On any given Sunday morning and afternoon, Upper St. Clair resident David Ohm can be found combining businesses and pleasure with the elements of arts and education.
That’s when he sets up shop each week in Space C-20 at Trader Jack’s Flea Market in Collier Township, making music enthusiasts happy while working toward completing his doctorate in community engagement from Point Park University.
Ohm’s related practicum is aimed at helping to re-establish vinyl record sales, a strong personal interest of his, in conjunction with local businesses that have closed or are struggling because of situations caused by COVID-19.
The pandemic also limited the opportunities available for the practicum, which is similar to an internship in offering students practical experience within the fields they study.
So Ohm got creative, drawing in part from his 30-year professional background as an art therapist.
“I’ve had a history of painting murals in a psychiatric hospital to try to make the place look more patient-friendly, including having patients be involved in creating their own environment and having that valued role,” he said.
“It’s nice to still use the arts but to look in a different direction, and also not necessarily in a clinical environment,” Ohm added. “I usually work in hospitals or acute care centers. Here, it’s a community of vendors and a community of patrons who like to come to flea markets.”
His supervisor for the practicum is Russ Ketter, former owner of Rather Ripped Records in Brookline.
“He lost his business for health reasons and also foot traffic because of COVID,” Ohm said. “So we’re collaborating to keep these records out of the dumpsters.”
Ohm also is working with other vinyl-oriented businesses that are experiencing pandemic-related issues, helping to move some of their inventory to what has turned out to be buyers of a wide range of ages.
“It’s actually pretty interesting how many younger people come here and buy every week, and how much they know about the music I knew when I was growing up: classic rock, psychedelic music, jazz and heavy metal, as well as blues,” he said.
A lifelong music enthusiast, Ohm had built a substantial record collection before selling many of his albums at one point. Eventually, he decided to start restocking, and that led to his dabbling in sales even before he embarked on the practicum.
“If I would get two of an album, then I would start selling the extra here,” he said of Trader Jack’s, “and now it’s grown into a pretty stable selling of a couple of hundred dollars’ worth of albums every Sunday.”
That approximate total fluctuates, of course, depending on factors such as the weather and the scheduling of Pittsburgh Steelers games. Ohm is compiling all of the applicable data for his practicum report, which also will contain information about another facet of his project: distributing free face masks.
“I’m trying to encourage safety and also keep my place safe, too,” he said. “You don’t want people coughing on the records.”