With its deep musical roots, it’s no surprise that the Pacific Northwest has more than its fair share of stellar record stores. Most people know that the grunge scene started in the PNW, but its music heritage is richer than the metal/punk hybrid that went mainstream in the early 1990s.
From rock guitar legend Jimi Hendrix to indie rock mainstays like Built to Spill and synth-pop darlings like Grimes, the left coast is a breeding ground for music. And these record stores are where musicians and music lovers go not just to shop, but to find their community.
Keep reading for our personal favorite record shops in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Vancouver, B.C.
Seattle Record Stores
With a population of over 700,000, Seattle is the biggest city in the PNW. It also (arguably) has the richest musical history, which is apparent in its bevy of record stores from Ballard to West Seattle and beyond. Here are a few of our favorites.
Sonic Boom Records
Established in 1997—well after the heyday of grunge—Sonic Boom Records is located in the heart of Ballard, one of Seattle’s hippest neighborhoods. It was founded by Jason Hughes and Nabil Ayers, the latter of whom is the current U.S. President of Beggars Group, a collection of independent record labels.
Sonic Boom’s reputation goes far beyond the city of Seattle. It has been featured as one of the country’s best record stores by Rolling Stone, SPIN Magazine and more. It’s even been profiled by NPR and The New York Times.
In 2016, Sonic Boom was sold to longtime customer, Mike Pitts. The shop continues to be a mainstay of the community, hosting in-store events and promoting local music whenever possible.
Easy Street Records & Cafe
As the name suggests, Easy Street Records & Cafe is more than a record store. Founded in 1988, the West Seattle mainstay has since added a cafe and bar that serves great, affordable eats all day. How could any music fan resist menu items with names like “Notorious B&G” and “New Wave O’s Rancheros?”
But you probably don’t go to a record store for food—you go for music (though the menu is a great bonus). Easy Street is packed with two floors of music, mainly vinyl and CDs. It also has a selection of merchandise for local bands and popular national acts. They even host some incredible in-store performances, including Lou Reed, Elvis Costello, Macklemore and Brandi Carlile.
Light In The Attic Record Shop
Light in The Attic started as a local record label with a focus on reissue projects and distribution. You might even have some of their reissues in your collection, including The Shaggs, Betty Davis and Serge Gainsbourg. But Seattle music lovers might know Light in The Attic for something else—their record store.
The Light in The Attic Record Shop site boasts itself as “a hidden gem tucked in a quiet corner street in the Queen Anne neighborhood.” That’s not quite the full story. Light in The Attic Record Shop is located directly inside of the gorgeous KEXP Gathering Space and has been since 2016. Their inventory isn’t limited to their own releases—instead, they offer a diverse collection that you can browse while enjoying a cup of coffee from Seattle’s own Caffe Vita.
Portland, OR Record Stores
Always weird Portland, OR is the second-largest city in the Pacific Northwest. Portland has been a haven for creatives for decades, having been home to Elliott Smith, Modest Mouse, Esperanza Spalding, Sleater-Kinney and more. It makes perfect sense that PDX would be a hot spot for great record shops, including Music Millennium, Jackpot Records and Mississippi Records.
One of the oldest record shops on this list is Music Millennium, which was founded in 1969. Located blocks from Laurelhurst Park, they boast the largest selection of CDs, vinyl records, cassette tapes, DVDs and VHS tapes in the city.
Not only is their collection impressive, but their prices are fair and their staff is incredible. Reviews shout out the owner, Terry, in particular as “one of the nicest and most helpful people in the world.” Music Millennium has even been known to host live in-store performances, so check out their website beforehand next time you’re in town.
Located in the popular Hawthorne neighborhood of Portland, Jackpot Records is more than a record store—they’re also a record label. The shop opened in 1997 and has stocked a solid selection of diverse artists ever since.
They also feature records from their own Jackpot Records label, which focuses on rereleases of incredible (but often overlooked) out-of-print records by an eclectic group of artists. Among their rereleases you’ll find a classic live blues album by Etta James, power-pop legends Flamin’ Groovies and country legend Willie Nelson.
Though its namesake record label relocated to Chicago, Portland is still home to the Mississippi Records shop. Founded in 2003 by Eric Isaacson, the shop hosts a collection of its eclectic releases (with a focus on rock, punk and soul) as well as a cafe, an equipment repair shop and the Portland Museum of Modern Art, which is located in the basement and is curated by Libby Werbel.
Vancouver, BC Record Stores
Vancouver, BC’s reputation as “Hollywood North” may come from the volume of movies and TV shows filmed in Western Canada’s largest city, but it’s no slouch when it comes to having an active music scene. Musicians like crooner Diana Krall, rocker Bryan Adams and hardcore poets Japandroids got their start in the Terminal City (and many still call it home), and we like to think these are a few of the record shops they’ve frequented.
Founded in 1981 by Grant McDonagh, Zulu Records was founded from the ashes of Quintessence Records. When Quintessence Records shut down as a record store and label, former employee McDonagh decided to run with a similar business model.
In addition to its great selection of new and used CDs, Vinyl and more, Zulu Records is famous for hosting frequent in-store performances, employing local musicians (including members of Destroyer, Cub, Pink Mountaintops and more), coining the genre name “Cuddlecore” and employees forming their own super-group known as The Countless Jibes.
Red Cat Records
Red Cat Records, currently located on Main Street, proudly proclaims itself “Vancouver’s Community Record Store.” Named after Buddy the Cat, who proudly roamed and ruled the store until 2006, Red Cat Records was named one of the 10 best record stores in Canada by CBC 3 Searchlight.
Did we mention Buddy the Cat even inspired Ry Cooder’s 2007 concept album, My Name is Buddy? Though sorely missed, even the shop's employees admit the store “smells better now.”
Beat Street Records
Not to be confused with the shuttered NYC record shop of the same name, Beat Street Records in Vancouver, BC was founded in 1996 to cater to DJs and fans of low-end-heavy beats. Not only do they currently stock over 50,000 records between the storefront and back room warehouse, they also sell graffiti art supplies, collectibles and more.
Boise Record Stores
Don’t sleep on Boise, ID. As the most populated city in the state, it shouldn’t be surprising that it’s also one of the state’s biggest cultural centers. This is on its highest display during Treefort Music Festival, a multi-day event that hosts hundreds of bands in dozens of venues each spring. Some of those venues are a little less traditional than others, including record stores. Speaking of which, here are a few of the top record stores in Boise.
The Record Exchange
Not only is The Record Exchange Boise’s largest record store, it’s the largest record store in the entire state! Founded in 1977, The Record Exchange stocks a diverse collection of new and used CDs, vinyl records, cassette tapes and more as well as a cafe and collectibles shop. They also host in-store performances all year long, including during Treefort Music Festival, who lists the shop as an official venue.
Modern Sounds Vinyl and Music
Boise’s newest record store is Modern Sounds Vinyl and Music, which opened in 2019. Unlike the enormous Record Exchange, Modern Sounds hosts a smaller, more curated collection of new and used records. Reviews praise the fair prices, variety and its friendly, knowledgeable owner, Derek.
Founded in Petaluma, CA, Spin Records relocated to Boise, ID after four years in business. What makes them different from other shops on this list is that they sell records online, by phone or by appointment only. While that does reduce the chances to make new friends at a record shop it’s a great escape for vinyl lovers who crave a more private, one-on-one shopping experience.
Your Collection Deserves a Great Record Player
All the record stores on this list have one thing in common—stellar vinyl collections. But having a great collection of records doesn’t mean much unless you can play them on a high-quality record player. Our Stir it Up Turntables offer premium sound thanks to a modular Audio Technica cartridge and built-in preamp. Check them out today!