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« Record Store Day 2011 (Part 1) Taste Maniac Meat Tomorrow Night »

Feature Thu Apr 14 2011

Come Get Your Bucket O' Blood

Marc Ruvolo isn't the type to take it easy. With ventures in music, literature and art, Ruvolo is always looking for his next creative outlet. His latest and most notable undertaking presents itself as Chicago's only genre bookstore, Bucket O' Blood Books and Records, which also offers customers an impressive vinyl and CD selection.

Ruvolo's name might sound familiar because he's the co-founder and now sole owner of Johann's Face Records, a label that helped spawn the careers of some of Chicago's best known punk acts like Alkaline Trio and The Smoking Popes. Obviously, he's acquired quite a bit of music over the years. That collection, paired with a lifelong passion for science fiction and fantasy literature, led to the idea for Bucket O' Blood. The store opened June 4, 2010.

"I'm a collector at heart," Ruvolo confessed. "I like to collect things...so [Bucket O' Blood] is my collection now. And when a customer buys something, then I get to buy new things, so I get that part of the collecting. I don't get to keep it, which is fine with me. I don't really care anymore."

Bucket O' Blood Books and Records owner Marc Ruvolo (photos by Katie Karpowicz)

Much of Bucket O' Blood's music and literature selection is a partial liquidation of Ruvolo's own personal collection. It's an easy way for him to further advocate his "quality over quantity" business model that Bucket O' Blood runs off.

"People have said to me--and I kind of agree with it--that I curate this place. Since I don't have a lot of room, I just put the best stuff out and try to keep classic titles in stock...I'm not just running a big bookstore where you have to dig through textbooks and all of junk that you don't want to dig through. People say that they can come in here in five minutes and something that they'd like to read."

Bucket O' Blood's books are divided into three categories: Science Fiction/Fantasy, Horror and Awesome. Ruvolo's "Awesome" section is just that: whatever Ruvolo thinks is awesome. It's a mix of literary fiction, creative nonfiction, popular science and biography. Bucket O' Blood's niche literary selections make it the only genre-specific bookstore in Chicago.


Ruvolo uses the same handpicked selectivity when decided what to put on his vinyl and CD shelves. The vinyl consists mainly of punk, indie rock and metal and the CD selection is mostly made up of Johann's Face releases.

"I carry a lot of punk rock that other stores in town just don't carry, more of an underground scene of stuff. Just less mainstream because I'm in that scene of the Johann's Face, DIY type of stuff. I trade with other labels around the country. I trade Johann's Face releases for stuff on their labels. I carry a lot of smaller labels and then a lot of classics...so I kind of skew to a certain taste."

Bucket O' Blood isn't limited to used books and records though. Look closer and you'll find a myriad of comics, independent films, literary magazines — including the Logan Square Literary Review — and artwork most of which are produced by locals. Bucket O' Blood proudly displays prints from local art publishers Transmission Atielier Inc.

Ruvolo admits that maintaining such an impressive selection of books, records and other forms of art can be a challenge. The owner and sole employee of Bucket O' Blood is constantly trolling thrift stores, estate and library sales as well as classified and Craigslist postings for new items to stock his shelves with. Knowing what's good and what his customers will want is something that he's been working on since he first started reading science fiction at the age of 11.

"You have to have that kind of encyclopedic knowledge of useless information about books and records which I have. It was worthless information before but now it's becoming worthwhile information because I'm using it in my business."


That knowledge might prove even more beneficial once Ruvolo embarks on his next prospective project: a Bucket O' Blood book imprint. When he finds the time, he enjoys writing science fiction stories of his own and his experiences with Bucket O' Blood have introduced him to many local authors. With success in the local music industry already under his belt, Ruvolo would like to try his hand at publishing.

"From what I've gathered the book world is exactly the same as the music world. It's just people trying to get their stuff out and trying to get their money back."

For now though, Bucket O' Blood serves as a catch all for of Ruvolo's outlets. The store has become the new base for Johann's Face where Ruvolo stores and sells releases — including those from his own band The Atari Star. His artwork is displayed along the walls along with other local artists. Bucket O' Blood even houses a makeshift stage where the store has hosted concerts and book readings.

During the hour I spent visiting Bucket O' Blood, Ruvolo provided me with an extensive but interesting explanation of everything I took off the shelf and he had more recommendations than I knew what to do with. His enthusiasm for everything within the four walls of Bucket O' Blood is so obvious it's almost tangible. Creating the type of personalized book and record store experience Ruvolo told me he wants for his customers can't possibly be a problem when I consider his passion and relentlessness.

"I didn't want to start a generalized store. There's millions of those. People start them all the time and they fail all the time. I want something that's very niche and that I can really get behind and be excited about."

So far his efforts are paying off. In 2010 New City voted Bucket O' Blood the best specialty used bookstore in Chicago.

Bucket O' Blood Books and Records is located in Logan Square (2307 N. Milwaukee Ave.). It's open noon to 7pm Sunday-Wednesday; noon to 9pm on Thursday and Friday; and 11am to 9pm on Saturday. The store can also be reached at 773-715-5901.
With Record Store Day quickly approaching (this Saturday, April 16), Bucket O' Blood is offering customers a special deal Saturday. The store will be giving away one release from Johann's Face's catalog of the customer's choosing for every $10 purchase. Bucket O' Blood will also be hosting live music in the evening. Artists are still to be determined.

[See our local roundup of local stores participating in Record Store Day 2011.]

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

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