by Mike Corrigan

Independent RECORD STORES are some of my favorite places in the whole world. ("Record store" sounds so much better than "CD store" doesn't it? Even if there's not so much as a molecule of vinyl in the entire place.) I can (and have been known to) spend many consecutive hours within those hallowed halls, surrounded by the music I love in neatly packaged formats and the people whose job it is to spread (and, of course, hawk) the love.

As the last-minute pre-Christmas buying frenzy intensifies, I thought it appropriate to use this space to sing the praises of the region's local independent record stores that somehow manage to thrive (or at least survive) in an retail world dominated by mega-chain entertainment and electronic retailers.

So here's to the little guy -- the guy who knows something about music, the guy with roots in the community and whose profits (slight as they may be) stay right here in the Inland Northwest economy.

Little Nell's, 711 N. Monroe

Nell's has been around and at the same location for as long as I can remember. Here you'll find current stuff and oldies at bargain prices on records, tapes and CDs, too. There's a good selection of rare LPs and 45s for the vinyl connoisseur, Elvis and Beatles memorabilia for the rock 'n' roll collector and a knowledgeable staff to answer your most confounding questions.

Amber's, 21 N. Skipworth

In the Spokane Valley, Amber's is an institution and a destination for vinyl hounds looking for anything from Carl Perkins to the 1910 Fruit Gum Company to the Ramones. Once purely a LP and 45 haven, the store now carries a good selection of new and used CDs as well. It's always been the toughest record store in town to find. But it's worth it.

Ray's Video Station, 430 E. Sprague

Yes, Ray's has music, too -- mostly rock and pop. The place has changed a little since opening in 1987. It's moved a couple times (from North Division to the Garland district to its present home in the old Volkswagen dealership on Sprague just east of Division). In the video section, DVDs have replaced most of the VHS tapes and laser discs. What hasn't changed is the personal attention to customer satisfaction that has garnered owner Ray Spanjer so many loyal followers. Ray's is also famous for great, frequent and seemingly random sales.

Recorded Memories, 1902 N. Hamilton

Richard Terzieff is probably Spokane's most notorious and devoted Kiss fan. He also runs a tight ship over at his small Hamilton record store just north of Indiana (he's owned the place since 1990). Vast amounts of used import and domestic records, tapes and CDs await you. There's a decent new CD selection, too. And Terzieff will happily special order anything your twisted little heart desires -- and get it into your hands quickly.

4,000 Holes, 1502 N. Monroe

What can I say that I haven't said before? This is a full-service, rock music record store, mates, sporting everything from the latest indie and major releases on CD to the classics on vinyl. There's a massive used CD section, too (where deals are given for buying in bulk). Owner Bob Gallagher knows rock 'n' roll and loves to gab (don't even get him going on the Beatles unless you're prepared). And, as always, special orders are very welcome.

Long Ear, 2405 N. 4th, Cd'A

Doing a little shopping in Coeur d'Alene? A visit to Terry and Deon Borchard's home-brewed music store, the Long Ear, is mandatory. Why? Well, a great selection of new independent and mainstream rock, pop, jazz, blues, new age, you-name-it on the inexpensive side, for starters. Add to that multiple listening stations, used CDs galore and a friendly, knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff, and you've got a store where you can easily kill an afternoon -- and walk out with an armload of tuneful goodies.

Unified Groove Merchants, 608 W. Garland

Owners Dennis Gagaoin and Chris Cummings have dubbed their store in the Garland District "Spokane's only DJ music store." They specialize in 12-inch vinyl copies of the latest house, trance, hip-hop, industrial and R & amp;B. They also sell used turntables, mixers and PA gear. But there's plenty of good old reggae, rock steady, soul, P-Funk, blues and jazz in the record bins as well, a small but very worthy selection of new rock, indie, hip-hop, jazz and blues CDs and a well-organized used CD section in the back.

Boo Radley's, 232 N. Howard

Spokane's favorite gift shop isn't really a record store; nevertheless, owner Andy Dinnison has devoted one little corner of the store to a neatly displayed, small but quality selection of punk, emo, alt country, indie rock and just plain odd CDs. It's definitely worth a look. Oh, and Boo Radley's just won a national award for its eclectic mix of items -- so check it out.

Tahj's Music, 506 W. First Ave.

A new kid on the block, Tahj's is your downtown connection for new and used hip-hop, reggae, R & amp;B and jazz. There's a fair selection of rock, punk, metal and pop, too. Owner Todd Harding opened the store on the ground floor of the Ridpath Hotel (on the north side of First Ave.) in September. He specializes in low (sometimes negotiable) prices and speedy special orders. (Tahj's Music will be closed Dec. 22- Jan. 7.)

If we missed anybody, let us know and we'll include the shop in an upcoming issue. E-mail:

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