For a brief moment, Michael Bunnell and Chad Dryden just stared inside their storage unit.
The Record Exchange’s latest purchase, a 64,000-piece vinyl collection, loomed in front of them last week. Boxes were stacked four high.
“It’s kind of a daunting task, when you buy that many records, to find an entry point,” admits Dryden, the store’s marketing director.
They pulled out a knife. Cracked a few boxes open.
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The two men could only smile.
“I opened up one box, and I think there was, like, half a dozen copies of Foreigner ‘4’ and the first Boston record,” Dryden says. “Tons of stuff like that. Fleetwood Mac ‘Rumours’ — you would think everybody on the planet had that record at this point. That’s another one we can’t keep in stock. There were multiples of that in there.”
“Basically, this collection is going to feed the store for years.”
Bunnell, The Record Exchange’s owner, made the largest vinyl acquisition in the Downtown Boise store’s 41-year history this summer. Most of the albums were gathering dust in storage at Nampa’s Yesteryear Shoppe, which plans to close after four-plus decades.
Record Exchange employees hauled the first 50,000 in a U-Haul truck to safekeeping in climate-controlled storage. Weeks later, they returned to Yesteryear for 14,000 more — plus, 3,000 cassettes.
From a back-stock perspective at The Record Exchange, it’s like going from 45-rpm to double-LP size. “Idaho’s largest record store just got considerably larger,” Dryden says. “It’s tonnage for sure.”
The Record Exchange’s stacks hold 17,000 vinyl records. On a typical day, the store nourishes inventory by purchasing anywhere from two dozen to 200 vinyl albums from customers. The biggest prior buy? 5,000 albums.
But 64,000? This is foreign territory — and certainly Foreigner territory.
Sometimes, investing in the past is the best way to prepare for the future.
Used vinyl and used CDs are neck-and-neck in gross dollar sales at The Record Exchange, a staple at 1105 W. Idaho St. since 1978. In recent months, new vinyl has inched past new CDs in gross dollar sales — to 60/40.
About 40 percent of the store’s floor space is allocated to vinyl. Plans already were in place to increase vinyl space in 2019. “Vinyl is still so hot,” Dryden says. This purchase will supercharge that transformation.
“This is the kind of buy that a record store hopes to have at least once,” Dryden says, “and a lot of stores don’t get this sort of opportunity. We’re just stoked that we were able to get it and keep it here and not have it go somewhere else. I know a lot of people are bummed about the Yesteryear Shoppe, and we are, too.”
Dryden co-founded the Vinyl Preservation Society of Idaho in 2007. He’s spent many days in Canyon County flipping through the Yesteryear Shoppe’s record collection. Like other vinyl enthusiasts, he fantasized about what riches lurked in storage.
“Nobody ever saw the basement,” Dryden says. “Believe me, we asked.”
This summer, he says, it felt surreal loading tens of thousands records onto a conveyor belt leading to the Yesteryear Shoppe upstairs.
“It’s a colossal collection. We didn’t really know what 64,000 records looked like. When we got them all boxed up, we kind of all stepped back and had a ‘whoa’ moment. It’s an insanely large collection.”
Slowly, the records are making their way to The Record Exchange floor. The store’s full- and part-time buyers have cleaned and priced about 5,000 records. “It’s going to be a process,” Dryden says.
How much did The Record Exchange pay for 64,000 albums? In bulk? That’s a secret. Some will end up in the store’s bargain bin, priced at 99 cents. Others will fetch $5, $15 or more.
“There are some records in there that are going to be worth hundreds of dollars,” Dryden says. “But as far as uncovering some weird, obscure, psych-rock record that 14 people had in 1968 or whatever, we haven’t uncovered anything like that. But 64,000 records, you’ve got to know that there are a few collectible gems in there somewhere. The beauty of this collection is it’s really good, solid, common stuff. And a lot of it.”
Don’t forget the 3,000 cassettes, either. Those are a big thing at The Record Exchange, Dryden says. There’s a wall for them.
“It’s a combination of indie-rock kids and old dudes who still have cassette players in their pickup truck — I’m serious!” he insists, chuckling. “They’ve been a growth area for us for the past few years.”