Bucket O’ Blood is a book and record store that’s located in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood. Opened in early June of 2010, the store sells both new and used items, and specializes in science fiction, fantasy and horror novels. CDs and vinyl are offered as well, mostly consisting of genres like punk, metal and indie rock. Bucket O’ Blood is owned by Marc Ruvolo, who also operates Johann’s Face Records, and through the years has played in bands such as No Empathy, The Traitors, Das Kapital and more. His latest business venture is somewhat of a childhood dream, as the store combines two of Ruvolo’s longtime passions. The shop is nothing if not unique, and with any luck the initially favorable response will continue for years to come.
Since an early age, Ruvolo has been a devoted collector of records and books. His first plan was to open a genre bookstore, but he quickly realized that due to his involvement with music, a hybrid store would be a much better option. With that idea in mind, he began expeditiously working towards opening day. “It took about two years. I had my basic collection and then I started buying, buying and buying,” Ruvolo said. “I sat down and put a business plan together, and then I started to get everything for the store itself. All the bookcases came off of Craigslist, lots of stuff was donated too. People donated books and the record bins were donated by Joe Losurdo, who did the movie called You Weren’t There: A History of Chicago Punk. He had a record store named Hi-Fi Records and he had those in his garage. He said, ‘If you’re stupid enough to open a record store you can just take them’.” One of the major hurdles in opening Bucket O’ Blood was finding a suitable location. Just as Ruvolo was about to abandon hope, he found exactly what he was looking for in his own backyard. “At one point I had pretty much given up on it, because everyone wanted a three to five-year lease and they wanted double what I was willing to pay in rent. I really started it with very little money. Then I was just walking down the street, I’ve lived in this neighborhood for about twenty years now, and I saw that a tax place had just vacated. It was for rent and it was the perfect size. I contacted the lady who owns the building and she was willing to give me a one-year lease. The price was right and she really wanted a book or record store here. She thought it was awesome because Café Mustache was opening next door as well. I signed the lease and opened a month later,” he said.
Starting any type of new business in today’s economy is by all accounts a risky endeavor, though this didn’t detour Ruvolo from chasing his dream. While he didn’t necessarily have high expectations at the onset, the public’s preliminary reaction was positive to say the least. “Everybody was really excited at first and really into it. I promoted the store through the usual punk rock channels, besides the press in town. It was through my label and people that I knew,” he said. “Everybody was excited that it was my collection I was liquidating, so they really wanted to see that. We had bands play all opening weekend and the response was great. The response was almost too much that first weekend, because I had to close Monday to get more stuff. People just cleaned me out. I had two people helping at the register because we had such long lines. The record bins had gone from being full to almost empty. It was a great response though. Sass Dragons and Das Kapital played too.”
Aside from its uniqueness, what sets Bucket O’ Blood apart is the enthusiasm and devotion that Ruvolo brings to the table. The store is open seven days a week and he’s present most every day, assisting customers and offering recommendations. “Somebody once said to me, and this goes for the books and the music, and it sounds very highbrow, is that I curate it. It’s true to a certain extent,” he said. “I’m just putting what I like in here. I’m really not into jazz that much and I’m not into blues or hip hop, so mainly it’s just punk, indie rock, metal and classic rock. It’s kind of selfish in a way, but it’s really a specialty store and it’s my tastes. Thankfully my tastes are broad enough that it’s not just Slayer records.” Also of note is the store’s “Awesome” section, which is home to a variety of random items. “The ‘Awesome’ section is everything else I had that I thought was awesome and didn’t fit into science fiction, horror and fantasy. That would be pop science books, stuff about space exploration or volcanoes and stuff like that. There’s a true crime section too. Some biography, some creative non-fiction and I like historical fiction as well. We have a nice literary fiction section that’s maintained by my friend Davey Houle, drummer of Das Kapital, which is really his forte. The ‘Awesome’ section is just whatever the heck I want. It gives me the latitude to just take something and put it there if it doesn’t fit anywhere else,” Ruvolo said.
Another important aspect of Bucket O’ Blood is the fact that the store hosts various events on a routine basis. Whether it’s live music, author readings or less conventional occasions, they’ve got something for most everyone. “We do author readings and book parties, meaning that we have different authors come in and read anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes from their fiction,” Ruvolo said. “We’ve done John Everson, who’s a well-known horror writer. He’s won the Bram Stoker Award. He’s also a music writer and wrote for the Illinois Entertainer for years. We had Chris Connelly, who’s the manager at Reckless Records, and was in Ministry and the Revolting Cocks. He has a book called My Life as a Revolting Cock. He wrote a novel as well though, just a normal novel called Ed Royal. We had him come and read from both of those. We do folk/punk stuff too, like stripped-down versions of punk rock bands. We do laptop stuff with percussion also. I’m really open to whatever. Over the summer we did a wizard rock show, which was all touring bands based around Harry Potter.”
In 2011, Ruvolo hopes to increase the number of events held at the store, as well as expand its music section. He also has plans that extend beyond the four walls of his shop. “I think what I want to do as the place becomes more successful is start a book imprint. In addition to Johann’s Face putting out more records, I’d like to start a book imprint of authors and writers that I’ve met through Bucket O’ Blood. There are tons of great writers that I’ve met already. Either that or a quarterly, maybe start with a quarterly of short fiction or poetry. That’s the goal, hopefully by the end of year,” he said. When asked to describe the overall Bucket O’ Blood experience and why newcomers should visit his store, Ruvolo gave a concise description of his business. He said, “They should probably just visit the store because it’s unique. There’s no other store like it in Chicago. You have to see it to really understand what it is, because it’s hard to explain. It’s not really like a typical used book store and it’s not really like a typical record store. You have to come and see and you’ll always find something that’s awesome here. It’s cheap enough where you’re not going to freak out about spending a ton of money either. It’s not like I’m selling collectables for $50 to $100. The whole point is to sell awesome stuff that’s cheap”.