Although I’ve been listening to music since I can remember, and buying records since I was about three, for the most part from that time until my teen years, I purchased records in regular stores. There was a large bin for records at a number of local stores when I was growing up in Ohio – Ben Franklin in Utica, Twin Fair and Seaway in Newark, Kings and Arro in Heath, and others. And while I went to a few stores devoted to records as a child, including one in Tacoma WA that I can’t remember the name of (though I remember the clerks faces, go figure), my true haven was a little mom-and-pop owned record store in Spokane, Washington. It was called “The Music Box“, and was a bit of a hike from the downtown shopping area that had been revitalized by Expo ’74. Eventually, they’d extend the skybridges through the local buildings to the Music Box‘s block. But usually it meant going through the bridges to Pay N Save, then going down the stairs and walking the remaining two blocks to the store. When we came to town a couple times a year from Harrington, where I lived (50 miles southwest), The Music Box was the first place I headed with the list of records I wanted.
I loved this place. It was small and homey, had a few bins for albums, and they kept the 45s behind the counter in a rack where they were sorted by record label. You went to the counter, worked with the always friendly ladies that worked there going through Billboard’s Hot 100, and they pulled what you wanted out and gave it to you. If they had it, it was yours for 99 cents. And if they didn’t have it, they could special order it for you using the old Phonolog catalog. I mean, you could do the same at Odyssey Records, a large chain store down the street a few blocks. But it wasn’t the same homey feel.
The Music Box also took mail order and would even ship them to you for $3.00. But usually I would send them a list of stuff, and then a few days later, I’d get a list back showing me what was being held, what wasn’t available, and what they’d special ordered for me. And I would write them back and let them know when I would be in, and would stop by and pick up the lot. They were very cool.
And then it was over.
Without a word to any of their loyal customers, they suddenly closed up shop, not long after the skybridge to their area was completed. It was Summer 1980 (I think), and they simply couldn’t compete with the local chain stores anymore. I mean, with records and tapes available from at least 6 stores in the Skywalk network (Penneys, The Crescent, The Bon Marche, Pay N Save, and two other stores), it was hard for them to compete. So after nearly 40 years of service to the Spokane area, they were gone. Poof. And I found out the hard way – my latest order list was returned to me as undeliverable. Even Odyssey had gone bankrupt by this time – they went belly up in December 1979, which I found out when we were on our way back home from Disneyland, and I trekked up the street from the bus station to it’s location in Fresno, CA only to find an “out of business” sign in their window.
Now, I WAS driving by this point, but our car had fallen apart at the end of the previous summer after I’d had a semi-major accident (thankfully neither I nor my passenger were injured). So I depended on the Greyhound to get me to and from Spokane, and so couldn’t make it up there very often. When I had the car, I had a number of other record stores I could get to, such as DJ’s Records and Tapes in Northtown’s new “mini-mall” area, and Eucalyptus Records and Tapes down the street. But they were out of my way once the car crapped out; no real way to get to them. And I missed my Music Box anyway…it was an experience I will never forget. It has always been my FAVORITE record store of any kind. Some others have come close, but NONE ever gave the personal service that they did, and I will always be in their debt for making me the collector I have become.