Santa Rosa’s The Last Record Store reopens as The Next Record Store
Since 1983 and until this spring, The Last Record Store had been a staple for music enthusiasts in Sonoma County.
Business partners and longtime friends Doug Jayne and Michael “Hoyt” Willhelm opened their original location in downtown Santa Rosa before moving it to Mendocino Avenue north of downtown in 2003. Then in March, Willhelm said he planned to retire after more than 38 years running the business, marking a new era for the store popular with curious Gen Z shoppers and die-hard LP fans.
This week the store reopened in its newest iteration, The Next Record Store, owned and operated by Jayne, his wife Barrett, his son Ethan and longtime employee Gerry Stumbaugh, who has worked the counter for more than two decades.
Jayne’s love for music goes beyond the four walls of the store, old or new. He hosts music-centric shows on radio station KRCB including “Midday Music with Doug Jayne” and owns record label Jackalope, through which he produces his own music and that of more than 35 other bands.
His inspiration to open The Last Record Store with Willhelm stemmed from his frustration that there wasn’t a local record store in the area.
“Music is why I got into this business anyway,” Jayne said of the store. “And then you end up working in retail, you’re kind of less about this music, so finding that balance was really important.”
With the surge in popularity of streaming music sites and the decline of physical sales over the past years, plus the recent pandemic, record stores around the country have struggled to stay afloat, according to organizers of Record Store Day, a national event that started in 2008 to encourage people to shop at local, independent record stores.
In that time, The Last Record Store also had to get creative to keep their doors open.
“When we moved in here back in 2003, business was really taking a dip,” Jayne said. “Gerry got creative by showing movies in here, like ‘High Fidelity’ up on the wall, and hosting the Left of the Dial festival, which was Gerry’s radio show on KRCB. It really got people interested in us.”
That ingenuity is something the owners will be bringing to the new place. Just like old times, they plan to host live music performances and film screenings.
Although traditional vinyls seem like relics memorialized in the last remaining record stores, interest in them has grown among younger generations and nostalgic collectors. Vinyl sales saw a 29% increase during the shelter-in-place this past year, surpassing that of compact discs, according to the Record Industry Association of America.
This increase has been made possible by artists releasing special vinyl editions in tandem with album premieres and annual Record Store Days bringing limited-edition records to independent record stores around the country.
But even with the public’s renewed interest in records, pandemic restrictions brought new limitations to the business that survived on walk-ins and regulars. In May, The Last Record Store cleared out most of their inventory with a closing sale that left customers eager to see what was to come.
“I was worried that it would become a store for only newer music,” said Morris Acevedo, a customer of almost 16 years. “It’s actually kept a lot of the charm of the old incarnation.”
The new store’s logos are an homage to the original logo featuring a jackalope, a mythical rabbit-like animal with horns, paired with sharp, jagged lettering like that on a heavy metal album cover.
“The core is going to be the same,” Stumbagh said of the new store. “We still plan on continuing to provide awesome music to the people of Sonoma County. We’re still carrying all of the same stuff as before, just with a fresh coat of paint.”
The Next Record Store opened its doors this past Tuesday to the first customers since the store’s closure last May.
The new store’s debut comes at an opportune time, with Record Store Day just around the corner on Saturday, June 12. Jayne said that before the pandemic, Record Store Day would bring around 200 people to the store, lined up outside for a chance to grab rare limited editions and new releases. This year looks to be just as popular: The store asked people to make appointments for 20-minute browsing sessions on Record Store Day and those appointments have already filled up.
On Friday, The Next Record Store will be unveiling a beer in collaboration with HenHouse Brewery appropriately named “The Next IPA.” This will be the second such partnership since last year’s release of “The Last IPA.” Each purchase of the beer comes with a record and will be available through the weekend at the HenHouse taproom at 322 Bellevue Ave. in Santa Rosa. The record store team also will be making an appearance on Sunday for an open tasting of the beer.