Happy Valley’s secret weapon for small business startups spurs another opening in Titan Park

11/01/2022

By Holly Riddle

It’s no secret that Titan Park is bringing new vibrance to Bellefonte. The reclaimed industrial site has become — just over the last several years — home to a brewery, multiple restaurants, cidery, farmers market and even a crypto mine. The latest business to join the fold? Fez Records, which opened in October with owner Michael Fester at the helm.

Fester’s story is not uncommon. A Happy Valley transplant, he fell in love with the area and, more specifically, Bellefonte, and, as so many do, decided this would be the perfect spot to start a business. The location, combined with Happy Valley’s entrepreneurial resources, as well as the area’s prior lack of a place to buy new records, all combined to create the perfect circumstances for Fester’s venture.

“My fiancé is from this area, so I had been visiting for the last few years,” Fester explained. “I always had an affinity for the Bellefonte area … and always had a dream to open up a record shop … When my real estate guy showed me a spot just outside of downtown Bellefonte, it was the perfect square footage, the perfect spot with a lot of potential for growth and great neighbors and a great community with the brewery and market nearby. It feels ideal.”

Photo: Provided by Fez Records.

Fester also feels as if he opened Fez Records right at the perfect time. While record shops have existed in Happy Valley in years past, the region lost its last one around the time Fester signed his lease at Titan Park.

“You can go to a flea market or you can go to a business that just specializes in used vinyl, but there are not a lot of options for a person to go to a shop and just peruse and go through some new releases that are being released more prevalently these days on vinyl,” he explained. “It was great, great timing, for sure. There’s definitely a void in the area. Actually, if I hadn’t opened up, the nearest place [to buy new records] would be a good hour and a half [away]. There are a couple of new record shops in Pittsburgh and a couple in Philly, but there’s really quite a long distance to drive to get to any record shop where you could purchase new vinyl in person.”

"When my real estate guy showed me a spot just outside of downtown Bellefonte, it was the perfect square footage, the perfect spot with a lot of potential for growth and great neighbors and a great community with the brewery and market nearby. It feels ideal.”

But this was Fester’s first foray into the world of entrepreneurship. His day job is as an assistant principal within the State College Area School District. So, when he decided to launch his dream business, he called upon Happy Valley’s wealth of entrepreneurial resources. In fact, he was utilizing those resources before he even moved to the region.

“I was using the [Penn State Small Business Development Center]’s website from a distance. I was in Arizona still,” he laughed.

Photo: Provided by Fez Records.

The SBDC helped Fester set up his business name and establish a sole proprietorship before transitioning to an LLC. He said that finding entrepreneurial resources in the area before even moving to Happy Valley was a significant source of encouragement. He’s also found a spot within the entrepreneurial community and is eyeing collaborations with fellow business founders in the future.

So what can you expect if you stop into Fez Records this weekend? Fester promises a music lover’s haven that’s also family-friendly.

“I really wanted to have a nice, clean, organized place, where, frankly, people can bring their kids in. Being in education, I love to see younger people come into the shop, who are interested in music and interested in collecting vinyl, listening to music on vinyl. I want it to be somewhat family-friendly, open and welcoming,” he said. “And there are places to sit and hang out. People can hang out for a while and listen to music, listen to whatever I'm playing, or listen to their own music at my listening station. They can pull a used record and just put it on the turntable and put some headphones on and listen for a while. There’s also a variety of genres that I carry, so I'm not deep into any one genre.”

For the time being, Fez Records is only open on the weekends, Saturday 8 a.m.–8 p.m., and Sunday 11 a.m.–4 p.m., but Fester anticipates expanding the hours in the future, as well as bringing in live music. He also hopes to expand his selection and possibly his footprint, whether that means growing further at Titan Market or into multiple locations.

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