Wichitan Russell Horning opened The Gate record store in May 2021.
Located at 115 S. Pattie, the store serves as Wichita’s home for heavy metal records. It features a huge range of classic metal albums – looking for Ozzy Osbourne’s long out-of-print Speak of the Devil? Horning has it – as well as new stocks around the world.
The Gate looks less like a retail space and more like a friend’s living room. There are classic metal books and magazines on sale as well as the types of rarities that only a true fan would take the time to notice.
Horning’s route to open the store is unlikely. After teaching English for almost 20 years, he decided to follow his passion for heavy metal and create a space of his own that seems poised to become a destination for metal fans in the region.
Horning recently spoke with KMUW about his career as an educator and, now, a retailer.
Your journey to opening this store is quite interesting because you have had a different career path.
I have been in teaching for 18 years and it has always been incredibly rewarding. The reason I wanted to get into education was because I immediately saw that it was rewarding. I can see a kind of light when people were learning things. I entered education in Mexico. I was there, I was spending time and I was wondering, “What am I going to do for work? I saw that there were different English institutes. I thought, “Well, maybe I could steal this.” I didn’t need to have an education degree to teach there. I didn’t have this training, but from day one, seeing that people were grateful and excited to learn English, I was hooked.
What was your education like when you returned to the United States?
I was in Mexico for five years. I taught in a Catholic high school and I taught in an English institute. Wonderful experiences. I really loved their approach to education and the way they treat people. It was about treating the soul first, then education comes second. I have always taken it to heart. So when I came back to the United States, I knew I had to go back to school. I went to college for a year after high school and studied philosophy but didn’t know what to do with it. When I came back to the United States, I was fully motivated and took nine courses for five years and graduated from WSU. I taught at North High School for 11 years and taught at Wilbur Middle School for the past three years.
What was it like to become a full time teacher after that first spark you had in Mexico?
Children are children, and they are wonderful and so honest and sincere. Working with children anywhere is good. You have to take into account that these are children and that children behave like children. You need to know what you can control and what you cannot control. Not letting certain things get you down was something I’ve always considered. I always liked it, even when times were tough or the behavior of the students was difficult. It all comes from somewhere and you know I never judged anybody. The payoff for a lot of teachers is watching the kids grow up and seeing them a year or two later, or seeing them graduate from college.
Where did the heavy metal journey start for you?
When I was young, MÃ¶tley CrÃ¼e, Def Leppard, all of these bands were big and mainstream to the point of being on the radio all the time. My brothers used to listen to Quiet Riot and bands like that. I have always enjoyed the guitar, the drums, the bass, the riffs, the vocals, the energy, the emotion. [Eventually], I started to find bands that weren’t as pop, not as mainstream, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, King Diamond, those kinds of bands is what really hooked me [and helped me to discover] this world. But I think those other bands were kind of that gateway for me to find out that’s one of the reasons I picked The Gate over the name because there were different bands and different experiences and which developed by opening doors to this kind of world.
Where did the idea for the store come from? Did you sell online?
I have sold online for the past few years. I started selling some things and noticed different markets and started to feel more confident about how to price and rate records. I was in my basement and it was getting crowded and needed a little more space. I was tired of sending stuff to New York, California, Texas over and over again. I knew if I had a showcase people not only would appreciate it, but they would love it because good music is good music. I thought people would come out of the woods and people would surprise me. It certainly has been.
One thing about this store is – and this term is overused – but the stock is very carefully kept.
I really want to have things that you won’t see in other stores. I really think about the selections a lot. With new stuff I try to find things that I find great and using my taste [in considering what to sell]. A lot of [the used] coins are things that come from my collection. I also hunt, I watch, I talk with old friends, I see if there is anything I could trade. [Sometimes] it’s just something i want to have in the store because it will be a big room.
One of the things I liked about record stores is that they’ve always been social hubs. I could see a person with a bib on their jacket and say, “Hey, do you like Metal Church too?” It was the start of a conversation and sometimes deep friendships.
Hope this is a hub. Hope people are able to relate to each other. It seems to me that when people come here they feel very comfortable and it’s like home.