exchanging places

Legendary Houston record store makes surprise exit from Montrose

Legendary Houston record store makes surprise exit from Montrose

Sound Exchange interior records
The iconic record store has been a Houston institution for nearly 40 years.  Sound Exchange/Facebook

A beloved spot for Houstonians looking for vinyl records — and for bands and performers seeking a spot to do a show — will be leaving its familiar Montrose location. Sound Exchange will exit 846 Richmond Ave. and move to the Second Ward in the East End. As of Tuesday, January 15, 2019, the store will be on 101 N. Milby St., on the corner of Milby and Commerce. 

The owners tell CultureMap that knew they had to bounce. "Our landlord sold it to a developer, who will be knocking it down," says Kurt Brennan, who co-owns the store with Kevin Bakos. "[The landlord] has been really cool with us, so we knew this is what he was going to do. They gave him an offer he couldn't refuse."

Considering how difficult it's gotten to keep a business going in Montrose, Brennan knew a change of scenery was inevitable. "The property values are going sky-high," he says. "That's causing the rents to go up as well." And since people and businesses have been flocking over to the East End, taking the business over there seemed like a logical choice.

"A lot of our friends and longtime customers who used to live in Montrose have been migrating there. There seems to be a lot of exciting things happening in the arts in that area. And there are really affordable spaces there these days."

The store has already gone through a bit of moving history. Back in 1979, it was originally called Record Exchange and was located at Rice Village. A year later, it moved to 1617 Westheimer Rd. In 1998, longtime employees Bakos and Brennan bought the business and opened it up at the Richmond address.

Sound Exchange isn't the only record store that had to exit the area. in 2012, Black Dog Records moved out of its S. Shepherd location after 15 years of business and moved to Bellaire, at a space that was previously occupied by the iconic Don's Record Shop. (It was recently reported that Black Dog is moving again, this time to 726 W. 19th St.)

The last live show the store will host will be on Sunday, January 6, 2019, featuring Garden Medium, Drone Strike, and Value Merchants. A blowout sale might also be in the works for the final week, just to lighten the load before the move. Brennan says he'll miss the neighbors, longtime regulars and "Montrose freaks" who used to hang at Sound Exchange, a place where people not only brought and sold music, but learned more about music than they ever did before.

"Kurt and Kevin both were formative in expanding my ears, leading me down some very strange paths and enabling me with cheap CDs and LPs I could actually afford while living on minimum wage," says former Houstonian Travis Ritter, who now lives in Seattle. "I still visit every time I go to Houston, and I'm so sad that I'll never hear that squeaky door or creaking floors again."