Record Store Spotlight: Twist & Shout

May 19, 2020

We thought we’d share a bit of good from our friends out there in record store world. For the past three decades Paul Epstein (owner and founder of Twist & Shout) has kept the Mile High City stocked with the latest new releases, timeless classics, and everything in between.

To support Paul and Twist & Shout check out their website – https://www.twistandshout.com/

How and when did the store open?

In April of 1988, My Wife Jill and I, who were both high school English teachers, were walking around the neighborhood after dinner talking about our future. We came up to one of my favorite record stores since the 1960’s and hanging on the door was a sign that said “ceased- tax auction.” The date of the auction was the first day of our spring break from teaching. We went to the auction and the rest is history.

Was it an immediate success or more of a slow burn? Struggles? When did you feel like Twist & Shout became a staple of Denver?

It was a very slow build. In the early days of the store, Jill used to call me in the middle of the day and ask, “Is anybody in the store at all?” In the first year or two that answer was more often than not ,”No, nobody.” We slowly built a cult following, and in 1995 mived to a bigger location on a much busier street. We really started to get known in the 11 years we were at that location. In 2006 we built a large building just East of downtown and really started to become an institution.

What aspect of your business is essential but rarely seen or appreciated?

The years of knowledge and relationships involved in the acquisition and pricing of all those used records. It is a deep and weird and arcane skill set that fewer and fewer people have. It’s not just knowing label variations, it’s also a bunch of psychological, sociological and interpersonal know how. Getting the right stuff at the right price and everybody feeling alright about it at the end of the day is harder than it might seem.

How does it feel to have to adapt your business model to the pandemic after being in business for over 30 years?

It feels like starting over to be honest. In the beginning all I had was my love of music and a burning desire to not fail. It’s similar now, but the stakes are much higher.

There’s a mantra you’ve used for the store- “service, selections, and ambiance”…How have those three ideals helped shape Twist & Shout?

As I started to say in the previous question, we’re back to the start again. We have the selection still, but are having to reinvent what service and ambience mean in a world of delivery and curbside service. Huge challenge! Everything was set up to deliver those three ideals in spades, and now we have to reinvent it all-virtually. It served us so well all these years to just focus on having the cool stuff, getting it to people on time and to do it in a cool atmosphere with great music playing on a good stereo.

Your music blog Spork features a collection of music and film reviews, mediations, and best-of lists from a wide array of people. How did the blog get started?

I was an English teacher as well as a voracious reader of journalism and literature when I started the store. It was a natural extension of who I was to integrate serious writing about music and culture into what we were doing. For the first decade or so we had a quarterly newsletter that I was very proud of. I could write about what we were doing in the store and express my own love for music. It turned out lots of other big music fans (ie. Employees) also liked writing about stuff, so it just developed. Then as everything moved online, the blog seemed obvious.

What new releases are you excited about? / What have you been listening to lately?

During the pandemic, I’ve been enjoying Lucinda Williams Good Souls Better Angels, Jason Isbell’s Reunions, The new Dylan songs are blowing my mind and looking forward to the first new X album in quite a while. I’m never at a loss for things to listen to. Music is the well that never runs dry.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Save Main Street folks. It’s in danger of disappearing during this pandemic….Support your local independent stores.

Paul Epstein