Posted originally on Veoba.com:
I spent two stints in Portland, OR and one of the constants during my time there was 2nd Avenue Records always getting a ton of my money. Like any junky needing a fix (which PDX has long been the place for that), I was in constant need of that new 7″ or 12″ and while Portland has seen many great shops come and go, 2nd Ave was always my go to. Mainly because it’s seemingly been around forever. I recently saw someone label 2nd Ave as the Toyota Camry of Portland record stores… which is not a bad reference. Now I’d never buy a Toyota (that’s for a different article), but just like 2nd Avenue Records the Camry’s reliable.
Vinyl is the key at 2nd Avenue. Sure they have CDs, patches, stickers, etc. – but the shop is, and always has been, focused on vinyl. Even before this current resurgence of vinyl they had the place stuffed with LPs and 7”s. Tucked away in downtown Portland near the Willamette River, they were one of the first shops I can remember to only keep one copy out on display, then just replaced them as they were sold (which is how most shops run now). A part of me suspects it could’ve been a psychological ploy for customers to think they got the last copy, but really, the shop used to be so tiny they couldn’t afford the space for multiple copies. In the mid-1990’s they moved into a larger space about 100 feet down the street on the same block. But it is no Amoeba mega store by any means.
What I’ve always liked about 2nd Avenue Records is that it’s not a hang out. It’s not a place where dumbass kids from local cool-for-this-month bands are employed simply to treat customers like dirt. I am pretty sure the staff hasn’t changed in the past 20 years. They’re top notch and are always friendly and helpful – but aren’t there to gab about current gossip, music-related or otherwise… They’ve always seemed to evenly support many genres of music… punk, garage, ska, reggae, indie-rock, hardcore, metal and hip-hop. They most definitely have others, but those eight genres are consistently well-represented.
With their ever growing music scene, Portland has plenty of great record shops, but don’t overlook 2nd Avenue. Especially if you need a fix, as there are plenty to be found there.