A new record store is opening in downtown Bremerton — something the owners of the new store contend is long overdue.
Clint Leach and his wife, Mandi Leach, are bringing Bigfoot's House of Vinyl and more to life on Pacific Avenue. Originally from Berkeley, Calif., the couple knew from past visits to the Pacific Northwest that they wanted to lay down roots in Bremerton, Leach said. They initially moved to the area in the spring of 2020 so he could enter a graduate program at the University of Washington.
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Leach decided to get back into record collecting. “I used to collect years ago, in the early twenty aughts, and then hit some bumps in the road of life so to speak and ended up having to sell off pretty much all my record collection at one point,” he said. “During the pandemic I decided, maybe it’s a good time to start doing that again and getting back into it. As soon as I bought just a few records, I caught the fever — and I’ve had it ever since.”
Leach decided to step back from grad school, and the couple considered buying a house but found the local real estate market was too hot. “We just realized, wow — this is insane,” he said. “This is not a good time to buy a home.”
Instead, they decided to put the money they’d saved up for a house into starting a business. The idea of being their own bosses appealed to them: It would allow them to have more time with their kids, and “not [be] working our butts off for the benefit of somebody else; we wanted to work our butts off for the benefit of ourselves."
The idea to open a record store just popped into Leach's head, he said.
“This town does not have a record store,” he said he remembered thinking. “It seems like ... there’s a really diverse culture and a population of people here in Bremerton, and it seems like there’s a music scene, but there’s just no record store. What’s going on here?”
They sat down, did some planning, and decided to go for it, he said.
The next step was finding inventory. Leach started scouring garage and estate sales and found good deals on lots of old records that way. He started looking for ads on sites like Craigslist. But his big break came last August, when he came across an ad from a man in Seattle who had been running a store for more than 30 years that sold records and model cars and airplanes.
When the pandemic hit, the man closed his shop and pivoted to selling online. He found that there was a lot of demand for his models — people who were looking for things to do at home found the models a welcome distraction. But selling records online is a “whole other animal,” Leach said, and so the man was looking to sell his record inventory.
“I went down to his shop and talked to him and he said, I’m selling my whole collection — no picking through, no only selecting certain genres. I want to sell the whole inventory.” His whole inventory consisted of somewhere between 40,000 and 60,000 records, Leach said.
“I decided, OK, I’m going to put an offer in and we’ll see where it goes,” he said. “So I put the offer in and he said he’d get back to me.”
Leach said he told the man from the outset that he wanted to open his own store. “I think he was really fond of that desire I had and wanted to help me out,” he said. He accepted the offer, and Leach bought the entire inventory, including the racks to hold the records in.
“Things fell into place,” Leach said. “It was just kind of, right place, right time.”
Right as the Leaches were finalizing the offer to buy the record store inventory, they found their retail space on Pacific Avenue — just in time to store their newly acquired trove.
Buying an existing record store's inventory has allowed Bigfoot's House of Vinyl to amass an eclectic mix of records, Leach said. “It’s an amazing collection. It’s so vast, it covers so many styles of music, so many decades of music.”
The collection includes records from as far back as the 1930s to the present day, although the latter is mostly made up of new records supplied by distributors. Of the used records, most are from the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s, with a healthy representation from the ‘90s and early 2000s.
The genres represented are even more wide-ranging, including rock, jazz, funk, soul, R&B, old-school hip-hop, comedy, children’s, country, folk, international, classical, and electronic.
The collection also includes rare, collectible albums, Leach said, such as a copy of the Beatle's the White Album pressed by a company called Mobile Fidelity that re-pressed records in the '70s and '80s from the original master recordings.
Records have made a comeback in popularity in recent years; in fact, 2020 was the first year in more than a generation in which vinyl outsold CDs.
Leach credits that in part to the audio quality associated with vinyl. With digital compression, “every time a piece of music is transferred into a digital file, it loses something,” he said. “It loses some of its flavor, so to speak. It loses the punchiness, it loses just the raw sound of the instruments. And with records, that’s all preserved.”
Leach said he wants to keep his selection of records affordable.
“Unfortunately, some people have taken this resurgence [of vinyl] to the level of, ‘let’s be scalpers, let’s find this stuff and sell it for absolute top-dollar’ — capitalism at its finest, right?” he said. “The fact that I got a lot of these records for the deal that I got, I want to forward that deal to the people. That’s going to be a big part of our store, is we’re going to have a lot of good music that’s affordable.”
Leach said one of the things that drew his family to the Pacific Northwest was the legend of Bigfoot. His first introduction to the large, hairy biped was through learning about the Native American legend of Sasquatch.
"That's just something we love about the Northwest, is the Bigfoot culture," he said. "We racked our brains for a lot of names ... but I said, 'What about Bigfoot?' We're in the Northwest, it just seemed so fitting. We both were like, 'Yeah, that's awesome. We've gotta have that."
The back wall of the store features a mural painted by local artist Nathan Friend, also known as Nocto, featuring the store's Bigfoot mascot in the style of Iron Maiden's mascot Eddie.
"We love it," Leach said. "We get a lot of good comments about it."
The store also features a life-sized Bigfoot figure that they might eventually dress in rocker attire, complete with sleeveless jeans jacket and patches and buttons, Leach said.
The opening date for the store is still to be determined. Leach said the best way for people to stay informed about the opening is to follow the store's Facebook page.
Leach is excited to introduce the store to the community. “This is just like a dream come true to have the opportunity to open a store here in Bremerton,” he said.
Bigfoot's House of Vinyl is located at 409 Pacific Ave., Suite 204, Bremerton.
All photos copyright 2022 Kitsap Scene