As he painted a wall in his store “Pac Man Yellow,” Jim Turner recalled the way he and his wife, Sarah, sit down at the end of a long day with some wine and a vinyl record playing music in their house.
Throughout their 18 years of marriage, the couple has collected records and memorabilia, with the dream that one day they would own their own record shop.
“We love the romance of it,” he said. “It’s always been a passion of ours. I don’t know that we’d be much good at opening any other shop. And so we just said, well, let’s just see what the market’s like.”
Turner said he prefers the sound of vinyl records, compared to their modern counterparts.
“There’s a romance about music that you can really only get from listening to a song, one, all the way through to (the last) song and, two, reading the lyrics while you’re listening to it, looking at the pictures,” he said. “You have a relationship with artists when you listen on vinyl — you get to hear the whole story.”
When Sarah’s job went remote because of COVID-19, the family packed up and moved from Sacramento to Klamath Falls. They had vacationed in Klamath before and knew they wanted to retire here someday. However, that day came sooner than they thought.
“It was now or never,” Turner said.
Once they got settled in, they turned their sights toward securing a storefront for their dream. After picking the building at 3255 Washburn Way, they got to work making it their own.
The couple settled on an 1980s theme for their store — naturally, Jim said, since both he and Sarah are children of that decade and love the bold, in-your-face aesthetic of the era.
“It’s going to look like Marty McFly’s bedroom,” he joked as he pointed to a plastic hoverboard toy sitting in the window. “It’s going to stink of the ‘80s — it’s going to be like walking through a portal.”
Jim pointed around the neon-colored walls of his store, naming paint colors that were nods to the pop culture of the time, including “Miami Vice pink” and “Tron blue.”
While the couple appreciates the icons and trend-setters that came from the rock n’ roll genre of that decade, they’re sure to have something for everyone.
“We’re going to be carrying everything from Bach to Billie Eillish,” he said.
They’ll also have a country wall, the shelf for which is an old truck bed.
Another trend that encouraged the couple’s dream was that 2020 was the first year since the ‘80s that vinyl records outsold CDs.
In addition to the main store, Retro Room will offer a few other experiences. A listening room will be dedicated to people jamming to used records, and a theater in the back will host rock n’ roll trivia and live music.
Although he had Spotify playing in the store while he was painting and prepping the space, Jim explained the way a listening experience differs when playing a record.
“I feel like, for a very brief second, The Weeknd is in my living room. Mac Miller is in my living room,” he said. “You have to take it out of the sleeve. You have to blow it off. You have to put it on. You have to put that needle down. It’s a ritual. And it’s one of the few rituals in life where there’s nothing negative about it. From start to finish, it is just an experience.”
With Jim’s previous career as a comedian and Sarah’s current work-from-home career, Jim said the record store is more of a passion project for them.
“This will be a success to us if, at the end of the day, the lights have stayed on, and we got a chance to meet the community and talk music with the community,” Jim said. “It’s just about getting the opportunity to learn more about you through what moves you.”
He suggested people walk into Retro Room with a band, artists or song in mind. But also an open mind and a willingness to listen to someone new.
The Turners said they were conscious of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic when applying for a business license. They acknowledged the hardships of this past year, but said they weren’t going to let it stop them from pursuing their dream.
“COVID has taken so much from us,” Jim said. “But it wasn’t going to take this.”
Sarah said they had to bet on people wanting to get out and connect again, just like they wanted to.
With the clock ticking to when they will open their doors, ever since they hung the sign outside their store and posted of their business on social media, the response has been overwhelming.
As the only record store for over 100 miles, Jim called the store “a love letter to things that shouldn’t be forgotten.”