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The Record Exchange has been around for almost 45 years and it’s become an institution of downtown Boise. Employees tend to work there for decades and it’s a kind of home away from home for music lovers in the community. Founders Michael Bunnell and Jil Sevy worked hard over the years to create an inclusive space. They cobbled together a store that does it all — employs a knowledgeable and diverse staff; sells all types of music products, coffee and gifts; and hosts in-store shows with huge stars — all the while keeping the store welcoming and open to people. Fortunately for Idaho the two have left behind a place that many people see as more than just a store.

“For years our hope was that when we were ready to sell employees would step up,” said Bunnell. “We’ve built something special here and I can’t imagine downtown Boise without it. We couldn’t be happier.”

“We are so thrilled at the people who stepped up, they’re perfect,” said Sevy. “They’ve all worked here for a long time and bring different expertise and know their jobs. We’re excited to see what they do; they bring a lot of talent and are extremely connected with the community. We love that they share our passion for that.”

The change in ownership happened on Wednesday, Sept. 8. After 44 years they decided to sell and, instead of getting an outside buyer, they sold to longtime employees Glenn Newkirk, Catherine Merrick, Chad Dryden and Erica Sparlin Dryden — that’s great news for fans of the store because the new owners are intent on keeping the legacy alive.

Bunnell and Sevy will remain the landlords and, they said, stay in touch. But the two are ready to retire, begin traveling and have, Bunnell said, “more play time.” Which makes sense because they put in a lot of work.

The Record Exchange was first opened on Orchard Street by Bunnell and his first partner, Al Benton. Bunnell was inspired by the Tower Record store he used to frequent in Sacramento as a kid. The ‘Exchange moved to its current location in downtown Boise in 1978. Bunnell bought Benton out in 1981 and then partnered for a time with Kathleen O’Brien until 1992. Bunnell and Sevy eventually purchased the building and — the rest is history.

“We wanted to accomplish making it a space for people like us and people not like us to feel comfortable and at home,” said Bunnell, “like there’s no pressure. And to hang out with like-minded souls welcoming them and it seems that will continue with these owners.”

Merrick said over the years she and Newkirk grew up in the Record Exchange and as “misfit” teens felt that they had somewhere to belong to. Newkirk has worked there since 1988 and Merrick since 2009. Over time, she’s seen how much the store matters to people and witnessed first dates, proposals, rings presented, as well as the store being used as a backdrop for multiple photos and videos. “We will continue to solidify relationships in the community and keep being a place where people can belong.”

Dryden, Merrick and Newkirk all said they want people to know that The Record Exchange is going to keep being there for them. Dryden said, something about the store has always called him back. The night Dryden and his wife Erica learned the store was going to sell, he recalled going to bed thinking: what if someone who didn’t care bought it? They decided that wasn’t an option for them — likewise with Newkirk and Merrick — so the four banded together as co-owners.

It’s a fitting move for a place that’s so community oriented … a little bit like a co-op.

“Our vision has meshed already,” said Dryden. “We’re really excited to continue this legacy. It feels right, more than anything, and we hope we do everybody proud with the store. We love it so much and it’s wonderful to continue to be a part of it in a new way.

We’re kind of like the new parents now … I just thought of that. It feels weird … and pretty incredible.”

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