Memories That Will Stay with Me Like a Thousand Locked Grooves

Easy Street Records Gets Chased Out of Lower Queen Anne

Memories That Will Stay with Me Like a Thousand Locked Grooves

mike force

Easy Street Records' Queen Anne store is closing January 18 after nearly 12 years at First and Mercer, with Chase Bank replacing it. Owner Matt Vaughan cited an untenable long-term lease offer and rent hike as reasons, despite a great 2012, which included increased sales, being named King County's small business of the year, and earning an award from Mayor Mike McGinn. Dabbing our tears, we asked several Easy Street employees to memorialize the indie music retailer, which had become an excellent all-things-to-all-people shop in an era of niche record emporia.

TROY NELSON (local consignment buyer, 2001—2013)

Best thing about working at Easy Street QA?Being around so much music and so many people who knew so much about music. It's where I met my girlfriend and bandmate Mackenzie [Mercer]. It's also where I met Rachel Ratner, who was responsible for me getting on the air at KEXP. Everything I do in my life stemmed from me getting a job at Easy Street. Also, of course, the lifelong friends I've met there. Since I've been there from the beginning, I've met everyemployee who has worked at the Queen Anne location. There has been the most eclectic cast of characters; it boggles my mind. And they all have shaped me in one way or another. I owe a lot of my adult life to that store.

How do you feel about the store closing?I feel sad. This has been my second home for so long, but I guess it's time for change. I'm glad the West Seattle store will remain, and it will continue to thrive. It truly is one of the greatest record stores in the US. [Easy Street] changed my life. I'm grateful for having the opportunity to work here and to make some lifelong friends. It's really like a family, and that will never change.

ERIN GILL (floor associate/store manager/advertising/marketing manager, 2001—2006)

Best thing about working there? The staff. I worked with the most creative, involved, interesting, unique weirdos in this entire city.

Worst thing about working there? The... music. Everything starts to sound the same; you start comparing this artist to that artist. You just get burned out and you lose your passion. But it's your job to know [what's happening] and talk shop.

Best in-store performance? My favorite in-store happened when Matt Vaughan was away. The crew that day decided to host a surprise in-store with the then-local duo Casy & Brian. It was spur of the moment, loud, fun, just good old rock 'n' roll!

Craziest or strangest customer encounter? [We] experienced every single record store movie cliché imaginable, thanks to the customers. We had a regular who we named Mr. Licky. Mr. Licky never bothered a single person, he would stroll the aisles randomly, I think, just licking wrapped CDs. We had a huge Johnny Cash billboard mounted on the wall. One customer decided it was his shrine. He would come in and pretty much worship it regularly. Once, a younger lady requested to use the bathroom; one hour later, she exited the bathroom with a new haircut. Empire Records much?

How do you feel about the store closing? Is it normal to get teary-eyed over the closing of a record store? I feel like I helped raise [Easy Street]. I made friends for life there.

JODY MCKANE (various positions/vinyl buyer, 2004—2008)

Best thing about working there? Obviously, the records. Feeding the vinyl habits of myself, my coworkers, and our clientele. Large collections of records were constantly coming in off the streets, and after they were purchased, it was very satisfying to know what kind of records everyone was looking for so I could pull a piece aside and surprise somebody with a platter they'd been looking for. That being said, the community was a very close second—both the record-buying public and all the extremely talented and creative people I worked with.

Worst thing about working there? Having to hear Pearl Jam on a hangover. Nothing personal, fellas.

Best in-store performance? Matmos! It was an improvised electronic set that I recorded on a Fisher-Price tape deck. One of the finest cassettes in my stash.

How do you feel about the store closing? Extremely sad. I've experienced so much joy and pain within those walls and surrounded by those people. My memories of that store will stay with me like a thousand locked grooves.

RACHEL RATNER (clerk, 2003—2005)

Best thing about working there? All of the rad coworkers. I learned more about music there than anywhere else.

Worst thing about working there? That I spent all my paycheck on records.

Best in-store performance? Joanna Newsom and John Doe.

Craziest or strangest customer encounter? There were all kinds of characters that would come in to try and sell music and DVDs. One was nicknamed Dr. Teeth because he apparently performed a little self- dentistry while in jail. You could always count on him for trying to sell four unopened copies of Shrek 2.

How do you feel about the store closing? It's a huge loss to the city. Easy Street was a great place for both the casual music fan and the hardcore record nerd to find whatever they were looking for. They were instrumental in supporting up-and-coming artists and local musicians.

BOB MAJOR (store manager for nine years, began as operations manager in 2002 at Easy Street West Seattle)

Best thing about working there? Besides the constant access and exposure to great music, for me personally it was the in-stores. It's a pretty cool thing to have developing or established artists drop in and play for free. In addition to managing the QA store, it was a main part of my job to coordinate every in-store. I promoted and hosted hundreds of free performances there... It gave such great exposure to new music or new talent to customers that many folks always left with a purchased copy of whatever album was being promoted... Sure, in-stores are common all over, but nothing beats the stage setup at the Queen Anne store. That garage door just worked so well in keeping with the "street" theme of the overall store, and it's unlike anywhere else.

Worst thing about working there? Shoplifters, probably.

Best in-store performance? I can never narrow it down to one. We've had Frank Black and John Doe in several times, which always made my day. Great to have local acts like Cave Singers, Pickwick, or the Moondoggies trying out new material in the store. There certainly were a few packed shows where there was literally no more room to walk in... Those were great times, where everyone was so respectfully quiet, you could hear a pin drop—like when Jim James of My Morning Jacket or Lou Reed and Patti Smith were in the store. Having Dick Dale or Wanda Jackson come in and remind everyone how it's done.

Craziest or strangest customer encounter? I'm not gonna rip on any crazy customers, but I will say that the worst in-store was Lady Sovereign. She was so ungrateful to the core of whatever fan base she had that showed up. The label went all-out, too, paying to have the garage door painted to promote her new album. She had her DJ warm up the crowd, came on and kinda limped through a song or so, and then just said, "Yeah, I'm not feeling it," and dropped the mic. Not before she managed to create a clusterfuck by telling the crowd that she'd put everyone down on the guest list for her show later at the Crocodile. I was beyond pissed off at her little snit and temper tantrum. A video of the meltdown made the more popular blogs the next day.

How do you feel about the store closing? Heartbroken. It was a huge part of my life, and I was fortunate enough to be part of such a great piece of Seattle's music community. Easy Street Records will live on for sure, with the West Seattle store being such an institution and landmark, but the QA store held its own and had a great run. The Lower Queen Anne community will be without another great record store and that's a shame. It's gonna be a sad day when the red star and green Easy Street neon atop the store comes down and that marquee spins no more. recommended

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Comments (19) RSS

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who cares...
Posted by cata on January 16, 2013 at 10:57 AM · Report this
Trent Moorman 2
A beautiful place this was. I will miss it so.
Posted by Trent Moorman on January 16, 2013 at 11:57 AM · Report this
bunnypuncher 3
My first apartment (and still the place I've lived longest) was a couple blocks from Easy Street, and I specifically moved there because of the store (and the Sonics). It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say most of my record collection came from there. So many former employees are still friends to this day.

Literally no reason to live here anymore.
Posted by bunnypuncher on January 16, 2013 at 12:25 PM · Report this
diminished 4
i wish they had mentioned the fact that easy street west seattle (original store) is still open and will stay that way for the next decade! the queen anne store has always felt too big, too impersonal for me.
Posted by diminished on January 16, 2013 at 1:01 PM · Report this
@4 Click on the related articles link above for an interview with ES owner Matt Vaughan.
Posted by Dave Segal on January 16, 2013 at 2:30 PM · Report this
@4 Also see comments by Troy Nelson and Bob Major.
Posted by Dave Segal on January 16, 2013 at 3:22 PM · Report this
Roma 7
Owner Matt Vaughan cited an untenable long-term lease offer and rent hike as reasons, despite a great 2012, which included increased sales...

I love this store and was sad to hear about the closing. When I first heard about it, I presumed it was because of poor sales because, almost everytime I've been in the store the past few years, there were very few people in it (compared to years before that.) So it's too bad to hear that the sales were fine but it's the lease and rent that are forcing them to close their doors.

And to be replaced by, of all things, another bank. Oh well, welcome to the new Seattle.
Posted by Roma on January 16, 2013 at 6:14 PM · Report this
Sea Otter 8
Last time I was in Seattle I visited this place and bought a couple of records, because I had a premonition that it might not be there much longer. (Glad I did now.) I talked to a staff member about the kind of music I was into, and he came up with some suggestions for other music I might like, because real record store staff are awesome that way.

My best wishes to the store's owner and staff.
Posted by Sea Otter on January 17, 2013 at 9:21 PM · Report this
They'll find a new storefront for it.

No way are they letting all that business go down the street to Silver Platters.
Posted by Lack Thereof on January 18, 2013 at 2:40 PM · Report this
biffp 10
Fun show tonight
Posted by biffp on January 18, 2013 at 10:08 PM · Report this
One solution is for cities to develop city owned commercial spaces rented out to small business at cost.

I presently live in NYC and NYC has some rent controlled apartments, but not for commercial spaces, and the problem is even worse in NYC, big corporate places constantly taking over nice quirky businesses and making most of Manhattan (and now parts of Brooklyn) like a suburban mall.

I also have properties I rent out as a side business, and I am not in favor of locking landlords into money-losing rent controlled situations. That sucks too. Much better for a % of the housing AND commercial space to be bought out at market prices as a public good using tax money, then maintained and re-let at cost to local middle class residents and small locally-owned businesses. That way landlords don't get screwed, and cities still get the quirky mix of people and businesses that makes them great places to live and invest.
Posted by delta35 on January 19, 2013 at 4:01 PM · Report this
Chase Bank can eat a moldy dick.
Posted by madcap on January 20, 2013 at 12:17 AM · Report this
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julie russell 14
beautifully done. Also, love the 13th Floor nod. Sad to see this store closing
Posted by julie russell http:// on January 20, 2013 at 9:43 AM · Report this
Very sad about this. When in town I and a friend stayed twice at the Inn at Queen Anne right down the block, and we loved shopping here (and of course, the W Seattle location). It adds such a great vibe to the neighborhood, and who doesn't love that rotating sign? Very sad to this this place go. Sniff.

Posted by Velvetbabe on January 20, 2013 at 12:43 PM · Report this
funnylittlemunki 16
This can only mean two things… too many of you lazy bastards are still banking with mega-banks, and we're not supporting our community businesses enough. This is truly a dark day.
Posted by funnylittlemunki on January 21, 2013 at 3:43 PM · Report this
Every time i go to Decibel, I always stayed in one of the hotels close to the Space Needle, just to be close to that store and go back and forth with records. It was truly a great place to buy music related items as well. And also it was a place that you could find the music from our label Static Discos. Is Wall of Sound still open?
Posted by ejival on January 22, 2013 at 4:37 PM · Report this
Wall of sounds on capitol hill. Easy street was the only store with a dynamic array of genres.there was always at least a couple staff members to represent each genre of music,especially.for.vinyl.silver a joke,and completely.generic.the only shop left is everyday music,but the staff lacks enthusiasm for the space,;+the selection of new music.lacks.depth/ESP.img the electronic dept. Anyways the staff at easy street truly loved what they were.doing or found a way through networking to make it an enjoyable experience. Thanks to you all !,unfortunately the west Seattle store doesn't compare....

Posted by refugei on January 22, 2013 at 9:20 PM · Report this
Ejival: Wall Of Sound is still open.
Posted by Dave Segal on January 23, 2013 at 3:18 PM · Report this

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