April 18th, 2022

Celebrating Record Store Day at The Vortex

A man stands in front of a display of cds, a wall of records and his record store in the background.
Bruce LaVerne enjoys an unusually quiet moment for a Thursday afternoon.

McMinnville is more suited than most Oregon towns to celebrate Record Store Day on April 23, because we’ve The Vortex.

If you’ve not heard of either, no worries. Even some of the regulars at Bruce LaVerne’s bustling 19-year-old record shop downtown haven’t heard of Record Store Day, which was launched in 2007 by record store owners in Baltimore to “celebrate the culture of the independently-owned record store.” With the audience for vinyl records exploding, Record Store Day is now celebrated around the world, and LaVerne laughs at the idea that customers seeing it promoted at The Vortex might think it was all his idea.

“It’s huge for some stores, it represents maybe half their year’s business in a day,” LaVerne said. “We’re going to have a lot of good stuff.” 

The Vortex isn’t among those stores that live or die based on good RSD sales, because customers have figured out that there’s always good stuff at The Vortex — and not just vinyl records in nearly every major musical genre, but also CDs, body jewelry, movies, books and accessories. 

“It’s a balancing act where you have to keep some action in all departments,” he said. “And if you slip on one, people will let you know it. They’ll tell you instantly. What I’ve learned in McMinnville is, you listen to that. You don’t poo-poo it because it isn’t what you want to do.” 

Years of curating an eclectic inventory and seeing a new audience for vinyl emerge has taught LaVerne that any day can be a record store day that keeps him and his staff busy. Or at least six days a week. “I close Mondays so I can breathe,” he says.

That said, Saturday is a good day to visit. Artists have started doing limited pressings that are available for sale at participating record stores. LaVerne says he usually signs up for a lot expecting to get a little, but this year he was surprised. 

“I bought more stuff for this Record Store Day than I ever have, and I don’t know why they responded so well,” he said.” I’ll order five to get two, so I ordered my usual too-many to get some, and everything showed up. I’ve got boxes of stuff to put out there.” 

This year’s RSD pressings include work from Childish Gambino, Blondie, Elvis, Taylor Swift, David Bowie and Charles Mingus, among hundreds of others. 

The renaissance of vinyl underscores LaVerne’s position that record stores should have never stopped selling analog records in the first place. He didn’t, not since he opened a store in the early 1990s in Longview, Washington and watched his business rise with the tide of Seattle’s Grunge scene. 

And if you lack the equipment to take an old-fashioned record for a spin, no worries there, either. The Vortex sells turntables, too, with a price range to accommodate all. 

“We never stopped doing vinyl,” LaVerne says. “And that’s why I’m still in business.”

The Vortex is located at 314 NE Third Street in McMinnville. Phone: 503-472-7444. Look for them online on Facebook.

A cartoon of David Bates

About the author: David Bates is a McMinnville writer who has appeared in Gallery Theater productions since 1998.