Sad pop from The Smiths or fuzzy alt-rock from Jim O'Rourke cascade from out-of-sight speakers, and olfactory senses detect the strong 30-year buildup of old vinyl, hardwood flooring and Nag Champa incense. Flipping through vinyl 12-inchers from Black Joe Lewis, Grinderman and The Cars, a trip to Ranch Records in downtown Bend is a tumble into the rabbit hole of discovery, a music time warp.
With another location in Salem, Ranch Records opened in 1982 and claims to be the oldest record store establishment in the state under continuous ownership. And other than the beat-up hardwood floors, the Bend store has done a good job of concealing its age.
Remarkably, in an era when record stores are vanishing, Ranch has expanded its vinyl section to stretch the entire length of the southern wall; inside the newly painted bins sit hundreds of brand-new crisp vinyl records. And they don't have a record, Ranch Records will order it.
Besides the stacks of vinyl, Ranch Records' best feature is the rare vintage tour posters lining the walls. Just don't look too high up without preparing for disappointment—the posters toward the ceiling are the rarest of the rare, often autographed and sadly, are not for sale.
Also worthy of noting are the four-for-$10 discount CD bins at the back of the store. They can yield bargain treasures for an audiophile in the know and are a great way to fill holes in a music collection. Tickets can be bought here for roughly half of the concerts held in Bend and, with a huge collection of music from Central Oregon bands, this is the best venue for local.
Like independent record stores everywhere, Ranch Records is banking on the resurrection of vinyl recordings to keep its doors open. Stop by on Record Store Day for specials like 4/20 brownies, half-price select vinyls from bands like Incubus and give-away T-shirts. A landmark amid the ever-changing commerce of downtown, Ranch Records is a cornerstone, as American as apple pie and as Bend as a Patagonia jacket.