If Bop Street owner Dave Voorhees isn’t chatting to customers in the shop during the day, he’s in bed at night dreaming about sorting through records.
“There have been a number of times when I’ve dreamed about going to find records. Oftentimes it’s 45s. In a lot of the dreams I just never quite get there, or if I get there, I’m just opening the box and then I wake up,” Voorhees said.
Such is the nature of a conversation with Voorhees, who is just as much a storyteller as he is a record seller. As his record collection has piled up, so have the stories from his 40 years of experience in the business. He has stories from the famous musicians who have stopped by, which include members of Radiohead, The Roots, Built To Spill, Foo Fighters, Wilco, Fleet Foxes and Death Cab For Cutie.
“A guy came in in 2005 or 2006, and he said, ‘Do you have any albums from Buddy Holly’s backup group the Crickets?’ I said, ‘I think I’ve got two or three,’ so I pulled them out for him, and he said, ‘I sang those songs,’ and I said, ‘What do you mean?’ He said, ‘I was the lead singer of the Crickets after Buddy died.’ He said [his name was] Jerry Naylor, and sure enough, he was. He signed 20 copies of [an] album called Buddy Holly and the Crickets: 20 Greatest Hits,” Voorhees said.
In 1974, a customer tipped off Voorhees about a record shop in a small town outside of Houston, Texas, that had a collection of 100,000 45s and was selling them at a dime a piece.
Voorhees and a friend drove down from Seattle three days later. They searched through the shop’s collection eight hours a day for three days and by the end had amassed a collection of 3,000 45s. These records would serve as the basis for the shop upon which Voorhees has sustained a living ever since.
“I shipped them back in 30 boxes, 100 in a box, and started sorting them out. The next thing I know, I’m selling them out of my parents’ basement for anywhere from a dollar to $10 a piece and people I don’t even know are calling me on the phone, [saying] ‘Hey, my friend was over at your house earlier; can I come over and check out your 45s?’ ” Voorhees said.
In 1979, Voorhees took over an old paperback exchange at 101st Street and Aurora Avenue for $180 a month and turned it into his first official record shop. Since then, the shop has changed locations five times. It has now settled on Market Street in Ballard between 22nd Avenue and 24th Avenue, where it has been for almost four years.
The current location is the largest Voorhees has ever owned. It is easy to get overwhelmed upon entering the two-story shop and taking in the expansive collection of over half a million records. The albums fill out the nine layers of shelving that line the walls, as well as several islands in the center aisleway. There is also an upstairs section filled to bursting with boxes of 45s. According to Voorhees, members of Radiohead once spent over nine hours in the store flipping through his collection.
The top of the entryway is adorned with two stained glass windows, one of “Bop Girl,” the image of a dancing ’50s girl that has followed the shop since its beginning, and the other of Voorhees himself.
“[My business manager] wanted to sort of imprint that this was my store because I’m sort of a well-known person around town. So he wanted to actually brand it as ‘Dave’s store,’ ” Voorhees said.
Bop Street is outfitted with a special fluorescent lighting system that makes it easy to spot scratches on a record’s surface. The shop also hosts a top–of–the–line turntable and speaker system.
The current location is the most successful Voorhees has ever owned. It is one of the only record stores that has the capacity to accept large donations from retiring baby-boomers wishing to empty their attics. The store receives about 2,000 donated records a week.
“A lot of these other stores will actually tell people, ‘Take ‘em to Bop Street; that’s too large of a collection.’ Or some [shops] don’t carry 78s or Classical or 45s in quantity, so they say, ‘Take ‘em to Bop Street; Dave’s the guy you ought to see,’ ” Voorhees said.
Voorhees doesn’t anticipate any waning in the success of the vinyl market.
“It’s amazing, really, how many younger people these days are getting into vinyl,” Voorhees said. “[People] want the tangible thing. It’s about the liner notes you can read; you can feel it, smell it. [Vinyl] is the best medium to reproduce music. Just the sound of the vinyl, the needle dropping down — you can see physically why it’s making sound. I think it will just get better and better.”