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.