Easy Street Records, an independent West Seattle retailer since 1988, announced they are closing down a second location in Queen Anne in January. The West Seattle location will continue to operate.
Easy Street Records to close Queen Anne store
West Seattle location continues on; Yo La Tengo will play final in-store Jan 18 & auction will follow on Jan. 19
A staple of West Seattle’s retail Junction core since 1988, Easy Street Records rang in the New Year with sad news for audiophiles to the north: their Queen Anne store will close in January after 12 years in operation.
Easy Street owner Matt Vaughan relayed the news in a website post on Jan. 2, stating the store’s last day will be Jan. 18, 2013.
“It’s with a heavy heart that we have to say goodbye to our beloved Queen Anne neighborhood,” he wrote. “Thanks to you, 2012 was one of our better years. We posted some good sales numbers and hosted some amazing events. We have been at this location for 12 years. We did not want to close.”
Fans of the West Seattle record store and Easy Street Café can rest easy: Vaughan said they recently signed a new 15-year lease on the Alaska Junction location at 4559 California Ave S.W.
Vaughan wrote that the Queen Anne store’s current 10-year lease came to an end a few years back and they were able to extend their stay with short-term agreements. Looking at the prospect of new 10-year lease with higher rates, they decided against resigning.
“We felt this might be risky, particularly with the current economic landscape of retail and some changes that had affected the neighborhood,” Vaughan wrote. “Furthermore, the rent that the landlord was looking for was significantly more than what we had been paying.”
Easy Street Records, known for selling a wide variety of used and new music and hosting free shows for up-and-coming Northwest artists, was recognized as King County’s Small Business of the Year in 2012. Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn also recognized the independent retailer and named Dec. 20 Easy Street Records Day.
“Easy Street Records embodies the diverse musical styles that Seattle produces and is an essential part of the community in the way they spread and promote Northwest Music,” McGinn said in the November announcement.
In response to the honor, Vaughan was quoted by the city as saying, “We’re going to support anything that has to do with music and promoting the arts in Seattle. That’s our responsibility. As a small business owner, it is gratifying to see that Seattle folks tend to understand that by supporting small business, they are in effect recycling monies right back into their economy and effectively, right back into their local community.”
While Queen Anne loses the chance to support an independent retailer and keep their coins local (Vaughan said the new tenant will be a Chase Bank), West Seattle’s opportunity to do just that remains.
As Easy Street Record’s website proclaims, “Downloads don’t come with fries,” encouraging music lovers to put down their iPods and head to the brick and mortar shop to thumb through rare vinyl and the latest releases (with greasy fingers).
In a conversation with the West Seattle Herald Vaughn offered more details about the upcoming changes.
"I've been on the go for 25 plus years and I'm proud of what we accomplished at Queen Anne. It did better than I anticipated."
They have yet to make a determination regarding employees but Vaughn indicated that there might be room for a few "long term" people to work in the existing West Seattle location and "there might be opportunities down the road to keep a good majority of the staff," though he did not explain further.
The closure did not come "as a big surprise," Vaughn said since he was on a year to year lease and he did conduct searches of other Seattle neighborhoods (even checking locations in New York and Los Angeles) but in the end could not find a suitable spot. He also got married and had children during the 12 year run on Queen Anne.
"You reach a point where you have to evaluate your own personal life too," he said. "It's not like I have any partners or we're part of some franchise group (...) it's just really local and independent, and with that my time was limited."
They are planning on a celebration for the closure and an auction of memorabilia from the store. The closing party on January 18 will feature the final "in-store" with "one of the greatest indie bands of all time: Yo La Tengo."
On January 19 the public auction will be held. "There are a lot of items that people had seen over all these years and they may want some of those." Some will also be transported to the West Seattle location for display. "We'd prefer to sell them to our customers and give them away in the end than selling them on Ebay or throwing them away."
Vaughn concluded, "This only means good things for West Seattle. That's my baby and I've been there 25 years, it's where I live. There was a period there where I had to choose between the two. Fortunately we were able to negotiate a fair lease and a long term lease."