News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Record store opens in Mill City

Reporter for The Canyon Weekly

Mill City has a new record store. RPM Records, on Southwest Broadway Avenue, opened in early October. It features vinyl, cassettes, CDs, DVDs and one 8-track tape (an Elvis Presley compilation).

But the intent is clear.

“Nothing beats vinyl,” said store owner Randall Craig, who has been in the Mill City area for 6 1/2 years doing shows on KYAC, the local community radio station. He does jazz shows, rhythm & blues shows and eclectic “kitchen sink” shows with “a little bit of everything.” 

Craig used to do a 10 p.m. to midnight Friday night rock show with Laurie and Al Brooks, “but we had to give it up … it was wearing us out.”

For the past year or so he’s been plotting to open the store. First, he found the building he wanted and purchased it. It took a bit of time. Craig was interested in a certain size of building and it had to be on a major street to offer the foot traffic he was seeking.

Then he had to prowl around the mid-valley to stock the store. He said that there is no over-riding theme. “We have a little bit of everything,” he said.

The building’s previous owner also had a small organ and an old console radio in storage. They now occupy strategic spots in the store. Craig also has a variety of vintage stereo equipment for sale as well.

“If they don’t have a turntable or a cassette player they can get one here,” he said, adding that he has one machine that is set up to play the Elvis 8-track.

On hand in the store on the day The Canyon Weekly visited was Vanessa Riley, a Lyons resident, who lost her record collection in the 2020 fires. 

She has unimpeachable musical street cred: For seven years, from age 16 to 23, she worked at a record store in Liverpool.

Aside: Liverpool, a major shipping and transportation hub on the northwest coast of England, also is known for being the hometown and stomping ground for The Beatles, a pop group of some renown. End aside.

“It was an indy shop,” she said in her impossibly cool British accent. “It was called Ames Records, but we were bought out by Richard Branson and Virgin.”

Vanessa was on hand because, well, it wasn’t really clear WHY Vanessa was on hand. She might kind of be an employee (like Jack Black or Todd Louiso in the movie High Fidelity). She clearly wants to help Randall out with his new venture.

But most of all she’s there because she understands that a music store must be populated with people who are interested in talking about music.

“People hang out in record stores,” she said. “It’s a community thing. Talking about music brings people together.”

“Lots of people come in, see an album and it spurs memories,” said Randall.

RPM Records is at 360 SW Broadway in Mill City.
RPM Records is at 360 SW Broadway in Mill City.

And from there the conversation kind of morphs into odd meters and chord changes that would make sense on Randall’s jazz shows. The unusual bill of the Who and the Beach Boys at the Portland Memorial Coliseum, Randall’s first show at the age of 10 or so. Vanessa’s friend’s cousin (or perhaps it’s the other way around) who has been the personal assistant for Keith Richards for going on 40 years.

Aside: Richards, who will be 79 on Dec. 18, has been a guitarist and songwriter for the Rolling Stones since the early 1960s. Conventional wisdom is that if not for rock ’n’ roll he would almost certainly be in jail. End aside. 

Randall notes that an early RPM Records customer went away disappointed because he had no Grateful Dead records. Dead records, as well as those of Led Zeppelin, says Randall, are almost impossible to stock because people tend to hoard them rather than sell them.

Most vinyl records sell for $4 – $5, although some collectibles are priced at $50. His most expensive sale to date was $15 for the Buffalo Springfield’s greatest hits package Retrospective. The customer also bought records by Steppenwolf and Christopher Cross.

Randall also has plans to add 78s to the store inventory.

Aside: A 78 is a record (usually made of heavier vinyl) designed to play at 78 rpm (revolutions per minute). The classic 12-inch LP rotates at 33⅓, with singles spinning at 45. End aside.

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