7th Heaven is not your average shop, so it’s no wonder our journey to get where we are today has been far from average, too.
In honor of October 2020 being our 46th year in business, we asked 7th Heaven’s owner & CEO, Jan Fichman, to tell the story of our origins.
Keep reading to learn the history of 7th Heaven Kansas City, in Jan’s own words.
Presenting the history of our record, sex, & smoke shop in KC
After spending the summer of 1972 selling eight-track tapes on the midway of state fairs, I decided that making money was a lot more fun, and profitable, then studying calculus and chemistry.
So, I did the logical thing…I quit college (As did my older cousin Arnie一the dental school dropout & influencer to sell 8 tracks at state fairs in the first place). I hustled selling 8 tracks in liquor stores, gas stations, truck stops, swap meets and record shops. I also supplied other wholesalers that sold out of town. I expanded my operation to include everything east on I70 to St. Louis.
In 1974, I realized that selling bootleg 8 tracks was probably not going to be a long-term career, especially since the copyright laws were updated to include pre-recorded music. Following the advice of a relative in LA, 7th Heaven was born.
My parents ran the store at first, as this is also the time I went back to college at Mizzou in Columbia, MO (primarily to find some girls to date). We carried a variety of products including 8 tracks, record albums, used jeans, incense, turquoise jewelry, posters, stickers and a whole lot of other stuff, crammed into a space of 1200 square feet. Thankfully, the owner of the building informed us we didn’t have to pay rent until we started making some money (try to find someone that generous today!!).
I supported myself by selling merchandise in Columbia and St. Louis, but I was NOT a good example of a studious college student. After a year and a half, I quit school, again, and went back to K.C.
Through a friend I met Mike Ross from KPRS radio, Kansas City’s only urban radio station. Once we started advertising with him, business took off. I opened another store, then over the next several years we had 5 stores and were growing with the booming vinyl and cd business.
Music was a high volume, low margin business so we always carried smoking accessories and lifestyle items that had strong margins. Realizing the effectiveness and reach of radio, we rode the strength of legendary rock station KY102 for many years.
We’ve always been a “community” store in that we’ve always welcomed “made in Kansas City” products. This was particularly strong in the urban community with pre-recorded CDs and mixtapes. Before anyone knew who Snoop Dog, Master P, Eazy E, Messy Marv, Rich the Factor, Mac Dre, Berner, Tech N9ne, and many more were, 7th Heaven gave them an outlet for sales and self promotion.
The music was from the streets and gave 7th Heaven “street cred”. We had loyalty from the streets and that was very important for our survival. It still is.
We’ve had in-stores for new releases and for just plain old autograph sessions with hundreds of artists. In the ‘70s, at our original store at 7653 Troost, we had an in-store that was supposed to be in a parking lot tent. The group Parliament Funkadelic was to appear for an autograph session. The attendance was in the thousands and the group had to find cover inside the 1200 sq. foot store. Needless to say it was chaotic!
From The Whispers, Megadeth, George Clinton, Messy Marv, Limp Bizkit (who actually performed in our parking lot as we helped get them airplay on a KY102 show we did), to our hometown favorite, Tech N9ne. The store benefited with a lot of love from our customers, the fans were the true benefactors as they got to meet their favorite artists. Those are the memories people hold for a lifetime. That’s also why we have customers that have been shopping with us for almost 47 years.
There are a lot of favorite stories, but the most memorable part of this journey is the wonderful, engaged and diverse characters that have been part of the 7th Heaven story. My parents were never critical of anyone or any group. Period!! We’ve always sought to carry that philosophy out at the store.
From the beginning, we realized that our unique and diverse employees were representative of our broad and diverse customer base. They mirrored the music we sell and, as we should all know, music is just a reflection of who we are and where we’ve been. It’s been a great 47 years and I work hard to make the store relevant with not only the current customer base, but for generations to come.
Visit 7th Heaven
We’re practically a Kansas City historical landmark, and we’ve got lots of cool stuff for you to check out.
Come visit us. We’re open 11am to 8pm Mon-Sat and 11am to 6pm Sundays.