Midcentury celebration: Vinyl records, vintage furniture and classic architecture collide with Parkade shop ‘Entropy’
Feb. 20, 2023 Updated Tue., Feb. 21, 2023 at 11:55 a.m.
JJ Wandler, the man behind Garageland and the Bad Seed, has plans for a new record and vintage store that will occupy the circular office at the base of the Parkade parking structure. (Kathy Plonka/The Spokesman-Review)
JJ Wandler knew he had to have the windowed space at the base of the iconic Parkade parking garage’s helixed ramp when he saw a “For Lease” sign there late last year.
The question was, what to put in it?
“I had no intention, three months ago, of opening a record store,” Wandler said Thursday while standing on the second -floor balcony of the Parkade space.
Yet, in the space of a few weeks, Wandler is preparing for the opening of Entropy, his latest foray into the music/vintage/art world of Spokane. He is the former owner of the downtown bar Garageland, founder of Total Trash Records and Sound in Browne’s Addition and current owner of the Bad Seed restaurant in Hillyard. His new space is the former office of one of Spokane’s pre-eminent architects, Warren Heylman, whose legacy Wandler hopes to honor, while also giving local artists room to display their work and play off the distinct styles of other downtown retailers, such as Boo Radley’s, Atticus and Petunia & Loomis.
“It’ll be vintage, but also some newer, quirky stuff that I can offer that those guys don’t offer,” Wandler said, adding that he hoped his business and those other shops would become part of a “walking tour” of Spokane’s midcentury past.
The location attracted Wandler because of its presence downtown and ties to Heylman, whose work with the parking structure, the Spokane International Airport terminal and the Spokane Regional Health District defined Spokane’s postwar skyline.
Wandler joked that, along with the Hillyard library that now houses his restaurant, his real estate rental portfolio was becoming crowded.
“When I decided to rent this, I was like, ‘It feels like I’m collecting iconic architecture right now,’ ” Wandler said.
In later years, Heylman and his daughter used the building as an office, but it had previously been the home of the R. Alan Brown Interior Design Studio, which occupied the space at the Parkade from May 1967, shortly after the parking structure’s grand opening, through October 1986.
R. Alan Brown moved to Spokane Valley to a store on East Sprague Avenue, where they operated until a retirement sale in December. Travis Brown, one of R. Alan Brown’s sons, said he remembered taking the bus downtown to clean the windows of the showroom at the Parkade and dust furniture.
Ann Martin, Heylman’s daughter, said she and her father moved into the space shortly thereafter. Heylman, an avid runner who died last year at age 98, had a shower installed in one of the back rooms so he could clean up after a lunchtime run before meeting clients.
Wandler pondered taking out the shower, but decided against it.
“I was like, nah, I could just use it for storage as it is,” he said.
The upper floor is accessible only by a spiral staircase, and features a balcony that wraps around the central floor, which is itself ringed by floor-to-ceiling glass windows. The upstairs will feature artwork curated by local artist Helen Parsons, Wandler said, while records will be stored in movable bins that can be reconfigured to allow musical artists to perform below.
“I was thrilled,” said Ann Martin, Heylman’s daughter, who worked with her father out of the office for several decades. “He’s respecting the space. He’s respecting the spiral staircase.”
Martin said she was also pleased the location would be occupied by a local business.
The Entropy name comes from one of Wandler’s favorite writers, Thomas Pynchon, who wrote a short story by that name in the late 1950s about a drug-fueled lease-breaking party in Washington D.C. A vintage store Wandler owned in Seattle, Lot 49, was also named after a Pynchon work.
Wandler said his inventory comes from a personal collection he’s gathered over the years that has sat in boxes as well as duplicates he’s bought trying upgrade albums he already has.
“I’m the kind of record collector that, if I have a copy of a Ramones record, and then I find one that’s a little bit better, or has a hype sticker on it, then I’ll buy that copy, and then I still have that second copy,” Wandler said.
He’ll be selling a mix of all genres, he said, but it won’t be wall-to-wall vinyl in the downtown shop.
“I’m not going to pack this out with too many records,” Wandler said. “The idea is that I just want to have iconic records.”
Entropy will have a selection of jazz artists, Wandler said, as well as a selection of music including contemporary hip hop, independent, punk, country and more. He specifically mentioned vinyl from Run the Jewels, the hip-hop super duo of Killer Mike and El-P, as well as De La Soul.
When Wandler first arrived at Eastern Washington University in the late ’80s, he bought a record downtown – “Buzz Factory” by the Seattle grunge and psychedelic group Screaming Trees – though he admits now it was probably a CD. Still, the idea of having a music store downtown is important to him.
“Record stores used to be the tastemakers,” Wandler said. “What a record store decides to bring in decides the community’s taste in a lot of ways.”
Entropy will add to downtown’s record store offerings, with FinnBoy Records, Books & Curio open at 620 N. Monroe St. just north of the Spokane River.
Even with the advent of streaming music, vinyl records have continued a surge in sales that began 17 years ago, according to an industry report published in January by Luminate, the data company that has tracked recording sales since 1991.
Americans bought 43.5 million vinyl records in 2022, up from 41.7 million sold the year prior, according to the report. More than a third of the customers who bought Taylor Swift’s new album “Midnights” during its first week of release in October did so on vinyl, according to the report.
Having a collection on display, in what amounts to a fishbowl in an area of downtown that has seen its share of crime and drug use, doesn’t worry Wandler, he said. In late January, a woman was attacked by a man police believe is a convicted murderer in what appears to be a random assault.
During the few weeks he’s been working on the space, he’s had to usher away some people involved in drug activity. He also plans to hand out fliers pushing people toward Narcotics Anonymous, he said.
“If we’re able to create a vibrant community around here, with art and music – there’s going to be a vintage store here as well – having people coming and going from this space will keep people from congregating and doing drugs,” he said.
Some of his friends have suggested he’s naïve, Wandler admits. But the space and the idea are just too exciting.
“I definitely didn’t want to just live in fear, and not move forward,” he said.
Wandler is shooting for a soft opening March 9, followed by a grand opening in time for the First Friday arts observance downtown on April 7 with a gallery show and DJ. Even if you’re not a fan of records or vintage items, he urged the curious to come down and take a look at a piece of Spokane’s architectural history.
“This has been a closely held secret, and it’s Spokane architecture,” he said. “There’s no cover charge for taking a look.”
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