This past weekend, the list of Houston’s local record shops officially grew with the opening of Deep End Records.
What’s special about this shop, though, is that it’s not in your run-of-the-mill location. While stores like Heights Vinyl and Sig’s Lagoon are conveniently located near other shopping hot spots and music venues, Deep End has made its home in the front room of Walters Downtown. The concept seems so logical that it’s a wonder this wasn’t done sooner. Then again, it’s hard to imagine any other venue could host a record shop and that would make perfect sense.
At this point you may find yourself asking how exactly this works without being cramped, underwhelming, or in the way of the action onstage. Truth be told, I was curious to find out for myself, so I made a trip down to Walters this weekend to check it out.
“I saw the entrance of the club as a beautiful space not being fully utilized and we went from there,” says Deep End's owner, John Baldwin. Although he books shows and works closely with Walters owner Zack Palmer, Baldwin explains that Deep End “is a separate entity but definitely part of the Walters family.”
Perhaps that’s why this record store seems so fresh, fun, and exciting.
Baldwin, who you may recognize as the tall drummer from Wild Moccasins, has grown up in the same music scene as Palmer, which undoubtedly gives them a unique perspective not only as businessmen, but also as fans.
“I grew up going to shows at Walter's on Washington and I'm thrilled to be collaborating with the venue in an attempt to create something truly unique,” says Baldwin.
Upon hearing about the space, it might be easy to cast it aside as some flavor of the week pop-up shop, but if you said that, you’d be dead wrong. Sure, the space is smaller than other local shops, but that shouldn’t deter fans from taking it seriously.
Not only is Baldwin a lifelong music fan, but he’s grown up inside many of Houston’s most recognizable names in independent media-shopping, and alongside men and women that have kept the city’s music scene thriving when many thought it might die out. He left his job selling CDs and DVDs at Best Buy for a chance to work for Domy Books, followed by a six-year stint at Cactus Music. These experiences undoubtedly gave him some much-needed insight into what makes for a successful, quality record shop.
“After I got hired on at Domy Books, I decided I would never go back to a corporate work environment,” says Baldwin. “My initial plan was to start a small record and zine distribution within the venue and see where it goes. It wasn't until Chris [Unclebach] from Insomnia Video Game Culture and I started talking that things started moving forward quickly. Walters has never had a coffee shop or restaurant next door and we wanted to create a space where people could hang out during the day.”
This, of course, is exactly what they did.
With a careful eye on curating and design, Baldwin was able to open the shelves at Deep End Records in about three months thanks to the help and support of many, including Unclebach, and Uncle Booking’s own Sam Ackerman and Erik Carter. And despite opening so quickly, Baldwin kept such a keen eye to detail, he even thought to build mobile record cases equipped to lock up inventory, which helps to ensure that Walters doesn’t lose its integrity as a music venue first and foremost.
Its design also ensures that you still feel like you're in a record store. Like most record stores, rare and high-priced records hang on the wall over shelves that house hundreds of albums, EPs, and singles in a variety of genres that range from “Weirdness” to “Punk,” and “Rock” to “Soul.”
And no, it’s not the same kind of inventory you’d find at Barnes and Noble or Urban Outfitters.
Instead, Baldwin’s penchant for curating an extensive, impressive inventory speaks for itself, with majority of the stock being sold on consignment from the collections of Baldwin and friends. Not only does it make for a more genuine “crate digging” experience, but it feels less sterile than rummaging through ten copies of the same record from whatever flavor of the week band is being pushed by its label.
“Ideally, this will provide us with a unique collection that is constantly changing,” Baldwin said. “Because space is very limited, we feel obligated to price records as affordably as possible. We want our customers to leave with a stack of wax without breaking the bank.”
Deep End, of course, isn’t the first of its kind. Baldwin spoke about being inspired by some of his favorite shops to hit on the road while touring with Wild Moccasins, including The Beachland Ballroom & Tavern in Cleveland, Ohio.
“Checking out stores in different cities was an exciting way to get ideas and see how people were doing things outside of Houston,” he says.
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For now, Deep End will be open Thursday through Sunday from noon to “late.” Baldwin explains that because things are just starting out, this “could mean 8:00 p.m. or 1:30 a.m., depending on how busy it is.”
And, of course, it’s very likely that you’ll be able to shop on nights when there’s a show rolling through. Baldwin even generously offers to hold merchandise for customers behind the counter in an effort to improve an already stellar experience at Walters.
“We're all in this project together and we're trying to promote a space that really gives a shit about music,” says Baldwin. “At Walters Downtown and Deep End, we're music fans first.”
Besides checking out Deep End in person for yourself, keep up to date with the shop by following it on all social media accounts using the handle @deependhtx.