The Grammy winner, 30, recently reached out to Grimey’s New and Preloved Music, a small business music shop co-owned by Doyle Davis and Mike Grimes, and provided them with financial relief to directly pay their employees’ salaries, along with three months of healthcare.
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Over the last week, Swift has also been giving fans who are impacted by the health crisis $3,000 each to help with bills and rent.
PEOPLE caught up with Davis, 55, who first opened up to Rolling Stone about just how tight things had gotten before Swift’s donation.
“It’s a massive relief. It’s peace of mind to me,” he says. “The thing I’m worried most about in all of this is my people, to be perfectly honest with you. What Taylor [Swift] did was she reached out with help, with relief that went directly to the people.”
Davis says he’s had to make some difficult decisions as social distancing and a safer at home order issued by Nashville mayor John Cooper have caused the business to cease in-person shopping until further notice.
“We’ve let all our part-timers go completely. I’ve committed to my full-timers because they’re the most committed to me, and I’ve got part-timers that I wish were full-timers but they do other things … that make them more money,” he says about his decision-making. “They keep this job because it’s fun and they really love it. So I appreciate that, but I can’t really guarantee that person hours when they’re not one of the people that relies on me for their whole income — those are the people I’m most worried about.”
Davis joined co-owner Grimes in an official partnership in January 2003 after more than a decade of friendship and just a few years after Grimey’s New and Preloved Music opened its doors in December 1999. After recently celebrating a momentous 20 years in business, Davis worries about the shop’s future amid the crisis, and even beyond.
“I’d like to say it’s temporary, but I don’t think that’s realistic,” he explains. “We’re in a depression — well, we’re certainly hurtling towards one, so even if we’re able to operate on the other side, I don’t know what the demand is going to be with customers.”
Davis says he’s been hearing from customers who became interested in supporting the small business after they learned that its doors are temporarily closed. He’s hopeful that the influx of headlines, emails and social media responses will ultimately lead to a spike in sales when the beloved shop reopens.
“People are really missing being able to come shop here and come to our events [or] see a show in the store, so I know there will be some pent-up demand,” he says cautiously. “But I don’t know what the reality on the ground is going to be for operating.”
Davis currently has about 10 staffers with some five additional floaters, so Swift’s generosity has benefited quite a number of people.
“It was a one-time payment — my employees already got the check,” Davis tells PEOPLE. “Printed them out yesterday, and most of them got them today. Nobody’s gotten their first unemployment check yet, and we don’t know when we’re gonna receive a check from the government, so this just gives them something right now. It’s huge. I got my check, too. My wife [Erin] brought it back today and said, ‘I think this is your paycheck!’”
What led Swift to donate to Grimey’s seems like a simple case of the law of attraction. Grimes says in past years he’s tried to host events with Swift with no luck, but his store manager Anna Lundy remained hopeful. “She would always say throughout the years, ‘Some day, if we keep doing these in stores and we keep getting more and more big artists in here, some day maybe we’ll get Taylor.’”
While the store is not technically a family owned business, Davis and his team have essentially become family over the past two decades.
“It’s always been a very family oriented business, and I can’t imagine doing anything else. I feel like I’ve gotta do everything I can to save it,” he tells PEOPLE. “So any help somebody gives me is amazing, especially an angel out of the blue.”
Before Swift’s aid, Davis tells PEOPLE he received assistance from David Macias, the CEO of record label Thirty Tigers, who first wrote him a check and challenged other local Nashville labels to do the same. Davis says he was able to pay his employees for their final shifts using the money from Macias.
“We’re all Taylor Swift fans now, let me tell you,” says Davis, adding that one of his friends began listening to her album 1989 after learning of her donation. “Maybe some day we’ll have a Taylor Swift event some time in the future. We have already stocked her records. I don’t know what else I can do to pay her back. It’s just amazing, and I saw that she’s just been gifting people on social media that are struggling. What an angel, it’s amazing. They need to make her ambassador of Record Store Day next year.”
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Grimey’s New and Preloved Music has served celebrity guests including Kesha, Jack White, Jason Isbell, Emmylou Harris, John Prine and Robert Plant. Davis says Swift’s publicist even confirmed that she’s bought records from the store before.
Davis is hopeful that his small business will withstand the economic plummet caused by the coronavirus outbreak, and urges people to continue supporting them.
Says the store owner: “Record stores are still extremely vital and robust community cultural centers in every town that has them. The idea that [our store] was something Taylor Swift wanted to help just blows my mind.”
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