At times it seems Boulder’s independent stores are fighting for their fiscal lives. But before giving up, here are three long-time staples that keep Boulder’s independent spirit alive.
The Boulder Bookstore
Ask David Bolduc, who founded the Boulder Bookstore in 1973, why he wanted to open a book shop and his one-word answer, delivered with a wry smile, is “foolishness.” Bolduc grew up in Muskeegan, a tiny town on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, and he spent a great deal of his time at the library.
“There weren’t any bookstores in my town,” Bolduc says, “and I just thought running one might be interesting to me.”
A Small Space
Bolduc opened the Boulder Bookstore in 1973, a half block east of its current location. The original store was about 1,000 square feet, and back then the brick and mortar competition was intense. The original shop opened with five employees and 10 bookcases.
The Boulder Bookstore thrived, eventually moving into its current location at 11th and Pearl. One reason for the growth? Strong customer service. The bookstore is staffed with people who know books and know authors. A few employees have worked there more than 20 years.
Not surprisingly, Boulder book lovers flock to this Pearl Street institution. Its Readers Guild, an annual membership program that provides discounts for frequent buyers, is more than 9,000 strong.
The Video Station
It’s 2002. That year, Bruce Shamma bought the Video Station from the two partners who founded it in 1981. Little did he know the real competition would come just a few years later, not from physical stores but rather online streaming services and little red kiosks.
Fourteen years later, Boulder’s beloved Video Station is the last video store standing and remains the go-to place for cinephiles and movie fans. With more than 41,000 titles, the chances are very good Shamma and his staff have even the most obscure film. There are entire sections of the store devoted to experimental films and silent movies. The foreign film section, organized by director, is exhaustive (a popular section for Boulderites). Children’s films, comedies, dramas and just about every other genre are well covered.
Shamma spends much of his time adding to the Video Station’s already robust library. Shamma scours dozens of websites and works with his main distributor to ensure new, old, rare or previously unreleased films make it into the Video Station collection.
While Shamma concedes getting young people to kick their online habit and walk into a store is a challenge, he’s seen how millennials’ interest in vinyl has given a boost to record shops.
Absolute Vinyl Records and Stereo
Owner and founder, Doug Gaddy, has been enthusiastic about vinyl throughout most of his life. He grew up in the era of vinyl, learning to appreciate the richness of its sound as well as vinyl’s durability as a medium. As vinyl became less and less popular, Gaddy’s enthusiasm for collecting LPs only grew.
Creating a Community
Historically, Boulder has had a history of being home to a community of music-lovers. After Gaddy moved to Boulder, he thought he might be able to contribute to the town’s music culture with a record and stereo store, and, eight years later, it is evident that his guess was right. Gaddy had a few specific goals in mind with the birth of Absolute Vinyl Records and Stereo, one of which was to create a retail space that could also serve as a gathering place for music enthusiasts.
“When I was a kid, record shops and stereo shops had a sense of community,” Gaddy explains. “That was really important to me, and to a lot of people … thousands and thousands of people. Each shop had its own character and reflected the personalities of the people who ran it.”
With so much to choose from alongside a cultivated community, Audio Vinyl is definitely worth a visit.