Call it the ripple effect from South Lake Union and Uptown Queen Anne development: Commercial real estate prices are going up all around.
Last week’s announcement from Easy Street Records owner Matt Vaughn that he would close his lower Queen Anne store signifies another, locally owned brick dropping out of the retail mix.
The closure leaves only a handful of record stores in the city still standing, including Easy Street’s flagship store in West Seattle.
The Queen Anne scenario is par for the course: The landlord — in this case, Diamond Parking — wants more rent and a long-term lease that pushes out a business like Easy Street, already flying a proud banner for a stressed industry. The closure, Vaughn said, is not due to poor sales.
Easy Street’s move into 20 Mercer St. a dozen years ago salved the wounds from the departure of Tower Books from that spot. Chase Bank will take over the space on Jan. 21, but it’s not quite the same. Easy Street was one of the neighborhood’s most creative, valued retail fronts — a record store that, for each square foot, was as good as it gets.
It was a fun place to browse.
Employees were hip without attitude: Older folks could buy anything from easy-listening schmaltz to polka, with nary a raised eyebrow from the other side of the counter.
Early on, the music store established itself as different, bringing in acts like Jack Johnson and Elvis Costello to play intimate sets that were free and open to the public.
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn declared last Dec. 20 Easy Street Records Day, recognizing the store “has embodied the diverse musical styles that Seattle produces and is an essential part of the community in the way they spread and promote Northwest music,” and “for breaking new bands out of the Northwest, and for allowing young artists to be heard promoting, selling and stocking local music of all genres.”
The business was also cited as “a place where musicians can work and be supported while trying to perfect their craft.”
Businesses that care about their employees as people are swimming upstream in our bottom-line-obsessed world.
As mentioned, Easy Street Records in West Seattle soldiers on, but Uptown Queen Anne will never see the likes of such a place again.
The store’s last day is Jan. 18; Easy Street will host the trio Yo La Tengo, New Jersey indie rockers loved by critics and a coterie of fans. They’re not mainstream famous, but they’re considerable talents and the perfect note for Easy Street’s final bow.