West Seattle businesses: ‘Easy Street should be here for good’

February 29, 2012 at 4:21 pm | In West Seattle businesses, West Seattle news | 48 Comments

(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

48 Comments

  1. I am really happy to hear this as Easy Street has been a home to me and many others for a long time now. I was blessed to have been able to spend a few years working there and still enjoy stopping in to see the gang and get my coffee and music fix. Good on you Matt, thanks for being the heart of West Seattle!

    Comment by mrdarling — 4:47 pm February 29, 2012 #

  2. That’s awesome. Thanks Easy Street & Matt. What a fantastic history.

    Comment by chas redmond — 5:05 pm February 29, 2012 #

  3. I am happy to have access to as fine a music place with as good ownership and staff as Easy Street. Just one of the many reasons I first moved to West Seattle to live and then moved my business here from downtown.

    Comment by RKW — 5:09 pm February 29, 2012 #

  4. Matt, this is great news. Thanks for making the long term commitment to West Seattle. I can’t imagine the Junction without Easy Streets.

    Comment by Stu — 5:10 pm February 29, 2012 #

  5. Hoorah! That is very, very good news for those of us who still like a little bit of quirky in our lives. As I see the plans for the big complex across the street, I just see a soulless “Ballardizing” of W. Seattle that is sadly inevitable. It feels like the Governor has given us a reprieve of 16 years, anyway… Note to self: go there for breakfast soon!

    Comment by Chuck And Sally's Van Man — 5:15 pm February 29, 2012 #

  6. I remember browsing there when they first opened the doors (and still setting up inventory moved from the old location.) In fact, I don’t think they were officially “open” yet, but the door was open and we just walked in and looked around. They didn’t know it, but on my arm was a big (at the time, anyway) female “rock star” from Seattle who was incognito to avoid recognition. Ahhh, the good old days.

    Comment by PSPS — 5:33 pm February 29, 2012 #

  7. Great place, great music and great friends, 16 more years, unreal man, just really unreal

    Comment by Bret barnacle — 5:33 pm February 29, 2012 #

  8. I also yell my sandwich orders to Jack Miller of Husky Deli. Only now because we are both older and hard of hearing! Congrat’s on the lease arrangement Matt!

    Comment by Aman — 5:39 pm February 29, 2012 #

  9. Great news!

    Comment by Oliver Little — 5:40 pm February 29, 2012 #

  10. Easy Street is loaded with good memories for me & has the best breakfast ever. Long live Easy!

    Comment by Drew — 6:03 pm February 29, 2012 #

  11. I made the decision to buy my house in West Seattle largely due to it’s proximity to this fine establishment. Being able to walk to a record store from my home is a major bump on the quality of life meter for me and my family. I did it just last night in fact. Walked up, flipped through the used vinyl for 45 minutes, picked up a few records, and then went and had a beer at West 5. Then home to listen. A perfect evening!

    Comment by MLJ — 6:04 pm February 29, 2012 #

  12. Great news.

    Comment by Mike — 6:12 pm February 29, 2012 #

  13. Awesome news. Couldn’t be happier for you, and for us!

    Comment by sw — 6:15 pm February 29, 2012 #

  14. Congrats Matt & Easy Street…GO WRECKERS!

    Comment by BJ #9 — 6:16 pm February 29, 2012 #

  15. I recently shot video footage inside Easy Street Records, as a tribute to the 70s and my love of vinyl. Check it out:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vNh7ShcQ6Hg

    Comment by Metal Jesus — 6:39 pm February 29, 2012 #

  16. Great video metal Jesus

    Comment by Bret barnacle — 7:12 pm February 29, 2012 #

  17. One more reason I can’t wait to get to my future neighborhood! Every time I go in Easy Street I almost always come out with something I didn’t plan on buying, even vinyl when I don’t have a player of my own… yet.

    Comment by trickycoolj — 7:13 pm February 29, 2012 #

  18. Congratulations. I still refuse to buy an easy street sweatshirt or t shirt way too … I don’t know. Anyway the record store at the old location pre easy street was called penny lane records and a block south next to pogies tavern was another record store anyone remember the name of that place?

    Comment by DF — 7:20 pm February 29, 2012 #

  19. Easy Street = Mecca (for me anyway)
    Thanks for being such an amazing part of the West Side!

    Comment by Quiz — 7:49 pm February 29, 2012 #

  20. Easy Street is one of the reasons I am happy to call West Seattle home. So glad to hear ya’all will be around for years to come!

    Comment by Marie M — 7:57 pm February 29, 2012 #

  21. Turnabout records?

    Comment by me on 28th Ave SW — 8:15 pm February 29, 2012 #

  22. The Junction without Easy Street would be like cornflakes without milk. Here’s to 16 more years, and then some!

    Comment by Keith — 8:21 pm February 29, 2012 #

  23. Right ON.

    Comment by lenguamor — 8:36 pm February 29, 2012 #

  24. Good news, indeed. I am now assured a source for my used jazz CDs until I’m at least 74 !

    Comment by Petert — 8:38 pm February 29, 2012 #

  25. Thrilled to hear this news! My vinyl collection thanks you. Easy Street is one of the best reasons to live in West Seattle. This insures it will stay that way.

    Comment by K — 8:42 pm February 29, 2012 #

  26. That’s it thank you all those great collections of posters in the front just as you walk in off to the right, and oh yes in those days you could actually buy paraphernalia in the junction and although I was too young to go in “that section” of turnabout records they sold … yeah you guessed it.

    Comment by DF — 9:05 pm February 29, 2012 #

  27. Matt for Mayor! (of all of Seattle)

    Comment by Admiral935 — 9:10 pm February 29, 2012 #

  28. Easy Street is one of the reasons we love living in the Junction. It’s our breakfast place, a place where everybody knows our names, and where live and recorded music contributed to our lives. Thank you Matt and everybody.

    Comment by Mark — 9:19 pm February 29, 2012 #

  29. Great news – Easy Street is the best record store on the planet!

    Comment by SD — 10:06 pm February 29, 2012 #

  30. I love hearing good news.

    Comment by dsa — 11:45 pm February 29, 2012 #

  31. My 4 year old son and I love listening to music and shopping at our favorite record shop. Thanks for making that possible for 16 more years.

    Comment by Cheetah Fast Dancer — 11:48 pm February 29, 2012 #

  32. Good news indeed! It is nice to know that in our unstable fast changing digital world that at least for 16 more years we will be able to shop and purchase hard format music from real local people in an analog store instead of being forced to buy squishy downloads online from mega-corporations because no other sources exist. Thank you Matt for making this commitment to our community.

    Comment by Dennis Grace — 12:55 am March 1, 2012 #

  33. Thank Gawd!! I have my Sunday go to breakfast spot for another 16 years!! Thanks Matt and the ES family for making West Seattle the best place in the world…and for all the killer music. AND the best bacon. Ever.

    Comment by RJB — 6:56 am March 1, 2012 #

  34. I love the murals, those are awesome pieces of artwork.

    Comment by Brandon — 7:03 am March 1, 2012 #

  35. FAB news Bunny!!!

    Comment by Page — 8:10 am March 1, 2012 #

  36. This is great news. Love Easy Street. Am I imagining this or do I remember visiting them in the mid 80′s when I would drive up from Tukwila?

    Comment by BoB — 8:26 am March 1, 2012 #

  37. Best club sandwich …ever … Mmmm cut into perfect triangles with fries. I’m getting my keys right now !

    Comment by Hiya — 8:57 am March 1, 2012 #

  38. Great news! Wonder if this means the Corner Pocket is safe as well?

    Comment by villagegreen — 9:32 am March 1, 2012 #

  39. Given the state of the music retail industry, i’ll be curious if Easy Street will be selling recordings in 16 years?

    Comment by CB — 9:53 am March 1, 2012 #

  40. Iconic indeed!

    Comment by One More Time — 11:16 am March 1, 2012 #

  41. Mmmmmm….. any chance of remodeling the food service side.? I’ll shut my lip now.

    Comment by Jiggers — 11:22 am March 1, 2012 #

  42. Great news indeed! I couldn’t imagine the Junction without Easy Street.

    Comment by Gunnar — 11:36 am March 1, 2012 #

  43. Geez, thanks all for all the nice comments. We’re very flattered. The music business has been in a state of flux and honestly I can’t envision CD’s still being manufactured as they are today, if so, only as budget releases (truck stop style) or as limited editions. I do think that this vinyl resurgence is here to stay, but even with that, we will not sell records at the same attrition we did with CD’s. It is a specialized market, but one we adore. The audiophiles of West Seattle will not be disappointed. I’m not sure what we will be selling, what formats will still be viable. All I can tell you is that we have been able to change with the times over these 25 years in the Junction…and we feel that there will always be a tangible element to music and we are here to support that. It may mean we have to supplement the loss of music sales with an expanded cafe or a bigger stage for more live events. More lifestyle items, more music related accessories. more used inventory, we’ll have to see how the wind blows and jibe at the right time.

    I expect we will have new storefront signage in the not-too-distant future. Our neon signage that wraps around the corner has gotten so beat up from trucks crashing into it, that it has become too expensive to maintain. Hmm, now I know why you don’t see as much neon as you used to. The landlord will be removing the overhang sometime in the next 12 months. You can expect new windows (but the same display artist).

    I would like to see new booths or a better seating arrangement in the cafe. Our booths get so beat up that the upholstery costs have gotten silly. Also, it’s been hard to get accommodate groups of 4+ or more in that space, so we hope to get crafty with our spacial design in that small space.

    A lil factoid from a comment, yes, Penny Lane was the record store at 4537 California before Easy Street was there. I think it opened in ’75 or so. I worked at Penny Lane for 3 years before opening Easy Street in ’87. The proprietor was Willie Mackay (was a great mentor for me), he is the lead ski instructor at Crystal Mountain these days and my mgr was Mr. Jeff Gilbert, now the owner of the Feedback Lounge. It was a great record shop filled with lots of drama and shenanigans.

    For the first 6 months of Easy Street, my step father Kim Harris and I owned the store. My mom originally named the store. They moved to California shortly thereafter and wanted to sell/close the store, it wasn’t doing well. I feel in love with West Seattle and couldn’t let go or give up on it. I dropped out of Seattle U my sophomore year and committed myself to it and soon after opened it on the corner where it stands today.

    Thanks again all, lookin forward to seeing you on the block. Love, Matt and all the Easystreeters.

    Comment by easystreetguy — 12:22 pm March 1, 2012 #

  44. So exciting to know Easy Street will be here for years to come. My favorite ritual is browsing the racks on New Release Tuesdays (and the new arrivals used bins). With Bruce Springsteen (March 5), Adam Lambert (20) and Madonna (27) on the calendar, I will be in there a lot this month.

    Comment by Keith — 2:05 pm March 1, 2012 #

  45. I have been shopping at Easy Street since there was a location in Bellevue in the mid 80s on Bel-Red Road. Looking at Google maps, it is in a building very close to a Wendy’s and also a Trader Joes, and what looks like a go cart track. It was definitely called Easy Street Records as well and I always wondered about that store. We used to spend all our money there on records that were hard to find elsewhere, especially on the eastside. Anyone else remember this store back then?

    I still buy cds and will shop at Easy Street regardless of what you are selling. I need to get a turntable again.

    Comment by SA — 7:03 pm March 1, 2012 #

  46. Going on 4 years in West Seattle and happy that Easy Street was an early discovery.
    Unique, kitchy, special; both the cafe & music store…

    Comment by jr — 7:35 pm March 1, 2012 #

  47. Thanks for putting your heart into Easy Street all these years Matt. You’ve cultivated a West Seattle icon! Sounds like the community has stepped forward to support you however you need to change and grow in the coming years. Count me in. : )

    Comment by AprilDoula — 10:31 pm March 1, 2012 #

  48. In this day and age I struggle over the issue of buying cds vs digital downloads due to the mega waste created by cds and their packaging. However, I continue to buy cds at Easy Street (and only Easy Street) to help keep Matt and the crew working. Congrats guys and keep up the good work! Love the cafe, too.

    Comment by kate — 9:25 pm March 2, 2012 #

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