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4000 Holes Looks Back At 30 Years

Photo by Steve Jackson

An iconic Spokane music store is celebrating its 30th anniversary this week.

Bob Gallagher has been the main force behind the 4000 Holes record store in Spokane, which opened its doors back in 1989. In case it’s not registering, 4000 Holes is a phrase from the Beatles song “A Day in the Life.”

Gallagher says in the time leading up to opening the store, he attended a few record swaps in the region, and it all crystalized in his mind one day that he could open his own store.

“I had one record and traded the dealer for a stack of 45’s, and I told my wife of the time I’m on the wrong end of the table,” he said.

Opening 4000 Holes in 1989 was excellent timing. The few stores in town that offered a wide mix of rock plus "alternative” music had mostly closed their doors. He was competing with commercial chain stores right at the time the post punk Grunge scene was coming out of the Puget Sound area and Gallagher was on it from the beginning. He recalls when Nirvana’s breakthrough album "Nevermind" hit the store, and there were people waiting for the shipment to arrive.

That was a time frame when business was very good.

“Starting in early '90’s I thought I was going to be rich. We were selling tons of stuff. I was being foolish with my money. I remember wondering thinking when I sell the business, I wonder how much I’ll get for the logo,” said Gallagher.

The market has certainly had its ups and downs. When the shop started, Gallagher sold only vinyl LPs. He resisted the new CDs for a time, and then finally brought them into the fold.

He recalls a darker time after the recession of 2008 hit.

“I hit a low and people give me credit for hanging in there but I didn’t have any choice. I played guitar and sang and know a lot about records. So in some ways I was forced to stay in it. But I sold my record collection and the Department of Revenue liked my guitars, my Gibson and my Rickenbacker after I sold them,” he said.

But in recent years the store has seen its fortunes get better than ever. Gallagher says one factor seemed to be a new yearly event created by the record industry.

“You know, Record Store Day, because that’s what changed us all. We give it credit for bringing the awareness back,” he said

One group that is buying music these days are younger folks, much like it has always been. But Gallagher says the difference is they are seeing all the music of the last several decades in a continuum, rather than specific genres that might only attract certain people from an older generation.

“The young people today can look back at 50 years of rock and roll and they don‘t see the divisions we do. They don’t even know they are supposed to hate disco. I think it’s wonderful to be young, because it’s this section and that section, it’s one big block of rock and roll," Gallagher said.

Now Bob Gallagher is thinking of selling the business, which he says is doing great. He says he wants to find the right type of person to buy it, someone who will continue its tradition of offering a wide variety of music. But he says, if he does, there is one element he will miss the most.

“I don’t want to be corny but it is the customers. Some are lifelong friends. My customers are what saved me. They kept it together. People will thank me for being here, but I feel the store has a quality of something that it’s beyond me," he said.

4000 Holes will be celebrating the 30th anniversary Saturday with live music and specials in the store, and also a concert that night at the Big Dipper, featuring several local bands. 

Steve was part of the Spokane Public Radio family for many years before he came on air in 1999. His wife, Laurie, produced Radio Ethiopia in the late 1980s through the '90s, and Steve used to “lurk in the shadowy world” of Weekend SPR. Steve has done various on air shifts at the station, including nearly 15 years as the local Morning Edition host. Currently, he is the voice of local weather and news during All Things Considerd, writing, editing, producing and/or delivering newscasts and features for both KPBX and KSFC. Aside from SPR, Steve ,who lives in the country, enjoys gardening, chickens, playing and listening to music, astronomy, photography, sports cars and camping.