Hans Fluegel and Tyler Mitchell's sincere love of record-store lyfe in plague-ridden 2021 may strike some as quaint or foolish, but these veterans of Capitol Hill's late, lamented Everyday Music don't have time for your cynicism or streaming-data talking points. They're too busy building out a small corner spot at 2 W. Roy St. and Queen Anne Ave N., which was formerly occupied by Counterbalance Bicycles. The owners of Almost Everyday Music are aiming for a Labor Day weekend opening.
A visit to the location on August 9 revealed an electrician wiring up the joint and not much in place besides a back office holding some DVDs and directors' name cards that would provoke nods of approval from Scarecrow Video's staff. Yes, much work needs to be accomplished in the next few weeks. Nevertheless, Fluegel and Mitchell are confident they'll meet their goal.
The pair's other ambition is to make Almost Everyday Music a cornerstone of Queen Anne's cultural landscape. Tragically, the neighborhood practically has become a record-store desert, with only Light in the Attic's tiny (but excellent) shop in KEXP's Gathering Space peddling recorded music in the shadow of the Space Needle. Not that long ago, Queen Anne abounded with high-quality music-retail options: Easy Street, Tower, Silver Platters, Underdawg. AEM's proprietors hope their shop becomes part of Queen Anne's rich mosaic of arts-oriented businesses and organizations. Mitchell and Fluegel (the latter of whom also hosts a weekly show on KEXP on Wednesday nights) selected their location primarily because they think the neighborhood needs another record store.
“There's so much happening here arts-wise, with Seattle Center, the theaters, everything else...” Fluegel says. “[We] want to be one more piece of that puzzle that's been missing all this time.” Mitchell adds, “I've been saying this since I started [working in music retail]: A rising tide lifts all ships. We're excited to have Light in the Attic Records as our neighbor.”
“We drop in there at least once a week,” Fluegel says. “I love what [manager Brad Tilbe] does with the size of the store he's got. In Capitol Hill, it was great to have Zion's Gate around the corner, Wall of Sound up the street, Spin Cycle down the street... just this community. We'll open this and maybe another one will come. Who knows?”
The main difference between Everyday Music—where Fluegel and Mitchell worked for 16 and eight years, respectively—and Almost Everyday Music is size: The latter has about 750 square feet of retail space, one-tenth that of the former. Obviously, AEM's bosses will have to be more selective than their previous employer. But the approach will remain the same, Fluegel promises. “A little bit of everything for everyone: CDs, cassettes, VHS, DVD, vinyl. Every genre [will be carried]. We hope to have the new Harry Styles, we hope to have Bleach, we hope to have whatever somebody might pop into a record store looking for at that point. And we'll do special orders.”
AEM also plans to carry accessories such as turntables, record sleeves, record brushes, and possibly tote bags. However, as a new operation, they'll initially need to build trust with distributors, a subject that irks many in the biz. “We will have to go through a variety of [small] distributors to start,” Fluegel says, “but hope to go direct with a label or local artist when we can.”
Another difference between the stores is that AEM will sell merchandise on Discogs, which Everyday never did. With Covid cases rising and the Delta variant spreading, having that online option in case there's another lockdown could be beneficial. Whatever the case, it's just sound business to tap into a customer base outside of your locale. That being said, Fluegel vows that he'll deliver records to patrons on his bicycle, if necessary. Come what may, Fluegel says, “We'll work it out. We're a couple of scrappy guys.”
Some may be wondering—what happened to the voluminous stock from the Capitol Hill Everyday Music shop? Most of it went to the chain's two Portland stores, but owner Scott Kuzma did give Fluegel and Mitchell some CDs. Thankfully, Fluegel, who just turned 45, has been purchasing and hoarding records for decades, with the idea of opening his own business always at the back of his mind. Imminently, he will begin emptying his storage space.
While vinyl's years-long “comeback” continues to boost music retailers' bottom line and AEM will certainly rely on the format, they also vow to carry many CDs. “A lot of stores are trimming those sections down,” Fluegel says. “The last couple of years at Everyday, I saw the CD kind of coming back. We would sell gobs of them for 99 cents but people are willing to buy a whole stack of $5 CDs. The price point has surely changed as the price point for vinyl has, but the dedication of the CD customer is definitely still there... I don't think the CD is dead yet. A lot of folks do, but I think it has some longevity.
I could not have predicted the cassette comeback. People are just passionate about music. Whatever format they're comfortable with, they're looking for that. For a while at Everyday, we had to start charging 25-50 cents, a dollar at most for cassettes, because it just died. Toward the end, some customers were like, '$6 for a Fleetwood Mac cassette? Sure, I'll pay that.' Three years previous, it would've been a dollar. DVDs, with streaming, it's totally different. We've worked with [the format] for years and understand how that works. VHS, as well, is a niche thing, but the people who love it love it.”
“You go to any record store, and DVDs are usually in understock or in a small crate to the side,” Mitchell says. “The wall of DVDs was very prominent at [Everyday]. We're going to try to adapt that to this space. You can see all the directors' cards we have going up now,” he says, gesturing behind him.
It's hard not to get swept up by Fluegel and Mitchell's optimism about their prospects and Queen Anne's vitality. They note that with the Climate Pledge Arena opening, KEXP's Gathering Space returning, and Mercer Street Books a block away, it could increase traffic toward AEM. “It's just more pieces of this lower Queen Anne arts community that I look forward to being a part of,” Fluegel says.
Mitchell says that AEM plans to host in-store performances by bands and DJs to foster community, as did Everyday with some success. Then he gets a bit more somber. “Part of my idea of what this store is about is paying tribute to our late former coworker Elijah [Nelson, bassist for death-metal band Black Breath, who died in late 2019]—making it a space that he would think would be rad. The mural we're working on for the side of the building is a tribute to him. He made a lot of signage [for Everyday Music] over the years that we want to try to re-incorporate. He was the heart and soul of that store and he's still going to be the heart and soul of this store.”
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