Ask out-of-towners what Seattle is best known for, and you’ll get the usual laundry list — rain, great coffee, iconic tech companies.
But a lot of people also mention music, and that’s not surprising, given a history that includes Quincy Jones, Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana, among others.
Maybe that’s why it doesn’t seem bizarre that Seattle’s best-known indie label, Sub Pop Records, is opening a brick and mortar store Thursday at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
“We became internationally renowned in the very late ’80s and early ’90s as a mecca for music,” said Kate Becker, director of Seattle’s Office of Film + Music. “Lots of people drink coffee. I bet even more people connect with music.”
The new store, located in the main terminal near the entrance to Concourse C, kicks off at 9:45 a.m. Thursday with a performance by Sub Pop artist Chad VanGaalen, a singer-songwriter. (You need a plane ticket to go; the store is on the other side of security lines.)
Sub Pop popularized grunge music in the ’90s and has more recently signed neo-folkies such as The Head and the Heart.
“Sub Pop is classic Seattle,” Becker said. “They find great bands, and they’ve diversified their musical portfolio.”
Music has already been a big part of the Port of Seattle’s marketing strategy for Sea-Tac. Working with the Office of Film + Music and the Seattle Music Commission, the port has featured live music, artists reading public service announcements and photographs of Seattle jazz musicians as part of its efforts to brand the airport with local flavor through its Experience The City of Music project.
“Our travelers like a local flavor,” said Deanna Zachrisson, Sea-Tac’s manager of dining and retail management. “We know that from the research that we conduct. Folks that live here have … a sense of familiarity with local concepts, but they also have local pride when folks come to visit Seattle.”
Local flavor doesn’t always guarantee success. In February, Portland powerhouse Powell’s Books was forced to close two of three locations at Portland International Airport, after it failed to agree on a lease renewal.
Sub Pop signed an 18-month lease, Zachrisson said, explaining that the store is part of a move by Sea-Tac to emphasize the concept of the airport as a “gateway to the city.” The arrival of Sub Pop and Metsker Maps of Seattle, which opens next month, are part of an initiative to attract local businesses that typically wouldn’t think to have a shop in the airport.
Last year, Sub Pop opened a temporary “pop-up” store in Georgetown to celebrate its 25th anniversary and previously had two stores in the 1990s, but this is the label’s first permanent residence in years.
Sub Pop designed the store, believed to be the first of its kind, with travelers in mind, said Sub Pop vice president Megan Jasper. It will be open 365 days a year, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. The bins will feature vinyl records, T-shirts and a listening station for weary travelers to relax with Sub Pop bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden and Death Cab for Cutie, as well music by non-Seattle artists.
“It doesn’t look like anything else in the airport,” Jasper said.