the 405.
Ian: Same thing, I have to keep myself mellow.
Ryan: What’s the record that you put on and, without fail, people ask who it is?
Ian: Graveyard is a really good one. Dude, I’m telling you, though, that Neil Young Trance album is so fucking good. People always ask about that one.
Ryan: Drink beer to.
Ryan: Drink wine to.
Ian: Rolling Stones Exile on Main St.
Ryan: Drink whiskey to.
Ian: When I’m drinking Wild Turkey, I need something with some balls to it, like the blues, Stones, Sabbath.
Ryan: Cure a hangover to.
Ian: Wild Turkey [laughs]. No, for a hangover, I need something mellow like King Tubby, Sly And Robbie, or Warren Zevon.
Ryan: Who’s the most famous person you’ve had come in the store?
Ian: Steve Sherpa from the Sopranos. Nick Swardson came in. He’s hilarious.
Ryan: Who’s the craziest customer you’ve had come in to the store?
Ian: I had a guy come in and pee himself once. He asked me to check online for a band playing in Dana Point called Metallica. I told him I was pretty sure they weren’t playing here but I checked anyways. I told him that they were in Norway. So he asked me to check for one more band. I asked who and he said, “The devil.” I told him I didn’t think the devil was playing in Dana Point either and he said, “That’s not what he told me.” After that he peed himself.
Ryan: Someone from out of town comes in and asks where a good place to eat is, where do you tell them?
Ian: The Riders Club is really good for burgers. Surfin’ Chicken is really good and it’s right next door. If we’re talking about Dana Point, I have to say the Buena Vista Market. It was in the same center as my old store, right next to the tattoo shop.
Ryan: I’ve always been curious about that place but it smells like bleach every time I go in there.
Ian: That’s because they’re clean, dude. I love that place. I used to eat there every single day. In San Clemente, you’re shooting yourself in the foot if you don’t eat Surfin’ Chicken.
Ryan: Is there any record out there that you still haven’t been able to get your hands on that you really want?
Ian: Yeah, actually there are a lot of them. The Dead Kennedy’s Too Drunk to Fuck single on red vinyl. The GBH City Babies Revenge original press. I used to take my progress reports from school and put them in that record. I have a repress at the shop but I want the original. I really want Rudimentary Peni Death Churchf or sentimental reasons. I have a friend who passed away and that record was all we used to listen to. He was dying of pancreatic cancer when we were twenty-three. I went to visit him and I asked him when he was gonna get out. And all he said was that he wished he was at my parents’ house listening to Peni with me. So I didn’t listen to Peni again after that until I opened my store. When I sold all of my CDs on the eBay store, I had nothing left. I sold all of my Peni records because they were the only records that I would never listen to again. I just didn’t want to hear them because they made me think about him and it made me really sad. Then one of their records came in about a year and a half ago and I listened to it and I loved it.
Ryan: Do you have any advice to anyone out there thinking about opening their own store?
Ian: Be loaded and have a bunch of money before you decide to do it. Because it’s really frustrating and hard. Also don’t be married and don’t be in San Clemente.