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Seattle record store marks 44 years in the resurgence of vinyl

With a collection of 500,000 records, some dating back to the 1910s, 12-foot ladders lining the shelves, and a store owner who can recite 55 classical rock artists like an auctioneer, Bop Street Records is unlike any other record store in Seattle. (Karina Mazhukhina)

SEATTLE -- With a collection of 500,000 records, some dating back to the 1910s, 12-foot ladders lining the shelves, and a store owner who can recite 55 classic rock artists like an auctioneer, Bop Street Records is unlike any other record store in Seattle.

“Dave is a maniac – in the best sense of the word,” said Miah Boyle, customer of 20 years. “I’ve never met anybody who’s more knowledgeable about a greater selection. He’s the type of person you need in a vinyl culture to really keep things going. And that’s the thing, there’s still such a vital music scene here and it’s because of people like Dave, no joke.”

Dave Voorhees, owner of Bop Street Records, is no stranger to the music retail business. He first got his start selling 45’s out of his parent’s North Seattle home back in 1974 after having uncovered 3,000 rare blues records on a trip to Texas. Five years later, he established his first retail space and in 1984 moved Bop Street Records to the heart of Ballard – where it’s been thriving for 34 years.

And it’s easy to see why. Bop Street Records has by far the largest collection in Seattle, where the average store carries 10,000 to 20,000 records. Voorhees’ staff and volunteers are knowledgeable on just about every genre, from classical and opera to music dating back from the 50’s all the way to present day. Not to mention, famous bands, including Radiohead, Pearl Jam, Questlove of the Roots, the Pogues, and Johnathan Richman have browsed Voorhees immense collection. The Wall Street Journal even named it one of the five best records stores in America.

“It’s not tough to sell records at all,” said Voorhees. “I think vinyl has just become so popular. There’s a lot of millennials who are getting into vinyl. I feel like I am getting more and more customers all the time. I get people anywhere from 13 to 75-years-old buying records.”

Voorhees looks at about 2,000 records a week, 90 percent of which arrive to his store. The other 10 percent he ventures out as far as Mount Rainer to look at extensive collections. He carries 20 different genres, over 10,000 Classical LP's, and a massive collection of 45's, 78's, 8-Track, and cassette tapes. Hundreds of titles are also available at his top-rated eBay store.

“I don’t really feel like I have any competitors,” said Voorhees. “We’re all dealing in used records, so no used record is alike. There’s enough customers to go around for everyone.”

In fact, Voorhees says there’s about 32 record stores in Seattle, five of which opened in the last year. Some of the big names that did close, like Peaches Records and Tapes, began carrying nothing but CDS when vinyl fell out of favor.

“People started losing interest,” he added. “A lot of younger people started getting their music digitally and stopped buying CD’s. I sell about 75 albums to every one CD I sell.”

Boyle couldn’t agree more.

“As luck would have it, vinyl is hip again,” she said. “There was a time I was like I just have to let go of vinyl because it’s not in anymore and it’s not a technology that will be continued. But, I really missed it and apparently so did everyone else.”

Boyle has bought dozens of records from Voorhees over the course of 20 years.

“I really do think you get a different audio experience from vinyl,” she said. “At the end of the day, when you put on an old record, there is nothing like it.”

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