Today Matt Vaughn (owner of Easy Street Records) announced that Easy Street’s Queen Anne location will be closing in just over two weeks to make way for a future branch of Chase Bank. This is terrible news for all Seattle music lovers. This Easy Street location was one of my favorite record stores throughout high school; a place where I discovered many albums that would eventually become staples of my musical diet. There was a little record shop in my hometown of Puyallup, but it was a sparse place in a strip mall lacking in character and owned by a man who didn’t seem to even enjoy music, let alone love it. That record shop was just alright, but it wasn’t a friendly place with an overwhelming selection and a knowledgeable staff who loved their jobs. It wasn’t like any of the record shops I saw in movies. It was no Empire Records or Championship Vinyl. Easy Street, on the other hand, was a REAL record store. Countless rows of product, over-sized posters everywhere, loud music blaring — it was one of a kind, and I loved it.
Back in high school, I remember when I was really excited for a new album and couldn’t wait until Tuesday to hear it, I would drive all the way from Puyallup to the Easy Street in Lower Queen Anne on Monday night. They were one of the only record stores that would stay open until midnight to sell all of Tuesday’s releases to whoever was willing to show up. The anticipation of those trips and the joy of listening to the album on the hour-long drive home is something I will truly never forget. Midnight at a record store is when only the most dedicated night owls remain, browsing the racks and waiting for the new day to begin so we can purchase an album we hope will be so great that it may just change our lives forever. We all loved music and couldn’t stand waiting around for another day to hear that special new release. We needed it right then.
I’ve been a Seattle resident for over six years and I have lived in close proximity to many other record stores — currently Sonic Boom in Ballard, formerly Cellophane Square in the U-District (RIP) — but through it all, the Queen Anne Easy Street Records remained number one with a bullet. After graduating from college, I actually moved to Queen Anne just a few blocks from Easy Street (a decision no doubt subconsciously influenced by its proximity to the store). I loved living that close to such a great record store, and especially one where I had so many great memories over the years. Things had changed a bit, and they no longer stayed open late on Mondays to sell records because that devoted midnight customer base had dwindled over the years, but I loved it nonetheless. It was a zen-like space for me, a place I could go to clear my head and wander the racks, hoping to find something but also content to leave empty-handed if the hunt turned out to be fruitless. Now those visits will also soon be reduced to memories and I must resign myself to a lifetime of long-winded, angry rants every time I pass by that Chase branch from now until the day I pass from this earth.
If you’re also saddened by this news (or saddened by the closure of your favorite neighborhood coffee shop, book store, or grocery store), please join me and remember this feeling. Hold onto it. If you’re looking for a New Year’s resolution, I humbly suggest you make a commitment to buy local whenever possible. Don’t buy a single album at Best Buy or Target in 2013. Obviously there are reasons that those stores exist (for example, if you need a DVD player or some face wash), but there is no reason to buy music from them when there are plenty of incredible locally-owned record stores here in Seattle selling the exact same products. There is a satisfaction that comes with making a purchase, helping a local business, and opening a physical product that you will never get from an iTunes download.
I don’t enjoy being preachy, but please allow me to briefly remain up on this soapbox. If we continue to let large corporations slice off bigger and bigger pieces of the economic pie, we will forever be saying goodbye to our favorite independent businesses and discouraging entrepreneurs from opening new ones. I don’t want my future children to grow up in a world where independent record stores don’t exist, every coffee shop is a Starbucks, every cheeseburger comes from McDonald’s, and the only place to rent movies is a vending machine outside Safeway. I vote against this kind of future with my wallet every chance I get, and I encourage you to do the same. The Best Buys and the Targets of the world will always be there if you need them, but today’s news is further proof that good things don’t always last, even when they should.
R.I.P. Easy Street Records, Queen Anne. You will be missed but never forgotten. See you soon in West Seattle.