Why I Run a Shop instead of Hoard Gear

Seattle Store Owner Turntables Trails

Gear can be an addiction. Many people might laugh at this, but it’s true. I’ve met more gear hoarders in the past 9 months since opening this store than I have in my entire life. People on a regular basis walk in and say “wow, this looks like my basement.” Or, “My garage has almost as much stuff as you.” We are a nation of people that collect things, and it’s awesome! Personally I love Audio Gear and Outdoor Gear, which is why my store is filled with these items. I feel lucky that I was able to turn my collecting passion into a way to pay the bills!

Of course, I didn’t open this shop solely to make money. I’m here for a bigger reason, passion. I LOVE gear but I LOVE LOVE when I get to share that passion for gear with someone else. I want to be the Seattle shop that people leave and say “That guy made me exciting about hiking and listening to music!” I dream of running this store as a place where people can come for advice with no obligation to purchase anything tangible but always leave with something (a smile, new knowledge, excitement about gear, hope for their next adventure). A common phrase I hear people say when I offer to help them is “Oh I’m just looking, I don’t need you to do that”, and I respond often with “I love this stuff, if I can help and you enjoy the shop then my day is made! If you buy something then I also happened to make money doing what I love.” What many people don’t realize is that I WOULD BE DOING THIS EVEN IF I COULDN’T MAKE MONEY AT IT.

In fact, I WAS doing this before I was making money at it. I was collecting the gear and loaning it to friends, setting them up with HiFi speakers, or allowing them to borrow my GoLite Backpack for an Overnight in the Woods, or telling them to take my Kayak on their camping trip, or offering to setup a vintage Kenwood receiver at their house for their next party. That is why it’s so great to be able to run a shop that pays the bills while doing this. Instead of making money at a job I hate and then doing what I love on the side I get to do what I love and occasionally make money at it! They say money can’t buy happiness, and it’s true! Surrounding yourself with stuff you are excited about sharing and teaching people about can give you happiness though. Doing what you love and are passionate about as your means of income can also give you happiness. \

So that is why I run a shop instead of hoarding this gear, so I can SHARE what I love. I run a shop so that I can hang out with people who share similar interests. I run a shop so that I can be surrounded by the things and people I am excited about! In a word, I run a shop because of PASSION.

Or maybe I just run a shop so I don’t have to call my addiction what it is, an addiction.

 

The Descriptors of Vintage HiFi Sound

How do you compare speakers? How do describe the difference in receivers? How do you accurately portray the sound of any turntable or audio device? This is a challenge that has confronted myself and my customers since opening the store. Finding the right adjectives and descriptors is a difficult challenge, but one that can greatly help give clarity and understanding to whomever you are talking to. I have often found we use a lot of the same terms and phrases to describe sound, and they are typically rather boring and lacking in detail.

“This sounds better.”

“That sounds bad.”

“It sounds right.”

These are the phrases commonly used and that give hardly any detail of what is truly meant. To combat this issue I recently purchased some Chalk Board sticker/wallpaper stuff. I then spent time coming up with some words that I believe help us characterize sound quality. Now if anyone is struggling to explain what they hear or want to hear they can just look over at my wall and see some helpful hints.

Sound Adjectives and Descriptive Words

 

It can really help allow people to explain what they are hearing in a speaker, cartridge, amplifier or other piece of equipment. Instead of “I don’t like the sound of it.” they can now say “That cartridge sounded sort of hollow, and toneless. Do you have one that happens to be more accurate and clear?” Or maybe they say: “This receiver sounds incredibly honeyed and velvety which is pleasant to listen to, but I was hoping for something more accurate and forward sounding.”

What adjectives do you like to use for describe sound? How would you describe the current audio setup you either have or you want to have?

Personally my setup at home has a “pure, appealing, and melodic sound with just a little honey and smokiness.”

Funny how describing sound is almost like trying to describe a wine.

 

Other adjectives I can think of: full-bodied, neutral, breathy, airy, sounds-like-its-underwater, plain, open, condensed, compacted, compressed, buttery, flowy.

How We Compete with Amazon as a Local Business

amazon-sign

 

Amazon is a massive company. Amazon sells millions of items at incredibly low prices. Amazon is also headquartered in the same city that our small business is. So, how do we compete?

We don’t. 

The trick to this is finding a niche that isn’t going to directly compete with companies like Amazon. As a small local business we can’t win a battle of price or convenience vs an online shopping giant. So with that in mind we decided to focus on the things we can do better. Things like being personal. If you’ve ever purchased off Amazon, eBay, Rakuten, Overstock, or other online sites you often feel a sense of detachment. We like to create an experience when you walk in our store that makes you smile just being here. Coming into Turntables & Trails isn’t just about buying something, it’s also about spending time exploring a small passionate oasis of northwest hiking items and vintage hi-fidelity audio equipment. We have many customers who love the experience and feeling so much that they come back time and time again, not to buy anything, but just to say hello, see what’s new, and enjoy the store.

 

What else do we do well? We sell the things you often can’t find on Amazon. Have you ever tried to purchase a vintage 70’s receiver or turntable via Amazon? Good luck. Sure there is eBay which will sell them, but what happens when you’ve spent $60 on shipping just to realize that it has burned out bulbs, doesn’t function right, or that the “small mark” the seller described actually is a massive scratch across the tuner glass? Well you can either accept it, or send it back and eat that cost. It might even be as simple as the fact that you don’t love the sound of it since you didn’t hear it in person first! We can solve that! We let you test any of our equipment before purchase in the store! Listen and play all you want. Plus we offer a 2 week exchange policy for any reason! We also sell hundreds of outdoor pieces of equipment that are used and bargain priced. This helps you get outside for cheaper than buying some knock-off Chinese made backpack on Amazon that hopefully functions okay.

On top of all this we are a local business. This means our tax dollars that we collect are given back to your own neighborhood, and the money we make often goes to local businesses for creating our signs, advertising, shelving, or just our coffee. When you purchase from a massive online company it goes to some faceless group of investors somewhere.

In the end, we don’t compete with Amazon. We just do what we do best; share our passion about Hifi and Hiking Gear!

6 Months Old and Happily Growing

Turntabels and Trails is almost at the 6 month mark. WOOT! We are so excited to be successfully running a small local business in a niche market! We could take all the credit saying it has been all our hard work and dedication, but truly, the success belongs to you! All our wonderful customers and supporters in these first 6 months have been critical. If you stopped by and bought something, or stopped by and spread the word, you are the reason we are still here! THANK YOU.

 

So what have we learned in 6 months?

1: Invest in Good Shelving up front! It helps a ton!

This is what we looked like when we started:

Come shop at my store and be my first "REAL" customer

This is what we look like now!
Gear to the Ceiling P1012314 P1012315 P1012316

 

2: Don’t use a personal cell phone for your business purposes.

This should be self explanatory, but it took me a few months to realize. Luckily we now have our own shop phone and number (it’s 206-508-6841). This helps keep WORK and WORK.

3: Renting gear is AWESOME, but ALWAYS get a credit card number saved.

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Yep, we rent snowshoes, and it’s great! We can provide a valuable asset to our community and neighbors at a low cost, but, we learned we need to ALWAYS get a Credit Card saved. As much as we expect people to be awesome and return items when they say they will, it doesn’t always happen. If perchance you happen to be that person who rented a pair from us and never returned them…. we would appreciate if you brought them back. 😉

 

4: Don’t change what makes us different!

We are a small local and specialty shop. That is what makes us great! Early on we tried to contact a bunch of companies to try and carry their new products in the store. We got a few companies to let us carry their product but they haven’t sold well (other than those sweet U-Turn Turntables!). Why is this? Well it seems obvious to me now. We are a niche store and the value we provide is in being DIFFERENT from say BEST BUY or another NEW retailer. So we want to provide BUDGET options, SAMPLE buys, CLOSEOUTS, or USED things for sale, not the generic AMAZON available option. Duh?

 

5: Another word for customer is friend.

Our customers are the BEST. In fact we don’t even like to call them customers, we call them friends! We aren’t here to make a million dollars, we are here because we LOVE what we do! So, if you come into the store and want to learn about outdoor gear, audio gear, or nostalgic games and toys, we are EXCITED to do that. A customer is someone you are trying to make money from. A friend is someone you want to help regardless of what they give you. We want to treat everyone that walks in our door as a friend, and we hope we do!

FRIENDS

 

So thank you all for supporting us. Let’s hope that we will make it another 6 months, 6 years, and possibly 6 decades!

 

 

Rare Heath Kirchart Alien Workshop SubSeries Skateboard Deck

We are first and foremost a used Audio and Outdoor Gear store. We like to call ourselves the Seattle Hifi & Hiking Store.

Nonetheless we occasionally get some really cool and rare stuff in that isn’t the typical gear. If it is unique, rare, and somewhat related to audio, outdoor or nostalgic toys, we like to have it in the store. With that said we recently picked up this older Heath Kirchart Skateboard deck. There is hardly any info on this board online, but it looks like there are a lot of similar Heath Kirchart / Alien Decks that are rare and high valued. Nonetheless we just had to have it in our store. We would love to hear some info on it if you know a year, how many were produced, etc.

Take a look:

p1011793 p1011797 p1011799 p1011800 p1011802

Beginner Advice for Buying Snowshoes

Snowshoes are a simple piece of equipment, and yet the number of features and differences can make, or break, your day in the snow.

SIZING

The first thing most people think about when picking snowshoes is size. Snowshoes are typically measured by length, which translates to an  ideal users weight range. At basic, big snowshoes for big people, small snowshoes for small people. The most typical sizes are 25 inches, 30 inches, and 36 inches. Nowadays though there are so many options that you find a lot of sizes even smaller, and in between.

Here is THE MOST HELPFUL THING I CAN SAY about sizing. Pick what is most comfortable for you. The smaller a snowshoe is the lighter it typically weighs, AKA: more comfort. A smaller snowshoe is also going to have a smaller profile so it is easier to maneuver and walk in.

A Bigger snowshoe will float better on snow. This is basic physics. Ever see a movie where someone is on ice and it’s starting to crack so they lay flat on their stomach? Same principle. Spread the weight as wide as possible so you don’t sink in the snow. What this means, is that if you are the type of person to get out on powder days, or like to travel off the beaten path, or simply hate sinking into the snow period, you should get a bigger snowshoe.

So, if you stay on trails on standard snow days, get small. If you like to only go in the back-country and big powder days, go big. If you are somewhere in between, then boom, medium size.

 

Material

There are two standard types of snowshoes, Aluminum Frame and Composite Frame. An aluminum frame snowshoe will have nylon webbing, or plastic strung between the frame, or in the case of really old ones, possibly animal hide. Composite frames are typically a heavy duty plastic for the entire body, both outer and inner.

Composite frames are bomb-proof. I’ve seen snowshoes such as the MSR Denali survive 10 years in a rental fleet with heavy duty use. The plastic / composite material just lasts forever and doesn’t really have any fault points to compromise integrity. Snowshoes such as the TSL 226 Tour which we sell new at the store are made of a heavy duty plastic that could be dropped off a building, run over by a truck, and would still be good to go!

So what is the negative of a composite snowshoe? Weight, and Sound. Most composite snowshoes weight significantly more than their aluminum frame counterparts. They also make an excellent “crunch, crunch, crunch” sound in the snow, which can be annoying (or for some people, rewarding!). Other than that you can’t go wrong with composite.

Aluminum frames are lighter weight, softer on impact, and generally quieter in the snow. Since the aluminum frame is typically connected to the middle via a heavy duty fabric, or thin plastic, they tend to absorb some shock when you step. This means an aluminum frame will typically be less fatiguing for those snowshoes for long hours.

The negative of Aluminum frames is durability. In cheap aluminum frame snowshoes they will often use a plastic that is very thin in between the aluminum. This material can often get very brittle and will start cracking after to much use. This problem is usually solved by more expensive snowshoes which will typically use a rubberized nylon or other fabric material. This material won’t get brittle and thus lasts longer, though it is more prone to tears if you catch it on a rock or something.

The key point is this: for comfort, buy Aluminum Frame, for durability buy Composite. 

Features

Nowadays when looking at a snowshoes you might notice that NASA had a hand in designing it! At least that may be how it appears. Every company seems to constantly be changing their bindings to be more high tech and fancy, riser bars are on the rise, and the grips/crampon section often looks more terrifying than the blades of a combine. So what features do you need?

A simple, yet easy to use binding. Try a few types to see what is easiest for you to tighten, and loosen. If you are going to be taking your snowshoes off and on, an easy binding is critical. Likewise, if you plan to share your snowshoes with different people who have all sizes of feet, get a binding that is more adjustable and expandable. Again, look at the binding and try to assess critical failure points, some might be very comfortable to put on, but are cheaply made.

Riser bars are a really nice feature if you do a lot of incline climbing. A riser bar is going to be a small bar you lift and click into place behind your back heel. This bar then allows you to climb easier because it keeps your foot more level when climbing, while keeping the snowshoe more angled to the hill. This is typically only found on much more expensive snowshoes. It’s a great feature, but unnecessary if you mostly stay on level groomed trails.

Crampons / metal grabby things / cleats! This is where the magic happens! Sure a snowshoe helps you stay on top of the snow, but so do skis! The difference is that in a well designed snowshoe you can tackle any terrain without sliding! The basic concept here is, more metal = more grip. Also true, more metal = more weight. Try to find a combination of grip and weight that is suitable for you. If you like to go on very uneven terrain, get more grip. If you mountaineer a lot, get more grip. If you tend to go on icy hard packed snow, get more grip. On the flip side, go with less if you are a simple snowshoe hiker and want to save weight.

These are the basics of snowshoes. Hopefully it will help you decide. Also, remember that we sell, and RENT SNOWSHOES.

 

Are we “the” Seattle Nerd Store?

Is Turntables & Trails “the” Seattle Nerd Store?

 

nerd-seattle

Maybe.

According to a large portion of our customers we are the perfect ecclectic blend of Seattle interests. This was put most apptly by a customer who stated, “You are the Seattle Nerd Store!” Personally, I disagree, we aren’t the Seattle Nerd Store.

We are the Northwest’s Nerd Store!

It seems that the Northwest has attracted the curious and unique crown of folks from around the world who love all the best things. Hiking, Biking, Skiing, Snowshoeing, Travel, Camping, Climbing, Disc Golf and other outdoor activies seem to draw people to the NW like fish are drawn to… well, whatever magic lure you happen to have. We love to get outside and go outdoors in the Northwest. Maybe it’s the beautiful green colors that thrive around us, or possibly the large expanses of lakes, rivers, ocean, streams and other bodies of water. Whatever it is, we love it. Does it make us nerds? Maybe.

We also love music. When I say love… I mean “love”. We aren’t some group of people who are content to listen to the latest boy band (do those still exist?) playing through our cell phones built in speaker. We demand an audio experience. We support our local artists at gallerys, coffee shops, theaters, on-stage, at the farmers market, or even in our own living rooms. So, what do we want when we choose to listen to music that isn’t live? Only the best (within our budget, of course!). We might not have the room for massive 3 way tower speakers, a seperate subwoofer, and a full rack setup, but we certainly don’t want to listen via generic headphones, or our built in laptop and cell phone speakers. We want simple, well built, (and typically wallet friendly) setups that allow us to be invited into the music. As one customer put it “we want to hear the depth of sound in music.” We choose vintage gear, or Made in USA products. We want Marantz, Sansui, Kenwood, Dynaco, Heathkit, JBL, Advent, Polk, Infinity, Acoustic Research, Thorens, Technics, JVC, Hafler, and other quality pieces of gear. We don’t settle for your “all-in-one” speaker-tuner-ipoddock-cd-player type devices. We realize that power of a small bookshelf set of speakers, 70’s receiver, and a U-Turn or Pro-Ject Turntable is more than adequate to fill our house, apartment, or office with encompassing music. Does this make us nerds? Most likely!

What else? How about board games? Yes! Cartridge Video Games like the N64, NES, Sega and Gameboy? YES! We want to create experiences with our friends when we get together; have nostalgic feel good times. Let’s play Settlers of Catan, Small World, Dungeons and Dragons, or Killer Bunnies when we get together. We want to build lego structures that are unlimited in their scope. We want to play pokemon on the original Brick Gameboy. Are we nerds? Yes.

 

So maybe we are the Seattle Nerd Store. Maybe we are the Northwest Nerd Store. If liking adventure, fun, high quality audio, well made outdoor equipment, nostalgic games and toys, and good times with friends is being a nerd. . . we will glady be nerds, and Turntables & Trails will gladly be your Seattle Nerd Store.

 

We Sell Nostalgic Toys, Games and Fun for Seattle

Turntables & Trails – That’s us! At first glance we might appear to sell only Audio Gear and Outdoor Gear, but it isn’t true! Turntables & Trails is the Seattle Go-To spot for Fun of all kinds! We have vintage toys, games, board games, video games, role-playing games, books and more! Obviously you can grab a turntable or vinyl at the store, but you can also get Pogs, Micro Machines, or a Classic Brick Gameboy!

Zbots, Micro Machines, POGS

 

If you remember Micro Machines you probably also remember their Zbots. These tiny little action figures were super well designed, bright colors, strange appendages and they were tiny! These fun little toys fit in every kids pocket, and still do! They also make GREAT keychains, just drill a hole and attach a chain and you have a unique and classic keyring! Of course we also have the actual Micro Machines cars, planes, tanks and more!

 

D20 Dice and More Roleplaying Books

 

Of course, we also carry a small amount of board game, and roleplaying dice, along with roleplaying books. Whether you want some unique D20, D12 or six-sided Die, or a cool D20 system Roleplaying game, we probably have them!

 

Classic Handheld Games Retro Video Games

 

And of course, what toy/game/nostalgic section would be complete without Video games! From NES, Gamecube, Playstation 1, Xbox, N64, Gameboy, Gameboy Color, 3DS, Nintendo DS, Atari, Sega Genesis and more we have games and systems. It might not be a video game shop, so our selection is small, but we do have some! Take a look!

Of course this isn’t all we carry, don’t forget the large quantity of Record Players, Backpacks, Hiking Shoes, Rain Jackets, Sleeping Bags, Receivers, Amps, Speakers, Snowshoes and more that we have!

I think the biggest takeaway is this: We Sell Nostalgic Toys, Games and (all sorts of other) Fun for Seattle. No matter when you come to Turntables & Trails near Greenlake in Seattle, we will have something fun and entertaining for you. We want you to leave with a smile! So come stop by!