There was never a plan for a vinyl pressing plant.
But in 2015, when Jack White’s Third Man Records launched its second retail store, in Detroit’s historic Cass Corridor, the opportunity was prime. “We wanted to make a big dent,” says Third Man co-founder Ben Blackwell, also White’s nephew. Everything changed once Detroit entered the picture, six years after the opening of the label’s Nashville flagship. That November, at a private opening reception for family and friends on Thanksgiving night, guests mingled in a sprawling 10,000-square-foot warehouse space with a bumblebee-yellow-glossed floor at the back of the new retail store. It was empty, except for a banner strung up that read: “Coming soon! The Third Man Vinyl Pressing Plant.” On Saturday, Third Man Pressing finally opens for business. The idea got off the ground slower than anticipated. It took a year to finalize details and get the interior ready, and in November 2016, eight custom Newbilt presses arrived from Germany: two for pressing seven-inch records, six for pressing 12-inch records. “This is the first significant new influx of machines in probably 35 years, give or take,” says Blackwell.
Most plants operate on old automated machinery, which is sent from one plant to another if one closes. But these eight presses – trademark Third Man yellow, of course – are manually operated, which has created a fully-staffed shift with 16 manufacturing jobs in a city that was built on manufacturing. The goal is to eventually staff three shifts, bringing the total to roughly 50 new hires with customer service and shipping; by comparison, Third Man’s Nashville store has a staff of about 30.