Somewhere on West Colfax in Lakewood is a strip mall, virtually indistinguishable from all the others on any given stretch of the meandering 26-mile boulevard. The only thing that differentiates this particular strip mall -- for music fans, anyhow -- is that it is now the home of Chain Reaction Records, Denver's newest record store. Co-owners Josh Lent and Val Landrum have been nurturing their mutual dream of opening up a record store with a focus on punk and heavy metal for a long time, but it wasn't until recently that everything seemed to click.
"We'd been thinking about it for years, since like 2007," says Lent, "but it wasn't the right time. Our bands had been touring to California, and every single town there seemed to have its own punk record store, so why not Denver?"
"We actually started because we were just looking for a place for our bands to practice," adds Landrum. "We kind of just stumbled into the right storefront at the right time." With rents in Denver proper skyrocketing and seeing no end in sight, a store in suburban Lakewood seemed to make sense to the partners. "It's basically the halfway point between where we live and the city," explains Lent. "It's a comfortable middle ground for us between family and work," adds Landrum, "plus we're meeting lots of people in the area who seem interested, and we haven't even opened our doors yet."
"We couldn't afford to rent a spot like this on south Broadway if we wanted to," says Lent. "Everyone is already moving out of Denver as it is. Not many people who would have interest in a punk and metal record store are able to afford downtown rents, so Lakewood makes perfect sense to me."
"It seems like a lot of the other record stores in town have given up on punk vinyl," claims Landrum. "I don't necessarily blame them: The profit margins on punk records have always been razor-thin, but I think we can make a good go of it. Plus, neither of us are really dependent on the shop to pay our bills, so we can keep the doors open while operating on a shoestring budget."
Denver has certainly seen its fair share of punk-centric record store in the past. From the longtime Wax Trax to the more recent examples of Virgil Dickerson's Bakamono and Paul Kane's Double Entendre, the boys at Chain Reaction haven't had to look far for local examples. When pressed about the successes and failures of their predecessors and what they planned to do differently, Landrum offered this: "A big reason some of those stores haven't lasted is because the proprietors were either spreading themselves too thin with other projects, were unable to change with the times, or were unwilling to compromise lofty ethics. We have ethics, too, but the record industry is an inherently scummy apparatus, and we accept that we have to work within that framework to a certain degree."
Ultimately, it was apparent that even though Chain Reaction's business model might not be looking decades into vinyl's murky future, its goal is simple and clear. "We want anyone with an interest in heavy, marginalized music to stop in," says Lent, "be that the sixteen-year-old kid on his way to see AFI at Fiddler's Green or the 45-year-old metalhead who's looking for a record store like the one he used to go to as a kid. We've all got something to learn from one another, and if I can share something I love with them and maybe sell 'em a record or two before they walk out the door, I think I can consider that a good day at the office."
In the meantime, it'll just be a couple of old friends sitting around the shop, listening to the records they love.
Chain Reaction Records will have its grand-opening on Friday, August 15th at 8793 W. Colfax Ave. in Lakewood. Hours are 11:30 - 7 pm, Tuesday - Sunday.
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