(Easy Street owner Matt Vaughan onstage with Damien Jurado after the February 18th in-store show)
Worried about too much change in “Downtown West Seattle”? Here’s something that’s not going to change for a long time: Via Twitter, Easy Street Records proprietor Matt Vaughan announced he’s signed a deal to keep his iconic music store/café at The Junction’s iconic corner for another 16 years. Thanks to Steve for telling us about the tweet; we e-mailed Matt to ask for more details, and he replied with what he called a “quick press release,” though it’s more a tale of looking back and looking ahead:
WM Management and the Yen Family have struck a longterm agreement with Easy Street Records/Cafe. Easy Street moved to the corner of California Ave and Alaska St in 1989. We had been at 4537 California (where Leisure Books is) for a couple years prior to the move.
During those late 80’s, The Junction was going through a lot of changes. It was regentrifying. The WS Bridge had only been up for a few years. The real estate boom was beginning to hit WS, but still the Junction had a lot of vacancies and had a few challenges ahead. I can recall ordering sandwiches from Jack Miller, yelling my order down the street. There was less activity, less people walking the street.
During the late 80’s and 90’s, the Seattle music scene was burgeoning and a lot of that was happening here in little West Seattle.
Bands such as Soundgarden, Mudhoney, Pearl Jam, Fleet Foxes and solo artists Brandi Carlile, Damien Jurado, Mark Pickerel, Star Anna have called this home. Also, a lot of your music-business folks and well-regarded musicians were moving to West Seattle.
Music retail was going through a change in those early days of Easy Street. Records and tapes were being replaced by the compact disc. It put a lot of record stores out of business, simply because the price point was so much higher. At Easy Street, we saw a way where we could improve our used business by allowing customers sell or trade their used records/tapes for new CD’s. That increased our used inventory and allowed us to gradually increase our compact disc inventory. At this time, we also started our CD Club. “Buy 15, get 1 free.” That gave our customers a discount and showed our loyalty to them at the same time.
In 1999, we opened up our café next door (where Joe’s Grill had been). For the first 6 months, we were just a coffee shop. We did a lot of live shows and after-hours parties in there as well (something that we continue to do). We soon had a full service café. It took a few years for it to catch on. It was a unique concept, but also we were not experts in running a restaurant. The café was kind of opened up for selfish reasons, I couldn’t find a place on the block for a good cup of coffee or a good breakfast. Since I was here at my store in the mornings, it was the only thing missing from the Junction. There are now a handful of breakfast spots and some great coffee shops, but at the time, it was just us.
Soon after, we opened our Queen Anne store, in 2002. We have been there for 10 years. It is a much larger music store, there is no café. After spending a handful of years there, I recommitted myself to the West Seattle store, primarily in the used sections, vinyl section, and in the café. I also joined the Board (Junction Merchant Association) and the Chamber of Commerce. For 3 years I was very involved in improving our West Seattle Street Fair (Summer Fest).
After getting married in 2009 and having a child in 2011, it was clear that I was in West Seattle for good and that meant, Easy Street should be here for good. “I’ve been so impressed with the improvements that have occurred here in the Junction and I couldn’t be more proud than to have signed this longterm lease” – Matt Vaughan