By Jeffrey V. Smith
Record Store Day—the third Saturday of April—has become the music industry’s biggest holiday. The special day is set aside for staff, customers and artists to celebrate the unique culture of a record store and the special role these independently-owned stores play in their communities. It’s also when fans can acquire from their favorite musicians recording exclusives, archival reissues, rarities, limited releases and various promotional products made exclusively for the day. Take part in the celebration, April 18, at Sgt. Peppers Music & Video in Estes Park—the only remaining independent record store in the Front Range foothills.
Record Store Day was conceived in 2007 at a gathering of independent record store owners and employees as a way to celebrate and spread the word about the unique culture surrounding independently owned record stores in the US and similar stores internationally. There are Record Store Day participating stores on every continent except Antarctica.
In this age of digital downloads and streaming radio, corporate-owned record stores have all but disappeared. Independent music retailers, however—thanks to a renewed interest in vinyl records and the efforts of Record Store Day—have experienced a bit of a resurgence in recent years. Record stores in general, though, can still be a rare sight, even in the largest cities let alone a small mountain town. The populous metro area is home to a handful of music buying options, but Estes Park’s Sgt. Peppers Music & Video makes sure its nearby mountain residents and visitors are supplied with great tunes.
Ryan Hoover, manager of Sgt. Peppers, eagerly awaits the annual event. “We participate in Record Store Day because it is our day, it’s like asking a mom why she participates in Mother’s Day,” he said. “Even being a small store, not a busy time a year, and not having a overwhelming local response, it is still the one day set aside for the local independent record store. It is a day to celebrate what we are as a store and what we are part of on a larger level. Also, whether we sell the items right now or much later, it is cool to get them in and we always sell them at some point.”
According to Hoover, a lot of great items have been through the store for the annual celebration. “Each year they outdo the last by having more titles, more colored vinyl, more picture discs,” he said. “I think the favorite item I’ve picked up for myself was a 2011 12-inch vinyl of the Foo Fighters covering classic rock songs.”
While the store doesn’t normally have a huge turnout for Record Store Day, it did have its first line last year, if one guy in a camping chair reading his morning paper is a line. “Either way, he was excited about Record Store Day and I was excited to see his enthusiasm,” Hoover said. “We also had some out-of-town visitors who happened upon our little store, unaware that the store was in town and a little down about being in a town without a record store on Record Store Day. So they were super stoked and surprised to find us and to find out we participate in Record Store Day.”
“I definitely look forward to the entire process of Record Store Day every year,” Hoover said. “First the list of releases comes out, so I get to pick what the store will choose to carry depending on cost and what I think will do well—keeping in mind that we usually only get about half to two-thirds of the items. Then I get to find out what we actually get once they are shipped. Finally, I get to see who is excited and chooses to purchase these coveted items. Whether it is on Record Store Day, or days, weeks or even months later, it is always fun to see.”
Sgt. Peppers, which opened in 2009, sells a wide variety of rock ‘n’ roll novelty and collectable items, small instruments and guitar accessories, games and cards and other fun items. It is owned by Randy and Rachael Martin from Moab, Utah where they run a second location. The ever-growing music section in Estes Park that offers new and used vinyl and CDs, however, wasn’t always in the mix.
“When I took over [as manager in August 2010], we carried one vinyl record: Abbey Road,” Hoover said. “I would get asked about vinyl once or twice a week until eventually I began shopping for used vinyl at thrift stores and antique shops. Eventually, we got a decent enough collection that people started to ask if we bought old vinyl collections, and now that is where the majority of the used stuff comes from.”
The store’s collection of new records has also grown a lot in the last couple of years from a couple of dozen to a couple of hundred. “We are always happy to special order vinyl, CDs or DVDs from our music vendor at no extra cost,” Hoover said. “We are currently in the process of increasing our vinyl stock and cutting back some on CDs as that seems to be where the intrigue and demand is and continues to grow. Kids these days seem to either want the download or, if they go for the physical copy, it seems to be vinyl. Many vinyl [records] come with digital downloads these days and some even come with a CD copy, which are both great marketing tools in my opinion.”
According to Hoover, all types of people shop in the store including “everyone from senior tour bus groups, family tourists, college kids from neighboring communities, local high school kids, normal local folks and folks from all over who still appreciate music in its truer forms.” He said they also get a lot of people from Greely and other valley communities who “sadly” don’t have a good music store and are “looking for a little different variety” then offered by chain stores.
“We love to sell music here,” the manger, who prefers the sounds of the Avett Brothers, Trampled By Turtles as well as locals Elephant Revival and Chimney Choir, said. “It just means more than when we sell the other things. We carry everything else because we have too, because it sells. We carry music because we love it. I wish we could be wall-to-wall all music stuff, who knows, maybe one day. It’s really cool to see who buys music and we especially love to sell the vinyl.”
Mary Lou, an employee who has worked at the store every summer since it opened, says she loves to see that “vinyl smile.” People can be excited about CDs, but Hoover said that everyone who buys vinyl is “genuinely excited about it and they have a bigger smile than anyone else in the store.”
Hoover expects the vinyl resurgence to keep Sgt. Peppers in the music business for a long time. “People should shop at Sgt. Peppers because it is awesome,” he said. “We are pretty unique to downtown with the selection and type of items we carry. Also, with the variety of our selection you are bound to find something for everyone. We hear multiple times a day in the summer that we are the coolest store in town, and occasionally we hear that we are the coolest store anywhere ever in the world. Who are we to argue with such obvious informed logic?”
Check out Sgt. Peppers’ portion of countless exclusive Record Store Day releases on April 18. You’ll undoubtedly find a unique recording while doing your part to support independent record stores and a small-town business.
Sgt. Peppers Music and Video is located at 160 E Elkhorn Ave. in Estes Park. Call 970-586-7625 for store hours or find them on Facebook for more information.
Originally published in the April 2015 issue of the MMAC Monthly