Contributed by Jesse Cohen
Located across from SALT, at 670 Auahi Street, in the heart of a rapidly developing Kaka’ako, Ideas Music and Books is the cool-before-it was-cool epicenter of a neighborhood in the midst of a renaissance. Boasting the largest selection of new and used records, books, CDs, cassettes, vhs, dvds, and comics on the island (and, I would imagine, all of Hawaii) Ideas is an essential destination for all connoisseurs, collectors, and casual consumers of creative media. The poster-lined walls, overflowing shelves, crates and cardboard boxes invite visitors into a veritable treasure trove of artistic outpouring. In many ways the store reflects the wild beauty of the Hawaiian hillsides where untold magic reveals itself around every corner and behind each surface.
The guides on our exploration through this archive of sight and sound are Norm Winter and Shirley Neeley; veterans of the vanguard of arts and culture here in Honolulu. Both were involved in the store during its previous incarnation as Jelly’s which was founded in 1983. Shirley who heads up the book department has been there since 1985. Norm, whose resume is equally impressive, was one of the forces behind the revolutionary Radio Free Hawaii (whose triumphs and travails he recently documented in a new book—available at the store). Walt is the purveyor of all things music; every medium every genre. In some ways they are an odd couple: quirky, quixotic, and kind with complimentary senses of humor and serious sentiments for their respective areas of expertise. When I ask Norm the mission of the store he responds without hesitation or hyperbole, “to make everyone happy.” His tone is, soft, self-assured and sincere, as if it’s obvious, and I suppose by the expanse of Ideas Music and Books’ collection, it really should be.
If the familiar scent of pages well turned and LPs well played excites your senses then Ideas is your sanctuary. Every last Saturday of the month they hold their famous sidewalk sale, lining the storefront with $1 records and $2 ads, and offering specials on everything inside the store. They will be celebrating their two year anniversary as Ideas on Saturday, January 27, so make sure to stop by for some extra-special deals. They also buy books and all medium of music.
In an era where the internet offers art as endless auto-play algorithms through the sterility of screens and compressed digital sound, Ideas is an important bastion for those who still appreciate the qualities inherent in intentional album composition, cover art, liner notes, print on paper, and the joys of discovering something new, or savoring something well used.