I knew that Portland, Oregon, was noted for its fine audio emporiums: Pearl Audio, Encore Audio, and Fred’s Sound of Music among them. But on a recent vacation trip to the City of Roses, my wife, a friend, and I discovered a new one, the Record Pub (TRP), in the city’s Sellwood-Moreland neighborhood. We were intrigued and went in.
The Record Pub is a place you can go to hear music, both recorded and live, browse through new and used vinyl, pick up a used prerecorded audio cassette if you’re so inclined, and buy vintage hi-fi gear. Oh, and you can do so while enjoying your favorite drink.
I talked with the manager on duty, Chris Metz, one of the three founders, and asked how the Record Pub came to be. This is a joint venture, Chris explained, between him and two of his friends, Dave Charbonneau and Andy Clark, that arose from shared frustrations.
During the early stages of the pandemic, like many, we were all craving our pastimes and rituals. For us, that included visiting our favorite local record stores and pubs.
Andy dreamed up the initial concept, and from there, after an excited series of phone calls . . . , we were all in agreement; we were all in, and the initial stages of planning began.
According to Chris, it took two years of planning, inventory acquisition, and construction before the pub opened, on July 22, 2022.
So, what’s the place like? Pretty laid back. There are some comfortable chairs, an attractive bar area, several long displays of vinyl, and a cheerful vibe. And there’s that display of cassettes, which has been a popular addition to the pub’s regular offerings, Chris said. “We have many customers who buy tapes exclusively, and we take great care in curating our selection.”
Above the cassette display I noticed several face-size cutouts and queried Chris about them.
When plotting out the design of the place, we decided to knock down a wall to open up the space a bit. In doing so, we had an opportunity to create a signature art feature to really set the place off. As longtime Rolling Stones fans, we thought putting our own spin on the album cover of the classic Some Girls could be a fun way to engage visitors. It has proved to be a popular attraction, with hundreds of people taking their photos at the wall.
But TRP’s main attraction is the records. The selection includes a mixture of used LPs and 45s, plus new vinyl. I found a copy of a long-ago single called “Hey, Dean, Hey, Jean” by—you guessed it—Dean and Jean, a duo from Dayton, Ohio, my hometown.
Much of the selection dates from 2000 onward. Ancient as I am, I was unfamiliar with much of that music. Still, I thought it was a good selection.
“The Record Pub buys and sells just records and tapes,” Chris confirmed, when I asked about the absence of CDs. “We love CDs too; we’ve just decided along the way to [focus on records and tapes] and keep the selection refined and curated. Not to mention that we don’t have the space for a proper CD collection.”
To complement its wonderful record selection, the Record Pub offers a good beverage selection: six rotating-tap beers and one cider. On any given day, there are usually 20 to 30 varieties of canned beer, hard seltzer, and soft drinks in a double-door fridge. TRP’s beverage selection is decidedly Northwest biased and includes products from the many local breweries. Red, white, and rosé wines are also served, and on weekends, $5 mimosas. I had a very pleasant Oregon Pinot Gris, while my companions sampled local brews. We learned that several of the pub’s most loyal patrons have reserved mugs there!
It was a Thursday afternoon when we visited, and the place was fairly quiet. Thinking of traffic-generating attractions at other drinking establishments/shops, I asked Chris if they have special events. They certainly do, he was proud to say.
Special events are an important part of the Record Pub. Each Wednesday we have a Music Bingo, where instead of calling out numbers, the host calls out song titles. . . . Thursdays and Saturdays are the big days for new arrivals, fresh and used, to hit the record bins, and Friday is when we put out new releases for the week.
Another popular feature is our private-events program. We’ve hosted several, with large groups taking over the space for anything from birthdays and anniversaries to work and book-release parties. We also host live music and have additional performances coming up this summer and early fall.
A recent event was the Record Pub’s first anniversary, held on July 22, 2023. It was quite the deal. From 8:00 to 11:00 a.m., they had a pancake feed—all proceeds going to the Llewellyn Foundation, which supports the local elementary school. Then, the local Ruse Brewery took over the taps for the day, with reps on-site offering giveaways for a couple of hours. They also had two local bands play: the first from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m., the second from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. Just in time for their anniversary, the pub opened outdoor seating and installed new signage.
Another feature of the pub is a prominent, large chalkboard. I wondered about its purpose. Chris explained:
Well before TRP, we used to routinely rank things in our conversations. It was a priority of ours to have the Record Pub reflect our personalities, so the TRP Top 3 was a natural fit. Every Thursday, we present a new theme, and customers are encouraged to join the conversation with their top three of the week’s theme, listing them on the chalkboard. We’ve presented dozens of music-related themes: everything from favorite soundtracks to best love songs to best band logos. It’s a fan feature of the Record Pub for certain.
When I visited, the pub’s vintage equipment was definitely on the affordable, consumer side. There were a few stereo receivers, some 1970s-era Japanese speakers, and a couple of graphic equalizers. Chris said they often have a wider selection, but summer is a slow time for components. They do sell new U-turn Audio, Music Hall, and Audio-Technica turntables to go along with the vinyl they carry.
Last, I asked Chris what he and his partners believe has led to the success of the Record Pub. He didn’t hesitate.
It’s all about the people. Our goal was to create an approachable, comfortable, and clean space where people could congregate and enjoy music together. Essentially, we wanted to lay down the canvas and have the people paint the pictures, and we are thrilled with what they’ve created here. In a relatively short time, an amazing community has developed, and we are grateful every day to see how people have embraced this unique concept, which essentially extends the traditional record store experience that we all love so much and makes it something even more special.
All I can say is should you find yourself in Portland, ease on down to the Sellwood-Moreland neighborhood and check out the Record Pub. It’s open Tuesday through Sunday, from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., till 10:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. I think you’ll have a great time.
Senior Contributor, SoundStage!
The Record Pub
6034 SE Milwaukie Avenue