Once upon a time, a then 24-year-old from Santa Clara, California resolved to make the journey north to the land of rainfall and cheap beer—some call it Corvallis. With little but the hope of purchasing what any clear-headed 24-year-old would want to purchase: a record store.
And thus, we have Doug DiCarolis, a bit older now and, the owner of Happy Trails Records on Monroe and 3rd Street, which happens to be just one block down and two blocks over from the original location (an all-vinyl store) on 2nd next to Tom’s Peacock. They are still using, even now, the original new releases vinyl stands from the first days of the old store.
Business at Happy Trails could not have been better from the time it was bought by its current owner to the dawn of the CD. As if by some minor miracle, when the CD first appeared on the scene, anyone who owned records on vinyl came down to the store and re-bought all the same music they already owned—but on CD, a phenomenon of business that any owner of a record store could easily get comfortable with. However, since the late 90s (1998 to be horribly exact), with the Napster and free music revolution of the Internet, the options that Happy Trails has to work with have dwindled and business has all but dried up. In a market that is tough enough as it is and a time when musicians are skeptical to even create music, let alone try to make money from it, what is a record store owner to do, close down? I think not.
As DiCarolis puts it, “As long as people are still buying vinyl, that’s how long we’ll be selling it.”
Too often when walking past the open door, steady drum beats and rhythm guitar softly making their way out to the street corner, we notice the Frank Zappa concert T-shirts, posters, and memorabilia. Yet we do not go into the store, we don’t make our way to the Rolling Stones section, or the Doors. We don’t ask about the signed baseball behind the counter, or the stickers slathered over the old glass cabinets. We don’t do what we can, our part, to keep the store up and running.
DiCarolis says, “Coming up here at 24, with an ad clipped out of a free magazine that read, ‘FOR SALE RECORD STORE,’ after the first couple weeks you kind of become something of a local celebrity. Everybody knows you. It was literally the coolest thing that I could have been doing. It was just the greatest.”
Go, now. Ask about the baseball, find a one-dollar CD or vinyl or find something you weren’t even looking for. Buy it if you can, and know that you are helping keep that tune going on the corner of 3rd and Monroe.
Summer makes for some lazy days here in Corvallis, we can all agree on that—and when you need that little pick-me-up, there’s nothing like a freshly opened Jimmy Hendrix or Bob Dylan CD for your car—or some Pink Floyd on vinyl for your late-night beer-making ventures. There is no telling what you will find if you go and check it out for yourself. Some albums may even find you… Because where else can you find someone who knows your name and that you like the Breeders and Chet Atkins all at the same time?
Shine on, you crazy diamond. Shine on.
By Ethan Brady