The Long Ear began with love at first sight.
Deon Borchard went to an audiophile swap meet in Southern California in 1971 looking for 8-tracks by the band Spooky Tooth, but she left with much more than that.
"I was walking down an aisle on the lookout for those 8-tracks," Borchard says. "At the end of that aisle, there was this guy standing there, and he just had a spark. Everyone around him was smiling, too, like his energy was rubbing off on them."
That's all it took. "I stopped dead in my tracks," she says. "I was instantly in love."
Borchard went home that night and told her cousin that she had met the man she was going to marry, and she was right. Six months later, Deon and Terry were married.
"In that first summer we must have gone to 40 concerts together," Borchard says. "Music was so integral to our life."
So integral, in fact, that the newly married couple decided to become business partners as well. In 1973, two years after their initial meeting, they opened up the first location of the Long Ear record store in Orange County, California.
"It felt like the natural thing to do together," Borchard says. "We would go home at night and, instead of watching TV, we would listen to records together. We sat on our huge waterbed and really listened to the music. We read the liner notes as it played and then, once the record had finished, we would discuss it in depth. That's where the Long Ear was actually conceived, in those moments."
After moving to Big Bear for a few years, the couple made a final move to Coeur d'Alene in 1985 and brought the Long Ear with them. It's been a long journey, and this month Long Ear celebrates 50 years in business.
Deon and Terry agree that, despite moving around so much, their relocation to north Idaho was the best decision they ever made. Terry flew to Coeur d'Alene to look for a home to buy while simultaneously looking for a new home for their record store.
"We moved here in between phone book printings," Borchard says. "It was really hard to get the word out about a new record shop in town."
Deon, Terry and their son, Victor, hand drew advertisements and hung them at local establishments throughout Coeur d'Alene when they first arrived. Once the word got out, the Long Ear began seeing familiar faces week after week.
"The community was, and continues to be, so welcoming to the new guys in town," says Borchard.
Walking into the Long Ear is like walking through Disneyland — but for audiophiles.
On the right, they've got rows and rows of physical media. Thousands of CDs and records, used and new, nestled in wooden bins constructed by Terry himself.
Whether you're drawn to the country sounds of John Denver, the soothing sonic soup of classical music or the melancholy music of Mitski, you'll find it in the Long Ear's bins. The Borchards have a personal affinity for rock music, but they don't discriminate when it comes to what they carry in the store.
Cheers of discovery can be heard over the sound of customers rustling through bins when they find something they've been searching for. Music from decades past plays softly over the store's speaker system.
"We really try to go for that 'other room of your house' feeling," Borchard says. "The Long Ear is merely an extension of your home in that we want customers to feel comfortable and happy."
A glass case on the right-hand side of the store houses speakers, amplifiers and record players for those interested in buying from a local shop rather than a big-box store.
While the Long Ear specializes in selling music, over the past decade Deon has focused on bringing in other products. From incense burners to oven mitts, all of the merchandise gives off the same vibe: eccentric and unique.
"We've carried incense since 1973, and we still carry it to this day," she says. "But we also sell posters, tapestries, lava lamps and more fun stuff. It's important to be well-rounded in what we sell. The customers enjoy it and so do I."
With a recent resurgence of physical music collecting and annual Record Store Day events, Borchard says that communities are really starting to remember their local record stores, and they have a strong desire to come together and celebrate music.
The Long Ear started with love and continues to radiate that same feeling five decades later.
"Plain and simple, the Long Ear is a gathering place for those who love music," Borchard says. "As we reach our 50th anniversary, we realize just how blessed we are to do something we love surrounded by community, family and friends. What more could we ask for?" ♦
The Long Ear • 1620 N. Government Way, Coeur d'Alene • longear.com • 208-765-3472