Fremont’s Eclectic Daybreak Records Opens for Business

Offering local vinyl hounds a new hangout, with further proof of record retail’s vitality in Seattle.

Photo by Suzie Lucas

Seattle music lovers’ appetite for new and used vinyl is seemingly insatiable, as evidenced by the more than 25 record retailers currently operating inside the city limits. With the arrival of Daybreak Records in Fremont in July, you could add another to that staggering list.

Setting up shop in a long-vacant storefront on pedestrian-friendly Fremont Avenue North, a stone’s throw from American Music, Paseo, and Caffé Vita, Daybreak is the brainchild of R.J. Sweeney, a New York native who’s worked in record stores “my entire adult life,” he says, including 15 years as manager at the nearby Jive Time Records.

Sweeney, who also lives in the area, has had designs on running his own store for almost as long. “I wanted to do a shop where I could focus on the records, presentation, and curation in ways Jive Time wouldn’t allow,” he explains via e-mail from California, where he spent all last weekend looking into collections to buy.

So far, so good. Aesthetically, Daybreak is as nice a store as you’ll find anywhere—open yet cozy, with lots of natural light, lush houseplants, and a layout conducive to staying awhile and digging around, with wooden stools allowing for easy access to the overstock.

“With all the wood, windows, and sun, [the space] felt to me like a houseboat or something—a record boat,” Sweeney laughs. The colors—earth tones only—“were chosen with that in mind. [Claustrophobia] is a big problem with record stores, in my opinion.”

Notably, Daybreak’s inventory—all used vinyl for now, though not permanently—spans every price range, from $100 box sets down to $1 punk singles. “We give the 99-cent records the same treatment as the ones on the walls,” says Sweeney.

Genre-wise, he adds, “there is no niche. Whether it’s death metal, a jazz vocals LP, or an ABBA record… a new-age record, a Fleetwood Mac LP, a Kool G Rap single … I just want to be a conduit so people can get a hold of something that speaks to them.”

To that end, long-distance record-purchasing trips like the one he just took are essential, Sweeney says. “You have to travel to find the ill stuff—the stuff that makes people be, like, ‘Where are these dudes finding these records?’ Just to see people’s faces when they hit those new-arrivals bins makes the legwork [spent] finding the records well worth it.” Daybreak Records, 4308 Fremont Ave. N.