Appeal tribune. (Silverton, Or.) 1999-current, July 08, 2020, Page 4, Image 4

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People line up to enter Ranch Records for the going out of business sale in Salem on June 23. The record store is closing after nearly 40 years in business.
A bittersweet end for Ranch Records
Customers mourn shop’s closure and celebrate retirement for original owners
Capi Lynn Salem Statesman Journal
David Ballantyne bought his first rec-
ord at Ranch Records — “Vitalogy” by
Pearl Jam. He still has it, and the all-
black album jacket with gold foil title
looks as pristine as it did in 1994.
The 14-year-old would spend two-
thirds of his school lunch money at the
downtown Salem record store and later
most of his paycheck while working
there between gigs as the frontman for
The Widgets, a local rock band in the
late 1990s and early 2000s.
“There are so many people who have
had that moment because Ranch Rec-
ords was here,” Ballantyne said.
He and other music fans are are feel-
ing nostalgic as the end of an era ap-
After 38 years, Ranch Records is clos-
A going out of business sale was an-
nounced June 22 on Facebook, and fans
have been swarming to the shop on High
Street NE ever since. Many have waited
in line for two hours to peruse half-price
CDs and posters and records a third off.
Only 10 customers are allowed inside
at a time because of COVID-19 guide-
lines, and there’s much to see. The store
has thousands of new and used records
and CDs as well as hundreds of vintage
posters and other collectibles.
The pandemic isn’t the reason Ranch
Records is calling it quits — business
was good before COVID-19 and even bet-
ter when the shop reopened after the
shutdown — but it did give Kit and Lori
Close the nudge they needed to retire.
They’ve been talking about it for a cou-
ple of years.
“While we are saddened to be closing
the store, it is finally time for us to fulfill
our dream of retirement,” they posted
on Facebook. “We’re very excited.”
At the same time fans and customers
celebrated the couple’s retirement, they
mourned the loss of what they call a lo-
cal institution and a cultural icon.
Words like devastated and heartbro-
ken were used multiple times in social
media posts.
“I wanted to cry when I heard it, I’m
not going to lie,” Kavin Blanton said
while taking advantage of the sale. He’s
been a Ranch Records customer for 24
years, since he was 13.
Alyssa Delgado, co-owner of The
Governor’s Cup Coffee Co. just around
the corner, grew up going to the record
store with her dad and said the news
was bittersweet.
“It’s going to leave such a hole,” she
said, then turning to Lori: “You were just
doing what you guys love, but it impact-
ed people in such a meaningful way.”
Outlasting the competition
Ranch Records is billed as the oldest
record shop in Oregon with the same
continuous owner. Other shops have
been open longer with multiple owners.
Kit Close opened the store in May
1982 with friend Tim Knight in a “hole in
the wall” on Court Street NE. They ba-
sically sold their own record collections
out of crates.
The first mention of Ranch Records in
the Statesman Journal archives is in
June of that year. A half-inch advertise-
ment in the “Wanted Miscellaneous”
column of the Classified section reads:
“We buy used records.” The phone num-
ber’s still the same.
Knight left the business after a little
more than a year to eventually open his
own store, Guitar Castle, which is cele-
brating its 30th year in business.
“We’ve both done pretty well,” Knight
Customers have waited two hours in line to get a chance to peruse titles during
the going-out-of-business sale at Ranch Records, which has been operating
downtown since 1982. CAPI LYNN/STATESMAN JOURNAL
Close worked two jobs to help pay the
bills, bartending and waiting tables. It
took nearly seven years before the rec-
ord store was profitable enough for him
to quit moonlighting.
Competition was tough in the
mid-1980s, when there were at least
three other independent record shops in
downtown Salem. Others came and
went over the years.
So how did Ranch Records outlast
them all?
“None of them had owners that love
records like I do,” Close said.
The feel and smell of vinyl
He’s been collecting records since he
was 10. He grew up in the Candalaria
neighborhood, a third-generation Sa-
lem resident.
His mom bought him his first record,
“Everybody Twist” with Johnny McGee
and his International Twisters. It’s
framed — along with a 45-rpm single
and a photo of him dancing beside the
album propped on a table in their living
room — and hangs behind the cash reg-
ister at the store.
Within a couple years he was buying
his own records for 89 cents a pop at a
nearby grocery store, first “Don’t Worry
Baby” by The Beach Boys, then “The Lit-
tle Old Lady (from Pasadena)” by Jan
and Dean.
Back then he put the initials K.C. in
the upper left-hand corner of each cov-
Just a couple of years ago, he was re-
united with that same Beach Boys 45.
He recognized his initials in a photo
posted on Facebook by someone in Flor-
ida, and now it’s framed behind the
counter, too.
When Close was 15, he started work-
ing at Mayfair Market as a box boy, giv-
ing him first crack at new releases. And
he spent every cent of his paycheck on
He’s always loved the feel and smell
of vinyl and to this day, nothing makes
him happier than when someone comes
into the store with a box of records to
The Beatles and Rolling Stones are
among his favorite bands. He listens to
music at home on a stereo system he
bought in 1972 after getting out of the
Marine Corps. While others used their
separation pay for a down payment on a
house, Close invested in the best stereo
he could buy.
mats during its nearly four-decade run.
It operated out of three different loca-
tions on Court Street, inching its way up
the block, each time expanding. When it
moved to Liberty St. NE, the new store
featured a larger selection of music and
memorabilia and a stage where local
and touring national bands could per-
It moved to its current location, 237
High St. NE. across from the transit
mall, around 2008.
Ranch Records built a reputation for
carrying independent labels and col-
lectible records, anything rare, eclectic
and obscure. If it was hard-to-find mu-
sic you were looking for, Ranch Records
was the place to go. And it’s always been
more than just a retail establishment
but a museum of musical treasures.
Close kept the name even though
tastes in music formats changed from
albums to cassette tapes to CDs to MP3s
and back to albums. In the 1990s, rec-
ords represented just 5 percent of sales.
By 2014, that had increased tenfold.
He survived the CD and internet
downloading eras by providing un-
matched customer service. For exam-
ple, Ranch Records used to let custom-
ers listen to any CD in stock before pur-
chase, which was unheard of at other
“Meier & Frank had listening booths
when I was a kid,” Close told the States-
man Journal on the shop’s 10th anniver-
sary in 1992. “I always wanted to do
something like that in my store.”
He expanded by opening stores in
Bend and McMinnville and even had
one for a short time in Monmouth. Two
former employees opened their own
record shops, what Close calls “baby
Ranch” stores, in Portland and Pitts-
burgh, Pennsylvania.
In 2004, with three locations in oper-
ation, a Statesman reporter asked
where Close saw the business in 10-15
“We’re a dying breed. We’re not the
future of the music business by any
means,” he said. “I’m just on the tail end.
I’m just hoping I can hang on long
enough that I don’t have to go out and
get a real job.”
The McMinnville store closed around
2012. The Bend store is now called
Smith Rock Records and has a new own-
er, Patrick Smith, who was in Salem
scooping up sale items to beef up his in-
Patrons thankful for the memories
Specializing in the rare and
Ranch Records has survived multiple
moves and the evolution of music for-
The good news is, Close doesn’t have
to get a real job.
The bad news is, Salem will no longer
have a hub that unites music fans across
Ranch Records has been a constant
fabric of the city’s music scene, a place
where people could come to browse and
socialize, whether you liked rock, jazz or
heavy metal, whether you were a teen-
ager or retired.
Kit and Lori have been touched by the
personal messages they’ve received
from customers of all ages, many shar-
ing how Ranch Records help them get
through school or a tough time, such as
a death in the family or a divorce.
Some have expressed how Kit was
much more than a business owner but a
father figure.
He was a huge supporter of local
bands, but always did it privately and
quietly. He fronted The Widgets money
to record their music, for example. The
band paid him back after sales and even
put the photo of 10-year-old Kit doing
the Twist on the back of their second
Ballantyne, who played guitar and
sang for The Widgets, was interested in
buying Ranch Records. Numerous peo-
ple were.
If Close had sold it to anyone, it would
have been to a friend like Ballantyne.
But he didn’t want to watch anyone lose
their investment in a few years.
“It sounds arrogant, but I’ve been in
this for 38 years, and it’s not easy,” Close
said. “They’d be coming in with COVID
and what’s going on downtown … This
way I make everybody happy. It’s our
gift to Salem to put it all out there
More items to be added to sale
The going out of business sale is ex-
pected to continue for about a month.
Close promises there’s plenty of inven-
tory left to sell, although bins and walls
are starting to look a bit bare after the
first few days.
It’s not just individuals who are tak-
ing advantage of the good deals. A Port-
land record dealer was first in line
Thursday morning and spent a couple of
thousand dollars.
More items will be added daily over
the next few weeks as Kit and Lori clean
out the basement, the upstairs area and
the storage room. They may even add
items from their private collection at
They figure they won’t be able to sell
everything before closing and are telling
customers to watch social media for
possible pop-up sales in the future.
“We’re not going away,” Close said,
although he and Lori are sure to be
spending time traveling during retire-
ment and enjoying their new beach
house in Lincoln City.
They have no idea how much they’ve
sold so far, or how many items they had
in their inventory. Records are kept old
school style, handwritten in a spiral
Their attention to customer service
will continue to the end. They’ve been
staying open well past the noon to 5
p.m. posted hours until the last person
in line has had a chance to come in and
Jeremy Clarke, who bought a jukebox
from Close and has been going through
drawers of 45 records to fill it, said the
lines are a tribute to Kit and Lori Close.
“People are waiting in line not just for
the discounts but to say goodbye,” he
“Forward This” taps into the heart of
the Mid-Valley — its people, history, and
issues. Contact Capi Lynn at or 503-
399-6710, or follow her on Twitter
@CapiLynn and Facebook @CapiL-