Like almost everyone else at The Record Exchange, John O'Neil first started working there as a clerk. He began in January 1990, after moving to Boise from Oregon.
"I tried to get a straight job for a long time, but it didn't really appeal to me," O'Neil said. "I came in here and started at the bottom."
"He was kind of a punk kid when he started working for us," Bunnell said. O'Neil is now one of the elder statesmen of The Record Exchange, and the store manager. His memories of the The Record Exchange are, by his own admission, a "bit hazy." But he claims to have a valid reason for this.
"The problem with getting people like us to remember things is that our focus is looking forward, not back," he said.
His rearview mirror is not completely missing.
"It seems like I just remember the calamities ... like the time the wind blew the sign off the Franklin store. We had to get some auto body work done," O'Neil said. "[Or] the time the overhang caught on fire and the fire department had to come down." Pause. "Wait, that was this year. "
It's not all calamities for O'Neil, however.
"My favorite in-store was Charlie Louvin, of course," O'Neil said. "I'll never be able to see or meet Bob Wills or Duke Ellington or Artie Shaw or anyone that has been hugely important. But I got to meet Charlie Louvin because of this job. I got to spend a couple of days interacting with him. That is crazy and something I will never forget."
O'Neil says one of the least favorite parts of his job are the shoplifters. He also wonders if there would be as much attempted shoplifting if the store only sold records. But then O'Neil, like many Record Exchange employees, thinks vinyl is the bee's knees.
"The biggest thing to me is the resurgence of vinyl in the store. It is something wonderful to see, you know, us getting back to our roots. I personally don't like CDs. I don't like convenience," O'Neil continues. "You have to understand that I am a a semi-luddite, a contrarian—I like clunky and reasonably difficult-to-use technology. I think records are amazingly useful. I am into iPods—how they are little containers—but I also hate the way mp3s sound. Luckily, I am usually listening to them when there is something else going on like a lawnmower going or a car running."
His longevity at The Record Exchange is easily explained, he said.
"It is a job where you are allowed to come up with these ideas that can work. You are a cubicle down from the owner, and he always has time for you," he said. "If you have an idea, he wants it—that is why people are here. He is all at once the most difficult person you'll ever work for and the easiest person you'll ever work for. Ideas are of high value around here, and you are encouraged rather than discouraged from doing things."
O'Neil also has faith in the store's future.
"They've counted us out before," he said. "We are just obstinately sticking to it. We'll sell 78s if we have to."
—Ryan PeckSee Also: The Timeline The Veteran: Tim Johnstone The Veteran: Lee Flinn The Veteran: John O'Neil The Music: In-store shows rock TRX