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A snug space, tightly packed between the Dollar Tree and Mac Nails is now vacant. The windows are empty, the lights are off, and the once luminescent black and yellow sign no longer lights up the modest strip mall.
But just a few minutes away, the same yellow glow illuminates Third Street.
The lights read “The Vortex,” the name of the record store that was once tucked in that compact space.
Now, the specialty music shop unfolds comfortably into its new home on Third Street between Danger Valley and The Moonlight Theatre, as if it had been there all along.
“Customers have told us, ‘this is where you look like you belong,’” said Bruce LaVerne, owner of The Vortex.
The move, which took place a mere six weeks ago, marks the third relocation of The Vortex—so why the change?
“Let’s go to day one,” LaVerne said.
Day one takes you to the beginning of 1991. LaVerne is living in Longview, Wash., and working a 9-5 office job.
“I didn’t know what to do so I ended up buying and selling,” LaVerne said.
Come February of the same year, LaVerne left his office job and became a first-time owner of his own music shop, one that was different from the store he owns now.
“We were primarily focused on alternative, Indian funk,” LaVerne said. “The niche is what we were trying to fill. We didn’t carry country, pop or rap.”
But after 11 years, it became clear to LaVerne that filling that niche was a dead end.
“So, I did my research, and in February of 2003, we moved to Mac and became The Vortex,” LaVerne said.
Interestingly, Third Street management was the first to approach LaVerne about a space, but he decided to move to Baker Street Square Shopping Center where The Vortex lived in the cozy space for 10 years.
“That’s a nice word for it,” LaVerne laughed.
“At first, the location was an advantage, and it worked great for a little while,” LaVerne said.
Initially, the location was attractive: close proximity to the high school, good parking and a good landlord made the decision easy.
But the music industry is about as easy to predict as a wild animal, and after a while, it began to rear its riotous head.
“As the [music] industry kind of collapsed, the business changed,” LaVerne said. “It wasn’t so dependent on the people that were going to the mall.”
The solution? Change.
“If you don’t change, you die of natural selection in the business sense,” LaVerne said. “Any time you make a major decision in your life or in business there’s risk involved.”
But the risk was worth it, as loyal customers have already followed the specialty shop’s destination.
“It’s a museum of the way things used to be,” LaVerne called it.
Which makes it a perfect match for the historical Third Street.
The only thing that hasn’t changed is the dedication to its customers.
“You depend on customers finding you,” LaVerne said. “I guess the basic theme is you’ve got to follow where your customers take you.”
LaVerne works alongside longtime associate, Aaron Schroeder, the first person to work for The Vortex when it moved to McMinnville in 2003.
(Fun fact: Schroeder’s mother, Deanne Schroeder, works for the Linfield Post Office.)
“Aaron’s why I’m not dead,” LaVerne laughed. “Without him being here, I’d be lying on the store floor twitching.”
LaVerne and Schroeder are still settling into The Vortex’ new home and have a lot planned for the store, including expanding its clothing section.
“There’s more to go,” LaVerne said.
Chrissy Shane/Features editor
Chrissy Shane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org