A good hour before the doors open, people are waiting in line. They're here in April at the Long Ear in Coeur d'Alene, trying to score some of the hottest titles at this year's Record Store Day — an annual holiday for some audiophiles, when national artists offer up exclusive, rare and previously unreleased tracks. These are the folks ready to dig for what they want, either to keep or sell online for profit. As the doors open, the masses pile in.
Records haven't always been so popular; CDs were all the rage. But about a decade ago, vinyl sales began to grow steadily. According to Nielsen's 2015 U.S. Music Year-End Report, record sales have risen another whopping 30 percent over the past year, with nearly 12 million units moved. What's even more thrilling is that vinyl is keeping independent record stores in business, with 45 percent of all sales occurring at small brick-and-mortar shops, not online.
For nine years, Record Store Day has helped guide this trend, bringing big lines of music fans. It's certainly helped established local music stores like 4,000 Holes and Recorded Memories stay open, and given other vinyl entrepreneurs the confidence to start Spokane shops like downtown's Garageland (also a restaurant and bar) and Groove Merchants in the Garland District.
Charley Berryhill of Ramblin' Records & Vintage, a local pop-up record store, is one of the many who started collecting about 10 years ago. A kid in the 1980s, he says there's a novelty to playing albums again. It was his first musical medium, after all.
"Album covers and band names are interesting, and that's what it is. It's the tangible aspect of it. MP3s, you can't touch and feel," said Berryhill before his first showing in April. "You don't just hand people your phone to look through your collection; instead, it's a conversation piece that people can identify you with."
The Long Ear's Deon Borchard, who has owned the business with husband Terry since 1973, first in California and then Idaho, is glad to be able to up her in-store record supply these days, including a whole new aisle of titles and even record players. Music fans can't seem to get enough of the old format.
"We've missed vinyl, it's a different entity," said Borchard in February, when her store moved from downtown Coeur d'Alene to Government Way. "Back in the '80s we were getting rid of so much of our vinyl supply. Now, I of course wish we'd held on to it."
4,000 Holes Bob Gallagher loves the Beatles so much, he named his record store after a line in the band's hit song "A Day in the Life" when he opened his doors more than 27 years ago. And while 4,000 Holes stocks new and used records of all genres, the Monroe shop certainly has a strong Beatles vibe. 1610 N. Monroe St., Spokane, Wash. • 325-1914
Garageland Established in fall 2015, Garageland is the swanky new kid on the Spokane record-store block. If you're someone who can flip through records long enough to need a meal break halfway through, this is the place for you. The record store/bar/restaurant combo is the best of every world — stop by for some Bowie and some brunch. 230 W. Riverside Ave., Spokane, Wash. • 315-8324
Groove Merchants Groove Merchants owner David Thoren set up shop in the Garland District in 2014, and he's been outfitting a steady stream of Spokanites with vintage turntables and LPs ever since. The shop is complete with a listening station and rolling chairs so customers can get comfy while flipping through records, including thousands of $5 budget records. 905 W. Garland Ave., Spokane, Wash. • 328-2327
The Long Ear Though its owners got their start in California in 1973, the Long Ear has been buying and selling new and used CDs, vinyl and cassettes in Coeur d'Alene since 1985. In early 2016, they upgraded to a new, larger location on Government Way, so customers (and the store cat, Boots) have more room to roam. The store has also increased its inventory of clothing, jewelry, incense, hookahs and tapestries. 1620 N. Government Way, Coeur d'Alene, Idaho • 208-765-3472
Pirate Traders Whether you're looking to make music or listen to it, Pirate Traders is the Valley's go-to for vinyl, collectibles and musical equipment. In addition to a wide selection of CDs and records, the store's "booty" includes guitars, amps, speakers and restored record players. 12415 E. First Ave., Spokane Valley, Wash. • 276-0569
Recorded Memories With more than 10,000 CDs and records and a convenient location on Hamilton, Recorded Memories is a hot spot for local vinyl enthusiasts (and all of the hipster Zag freshmen who brought record players to college). If they don't have what you're looking for, they'll hunt it down and order it for you. 1902 N. Hamilton St., Spokane, Wash. • 483-4753