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Thirty-five years ago there were record stores everywhere. Beyond the availability at many department stores and general merchandise chains, stores specializing in selling record albums (those big round vinyl disks which eventually fell out of favor only to be revived a generation later) were plentiful. National brands like Musicland and Camelot were at Glenbrook while Karma held down the distinction of being a local hot spot for all things music.
Then Wooden Nickel came along. At first it seemed just another local spot to pick up the latest records, but over the years something strange happened. All of those other places just disappeared, unlamented and quickly forgotten. But Wooden Nickel just kept on truckin’, becoming a haven not only for every imaginable genre of music, but for local bands as well.
You can’t have a success story like that without a determined and, in this case, joyful leader. Bob Roets is a music fan first and foremost, and his exuberance is evident to anyone who meets him or talks with him. His excitement for the music and providing a way for everyone in the Fort Wayne area to get their hands on their own musical passions has not only sustained Wooden Nickel for over three decades, but it has made it possible for many in the city to fulfill their own musical dream.
Wooden Nickel does more than sell the CDs of local bands and performers. It has provided a “stage,” really just a small area tucked within the store, for anyone who has some music to share. Watching a group of area music fans float in to listen to music while perusing the many vinyl and CD options is as old school as it gets, while Roets, who usually provides coffee and his wife’s cookies as an added lure, dashes about like a kid at Disneyland, making sure everything runs smoothly. Wooden Nickel has also become a popular stop on National Record Store Day each April, with a non-stop itinerary of bands performing while special releases and other industry attractions bring in scores of people each year. In short, Wooden Nickel has been the center of the music business for Fort Wayne since it opened its doors more than 30 years ago.
And through it all, there stands Bob Roets, businessman and court jester, happy to be there for the ride. His motivation was his love of music, not the possibility of winning an award. But at this year’s Whammys he did just that, picking up a Liddell Award for his contributions to the local music scene. It’s a fitting honor, one which clearly took Roets by surprise.
“Doug Driscoll had asked me if I could present the Liddell Award to Julia Meek, which I was happy to do because Julia is a good friend. So I prepared a speech to introduce Julia, and I was really happy for her. Then as I was getting ready to leave the stage, Doc stopped me and said there was another Liddell Award winner. There had never been two, so I didn’t expect that turnaround. I’m still in shock!”
Receiving an award for his contributions to Fort Wayne is clearly meaningful to Roets though not his motivation in doing what he does. But receiving an award connected to whatzup obviously makes the award special to him.
“Doug and I have been buddies since he called me to ask if I wanted to advertise in whatzup, and at that point I didn’t even know what it was. I like to help out and volunteer to help with things that whatzup is doing, so I came here tonight to take pictures and do whatever I could to help. And I co-sponsor the Battle of the Bands with whatzup and have been at the competition and served as judge for the last six years.”
His benevolence doesn’t stop with Wooden Nickel and whatzup. He and his wife volunteer throughout the community, and he has served as president of the board of directors for Fort Wayne Children’s Choir.
“Fort Wayne has been good to Wooden Nickel for the last 32 years, and I want to give back to the community in some way. I help with administrative things because of my background in management, and it lets me contribute to Fort Wayne and the music community.”
Roets was pleased to be presented with the Liddell Award alongside friend Julia Meek, but saved special praise for the meaning of the award named for another friend, Stan Liddell.
“I especially appreciate this because I knew Stan. I sold tickets for him for 20 years, and he was a great guy to be around. It means so much that this award is given in his name because he meant so much to the music scene in Fort Wayne. I’m still in shock a little, but this is pretty cool!”