It’s October 1973. Led Zeppelin is touring the U.S., breaking attendance records that leave the Beatles in the dust. The Rolling Stones and Gladys Knight are tearing up the pop charts. Pink Floyd’s “The Dark Side of the Moon” is blowing everyone’s minds.
And in a Southern California resort town, a tiny record shop called the Long Ear, owned by husband and wife Terry and Deon Borchard, opens its doors for the first time.
In only two months, on the opposite side of the country, New York’s legendary punk rock club CBGB will also have its grand opening, and it’ll change the music scene forever.
Four decades later, CBGB has long been boarded up. But the Long Ear? It’s still going strong.
Though the Borchards are still at the helm, the business has gone through a number of mutations since the early ’70s. The Long Ear’s very first incarnation was in a 16-by-30 foot space in Big Bear Lake, Calif. – “The elevation there was higher than the population,” Deon Borchard jokes – with a starting inventory of 400 records, 88 8-tracks and three cassette tapes.
The Long Ear would later move to a bigger building, a former furniture store that was connected to a pool hall the Borchards managed on the side. By 1985 they were ready for a change of scenery, so they packed everything they owned into two Ryder trucks – “Our house was in one, the store in the other,” Terry recalled – and settled in Coeur d’Alene.
They have occupied three different buildings since becoming Idaho residents and have been in their current location on Fourth Street for the past 13 years.
It’s at this location where their 40th anniversary celebration will be held Saturday, an all-day party that will feature performances from a number of local bands, including Scatterbox and Goodnight Venus, as well as an intimate in-store performance from Grammy-winning bluesman Robert Cray.
The Long Ear is a haven for anyone whose idea of a successful afternoon is spending hours browsing through used record bins. The place itself exudes a comfortable, lived-in atmosphere – there’s even a cat, Boots, who lives in the store and occasionally weaves her way through the rows of CDs.
It’s a family business in more ways than one: Along with the Borchards, who will celebrate their 42nd anniversary in December, Long Ear managers Nic and Chelsea Fritze are also married, having met in the store. The patrons, too, are mostly regulars, many of whom have been shopping at the store for years. Deon Borchard likens the Long Ear to Cheers – it’s a place where everybody knows your name.
“The people that keep coming back are the ones that are keeping us here,” Chelsea Fritze said. “I see kids who, when I started working here, were 10. Now they’re 20.”
Terry Borchard added, “We’ve got customers that have been shopping with us for years, and now they’re bringing their grandkids.”
What’s the secret to the Long Ear’s longevity? The Borchards say it isn’t really a secret at all: It’s their dedication to their customers and their genuine love. Retail stores and shopping mall CD emporiums come and go—Tower Records, Sam Goody and most Virgin Megastores are kaput—but the Long Ear keeps on kicking. The song remains the same.