Remember the days when you had to peruse the selection at your local record store to find a new favorite album? The album art. The smell of the vinyl. Flipping through the inserts. With the popularity of streaming, those days are a faint memory for most, but business is still thriving at The Business. The Anacortes record store is a community hub that offers a curated selection of music from the Pacific Northwest and around the world. But The Business is so much more than a record store: They’re creating the change they want to see in the music industry one fulfillment order at a time.
Past to Present
Founded in 1978, The Business has a rich and deep history that helped shape the Anacortes music scene. Well-known artists that have worked for and recorded at The Business over the years include Karl Blau, Phil Elverum and Bret Lunsford. Current owner, Nick Rennis, took over in 2010. Nick is originally from Illinois and made the move to Anacortes as one of the last waves of artists and residents with the Department of Safety. When the Department of Safety closed and The Business popped up for sale, Nick jumped on the opportunity. Two years later, he met Evie Opp. Also from Illinois, fresh out of business school but dreading a corporate future, they started dating and Evie started helping Nick at the shop. Today Nick and Evie are married and co-owners of The Business, like the happy ending of an indie music fairy tale.
There are two sides to the store, the front-end retail side and the back-end distribution side. The Business Distro sells records wholesale to 1,500 record stores around the world. They also offer mail-order fulfillment for self-releasing artists and labels, providing a more accessible platform for lesser-known artists to make a living from their work. “We want to remind people that the most direct way you can support any artist is by buying a record,” says Evie. “We specialize in independent music and new contemporary music on vinyl, which is new territory for a lot of people. We don’t want it to be intimidating, we want people to be curious and try something new.” The Business also offers a venue where they host live shows about once a month. “Usually the shows are free and all ages, we’re definitely big proponents of all ages shows.”
Streaming Killed the Record Store
Owning a record store in the digital age isn’t all twee shows and lo-fi beats. “Record stores are dying,” says Evie. “Since we started doing distribution, a lot of the stores we’ve worked with have gone out of business. There’s this old model that doesn’t apply anymore, which is to stock tons of everything and try to make everybody happy. If it doesn’t sell they send it back to the distributor, which creates a lot of waste and in the process of shipping things get destroyed and end up in a landfill. Our mission is to get stores to only order what they need, to think smaller and more efficiently around stocking. We want them to think their store is something they can curate. We don’t have order minimums, so if you’re a record store and you want one record we’re happy to send it to you. We want to make it easy and painless for everyone involved.”
The Business is not only encouraging a more sustainable model for distribution, but also for listeners in the way we consume music. “Streaming is great and we encourage people to try out music before they buy it,” says Evie. “But streaming and server farms are actually a lot more detrimental to our resources than a long-lasting durable good like a record. It seems counterintuitive because you think a hunk of plastic is probably bad. But you don’t think of the millions of gallons of potable water used to keep server farms cool, let alone the natural gas used to create the electricity to run these farms. Ultimately it’s not as eco-friendly as we think.”
So, what’s a socially and environmentally conscious music lover to do? Stream new music first as a trial period. If you love it and want to support the artist, head on over to The Business to pick up a record on vinyl, CD or cassette. If they don’t have what you’re looking for, no worries, they’re happy to order it for you and they’ll have it in the shop within a week. Nick and Evie stream music digitally when they’re out in the world, while enjoying CDs in the shop and vinyl at home. When asked if they share the same taste in music, Evie replies with a giggle, “No not at all. Nick leans more toward ambient noise, a lot of tape loops, almost like uneasy soundtrack music. I lean more toward lyrics, word-based music and beat-based music. I find myself enjoying throwback surf rock or psych rock lately, although our tastes do overlap a little bit. We’ve recently come in through the back door of the metal world, which is new to both of us.”
If you’d like to learn more about the Anacortes record store that was named The Best Record Store in Washington and stay up-to-date about their upcoming shows, check out The Business website or follow them on Facebook and Instagram.
216 Commercial Avenue, Anacortes