Surviving in Summit County: ‘Diversification’ keeps records spinning at Affordable Music |

Surviving in Summit County: ‘Diversification’ keeps records spinning at Affordable Music

On Friday at the Affordable Music store in Dillon, shop owner Gary Koenig flips through some of the limited-edition records — singles and full albums — that he will have for sale today in recognition of National Record Store Day, a nationwide celebration of independently owned record stores. Koenig's is the only one still operating in Summit County.
Eli Pace / |

If you go

What: National Record Store Day at Affordable Music

When: All day Saturday

Where: Affordable Music, 104 Village Place, Dillon

Info: A day honoring independently owned record stores across the US puts special, limited-edition records for sale into those stores. In Dillon, Affordable Music has more than 100 vinyl records available today. “These are things you won’t find in bix-box stores,” said Gary Koenig, owner of Affordable Music.

Twenty-five years ago, Bill Clinton had unseated George H. W. Bush for the U.S. presidency but not yet taken office, Duke was celebrating its buzzer-beating victory over the University of Kentucky in the NCAA men’s basketball championship and Nirvana and Michael Jackson had top-selling albums.

At the same time, Affordable Music, which remains the only independent record store still operating in Summit County today, first opened its doors for business, and as one might imagine, CDs were some of its hottest-selling items.

“But once the internet came about,” storeowner Gary Koenig recalled on Friday, “that cut back on the CD buying. The way I see it is, if there’s something you want that’s digital, there’s no reason for a manufacturing process. That’s what the world has come to.”

On the eve of his biggest day of the year — National Record Store Day, which is being celebrated Saturday at numerous independently owned record stores across the country, including Koenig’s — he talked about why his eclectic little music shop, nestled in a not-too-prominent position next to Pug Ryan’s Brewery off Lake Dillon Drive, has survived where so many others have not.

Over the last 25 years, Koenig has seen record stores come and go in Frisco and Breckenridge, while his shop in Dillon remains. In a word, he credits his store’s survival to its “diversification.”

“I carry guitars and guitar strings now,” Koenig said before listing a number of other items now sold at his shop that didn’t use to be there. He added that vinyl records are making a comeback nowadays.

That’s because “sound is not digital, sound is purely analog,” Koenig explained. “From the vibration in my voice box, the vibration from a guitar, what goes into my ear, it’s all vibration — and vinyl is vibration — whereas CDs and digital stuff has been manipulated and then manipulated back. Vinyl is the true sound, I guess.”

From the moment one walks in the front door, Koenig’s shop screams “independently owned.”

With an often-asleep dog named Cody roaming the premises, the business still sells CDs and records from all music genres, but Koenig now offers guitars, in addition to guitar accessories, posters, stickers, ukuleles, plastic kazoos, hemp necklaces, incense sticks, glass smoking pipes, T-shirts and just about anything else that might make a buck.

“It’s difficult keeping track of it all,” Koenig admitted, “but yeah, diversification is the key to survival in a small community.”

Inside the store, there are racks and racks of music to sort through — CDs and records — just past the instruments by the front door. The whole space has a way of holding one’s attention, and there’s a lot there to look through.

At first, the organization of it all feels a bit cluttered, but upon further examination, it all seems to make sense.

In addition to diversification, Koenig also credits his shop’s survival to “diligence, hard work and to listening to his customers.”

“I’m into classic rock and stuff,” he said of his preference in music, “but I have people coming to me for all kinds of music, and I listen to what they say and get stuff in that people are looking for.”

For Saturday, Affordable Music has lined up more than 100 limited-edition vinyl records for sale, ranging from $14 up to about $80, depending on the band and rarity of the album. Koenig said he had to sign a pledge not to price gouge anyone or sell the special, limited-edition vinyls online in order to offer the records at his store, but for the store, it was a promise worth making.

“The last five years, it’s been the busiest day of the year for me hands down” Koenig said of National Record Store Day, agreeing that it’s somewhat like his Super Bowl.

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