The Record Exchange: As Long As There’s Music

For going on 40 years, The Record Exchange has provided the soundtrack to Boise and Treasure Valley residents’ lives. If you haven’t been in for a while or (gasp) at all, carve out some time and head to the corner of 11th and Idaho streets in downtown Boise.

CDs, vinyl, cassettes, books, DVDs, toys, high-end headphones – you want it, they’ve got it. Can’t find it? They’ll get it. I’m in the store a few times a week and I still find a surprise from time to time. The latest? A little nook tucked way up high filled with 8-track tapes. Whoa, who knew?

“My vision for The Record Exchange, from the beginning, was for the best music store I could build and also one that was a fun experience,” says owner Michael Bunnell. “We weren’t afraid to bring in gifts, books, apparel, posters, coffee…really anything our customers might get a kick out of and provide revenue to keep us alive and entertaining.”

I hadn’t even hit my teens when I began shopping there. Back then it also housed Posters Etc., which stocked a rich variety of posters, pins (remember pins?) and all sorts of funky music-related memorabilia. That plus the best record store in town made it a very special destination for a kid without a car living on the West Bench.

Through high school I spent my hard-earned money there, mostly on cassettes so I could rock out in my car. I got a new one (or two) every week, however much my $3.45/hour paycheck would allow. While in college I got to know both the owners and the staff, some of whom I still call friends. These people introduced me to music that wasn’t classic rock and wasn’t played on the radio. They taught me where to look for new music and how to stay up on it. Whenever someone tells me “there’s no good music these days,” I tell them they’re simply not paying attention.

After college I moved to the big city: first New York, then Seattle. I scoured New York looking for a “Record Exchange” and was shocked when I found nothing similar. There were plenty of chain stores; Tower had a crummy selection and felt like a department store, Virgin’s library was huge but not deep. I finally found Bleeker Street Records which was tiny and staffed by cranky employees. How could a city of eight million not have a Record Exchange?

Seattle was different – at first. Sonic Boom, Easy Street, Silver Platters – these were big, independent stores with a really good selection. The Easy Street in West Seattle even served breakfast! But as the years rolled on, one by one, they began to close up shop. Sonic Boom went from three stores to one. Easy Street and Silver Platters closed their Queen Anne locations. By the time I left, there was no Record Exchange.

“We’re very proud to be an independent music store — and more — that is alive and well in downtown Boise for over 38 years,” says Michael.

This trip down memory lane is more than one blogger’s indulgence. It’s an endorsement and a plea: We have something special here. A local business – and an asset – few other cities have. Use it. Enjoy it. Grab an espresso at the Edge, wander the aisles, find that album you’ve always been looking for – and the one you didn’t know you had to have.

As long as there’s music.