There are goodbyes, there are “See you later”s, and then there are the farewells that fall somewhere in between.
Major changes in the way we buy (or, ya know, don’t buy) music have forced us to get used to seeing record stores shut their doors, but BK Music’s closing doesn’t follow that same sad narrative. Sales weren’t tanking. The rent wasn’t going unpaid. BK was a healthy store, offering top-notch customer service and an inviting atmosphere, and its doors facing east on Midlothian Turnpike would still be open today had its landlord not decided (coldly, in my opinion) to use that space for something else. Because BK’s case is so different, and because I know that Bill is planning on opening up elsewhere as soon as possible, I thought about writing a “Whenever a door closes, a window opens”-ish post, one that was heavy on the optimism and light on the retrospect. But focusing exclusively on the future fails to honor the past, and there’s a past that’s definitely worth honoring here.
Places matter. We can keep moving more of our lives into cloud-based storage, and we can whittle away our precious hours carrying out social interactions online, but none of that will change the fact that certain physical spaces are sacred. Whenever Mrs. YHT and I are in Harrisburg, we drive by her grandparents’ old house, which another family’s been living in since her grandparents moved to new development a few miles away. There’s something decidedly unsavory about the way those people park their cars in the front yard and leave junk and tools strewn out back. Legally, they can do whatever they want. But to the people who know that property’s history, it just feels wrong.
Before BK was BK, that space was home to a Peaches Records & Tapes. I never visited the store in those days, but I do have a fuzzy memory of my dad taking high school me to another Peaches during one of my very first visits to Richmond. That location on Broad is now a Goodwill, and I go there once or twice a week to flip through donated records. At the risk of increasing crate-digging competition, I’ll tell you that I do pretty well there. I’ve gotten some real gems for way less than they’re worth. What’s crazy is that I didn’t know that Goodwill had been a Peaches until recently. Without knowing it, I’d been frequenting this space my dad and I had visited more than a decade ago, and I was still buying records in it. It’s more than a little spooky, I think. That place has a hold on me, some weird magnetism that was handed down from father to son.
I’m not the only one for whom Peaches is still a thing. The now-defunct company’s logo remains one of the most recognizable icons in the heavily visual world of vinyl. Just google “Peaches record crate” and you’ll find a whole marketplace — people making, selling and buying wooden crates that bear that distinctive, colorful image. I have two in my home, one that was fished out of storage and given to me by an incredibly kind employee of Deep Groove Records, and a smaller, 45-sized crate that was part of a birthday present from my musical sherpa Clay. As a result, I see the Peaches logo multiple times a day. It’s a part of my home now, every bit as elemental as the coffee table Mrs. YHT and I eat dinner off of nightly. It’s as if that chain of stores crossed over into the ether at some point, going from a retail operation to an idea — something we can pretend is part of the present, even though its physical form faded years ago. It symbolizes a past that couldn’t have known how friendly the future would end up being.
While I never had the chance to shop at Peaches on Midlothian, I did have a few years to bond with BK. It became my favorite place to line up in the early morning hours of Record Store Day. In fact, I had so much fun at last year’s event, I wrote this open letter to the rest of the early arrivers, thanking them and BK for making it such a positive experience. Somehow, despite being the world’s worst early riser, I always managed to make it through the doors in time to snag the one small-run record I desperately wanted. That winning streak turned BK into a true, Happy Gilmore-style happy place, and I tried putting that feeling into words in a post I wrote in June of last year:
These victorious moments keep adding up, and they’re a testament to how wonderful it is when you find a place — could be a bookstore, restaurant, concert venue or anything else — that just seems to be on your same wavelength. I don’t know whether it’s the thought that someone out there likes the same stuff as you, or just that you have a streak of good experiences somewhere, but it certainly doesn’t happen every day, and when it does, it’s unmistakable and incredibly meaningful. Many thanks to BK for doing such a great job getting stuff like this in, and for making my trips to Midlothian Turnpike so consistently rewarding.
It wasn’t just that I got the records I coveted. It meant something to me that my physical world contained this place I could walk into that reminded me of times I’d been happy to the point of euphoria. By hopping on Powhite Parkway and driving just a few minutes, I could revisit the rush those blissful moments provided, and I could laugh at the anxiety I carried with me into the parking lot when there was something I really wanted but wasn’t sure if I was there in time to get. I can still drive by, but it’ll be more like driving by Mrs. YHT’s grandparents’ old house, an experience that’s defined more by judgement of the present than recollection of the past.
That’s why I can’t be totally glass-half-full about this. A scared place has been corrupted, and there’s no use pretending it hasn’t. But that’s only part of the story, because BK Music — the practice, the retail music operation — is far from finished. Bill’s already looking at new locations, and wherever he opens next, there will be a new place to fill with memories — of Record Store Day successes, of exceptional customer service, of assuaged parking lot anxiety — and I plan to be one of the first through the door when he reopens. So I could be one of the last through the old doors, I battled through a nasty cold and stopped by BK on Saturday, its final day in the old location.
Spirits were high. The aisles were full. There was a nicely decorated cake, complete with musical staff lines and notes running along the sides. This was no funeral — it felt more like a send-off marking the start of a new venture. I chatted with Bill about the Grammys and flipped through records with Clay and my good friend Tex. I knew I could slip a few purchases past my internal comptroller given the occasion, so I got a copy of Father John Misty’s Fear Fun, an album that’s campaigning to become an all-time favorite, and I decided I’d also buy one of the three Stevie Ray Vaughan records that were huddled together in the used section. Vaughan was the first guitar god I ever worshipped, which makes it strange that my collection was, as of Saturday morning, totally Stevie Ray-free. In front of me were his first three albums: Texas Flood, Couldn’t Stand the Weather and Soul to Soul — all winners in my book. I was tempted by Couldn’t Stand the Weather, which features an outstanding version of “Voodoo Child (Slight Return),” but I went with Texas Flood. It felt like a time to celebrate beginnings.
Clay, Tex and I paid for our musical mementos, lingered for a bit and then left just as the cake was being cut. Before we could make it to our cars, out walked Bill with plated slices, forks and napkins for each of us. I was truly touched. Sometimes when a door closes, it opens right back up and hands you chocolate cake.
I’m posting Texas Flood standout “Pride And Joy” below, but I’m leaving off the usual Spotify and iTunes links. I encourage those of you who dig the song and don’t already own a physical copy to make the trip to your favorite independent record store and pick one up. Or better yet, bottle your excitement up and grab a copy from BK when the new spot opens up.
Stevie Ray Vaughan — “Pride And Joy”