People of a certain age will experience several “I remember that!” moments when entering Silver Eagle Audio, located at Yard Birds Mall in Chehalis. The store’s shelves, tables and glass cases are filled with vintage stereo components, speakers, turntables, vinyl records and many other forms of audio/video devices from decades past – a rare sight in an era where many people listen to their music through a tiny mobile device.

i-5 toyotaJoseph Kees, owner of Silver Eagle Audio, explains how his love for old electronics developed into a business. “I’ve always had a passion for old gear, and about six years ago, I was going back to school at Pierce College in Tacoma, and would hit the thrift stores in between classes. I started collecting a little extreme, and then selling more on eBay. About four years ago, I was down in Lewis County for an auction, and I bought a little more at the auction than I had room for in my garage. I found out they had a spot open in Yard Birds, and little by little it just came together, and here I am.”

Although Joseph’s business is primarily Internet-based, he has a notable amount of local customers stopping by the store on a regular basis, as well as the occasional music fan dropping in from Seattle or Portland. “I had a guy come by from L.A. who did some trading with me, and he said I had the most vintage gear of anybody between Seattle and Los Angeles.”

Silver Eagle Audio
Silver Eagle Audio’s storefront space at Yard Birds Mall is literally booming with music for its like-minded customers. Photo credit: Greg Carlson

Having a storefront at Yard Birds has its advantages, as several vendors and shoppers are often in possession of vintage stereo equipment that may be of interest to Joseph. “That’s the fun part – taking something all old and worn out that was going to be dropped off at the scrap yard, and seeing if I can do something with it.”

Another advantage of Silver Eagle Audio setting up shop in Lewis County is the presence of residents from previous generations who have still held onto their functioning stereo and audio systems. “Locally, it’s great because I have a lot of older customers that never stopped listening to vinyl, and when their Sears MCS stereo goes out, they want to get another one like that – they don’t want to get a cheapie Walmart unit that they have to learn how to use, so they usually come to me to get a replacement.”

Joseph Kees
Owner Joseph Kees in front of his massive selection of inventory. Photo credit: Greg Carlson

“I had this one older customer who went from recording on old military wire recorders to using tube and solid state reel-to-reel machines. When I get a customer like that, I’m the student and sit down and listen to him.”

If someone wants to recreate a turntable-based stereo system from their youth, but feels overwhelmed by all of the analog-based components, Joseph is willing to provide assistance. “Normally, if they have the time, and can bring their turntable or receiver to the shop, I can set it all up here so they can listen to it, just to make sure. You can have great speakers and a great receiver, but sometimes they don’t like to co-mingle, for whatever reason.” Knowing the make, model and wattage of your stereo components always helps.”

The resurgence of vinyl has resulted in younger music fans stopping by Joseph’s store to look through the numerous crates of used records, eager to hear what those classic albums actually sounded like before digitization and compression. Sometimes it even becomes a family affair.

Polaroid cameras
Polaroid cameras are one of Silver Eagle Audio’s more popular vintage products. Photo credit: Greg Carlson

“A lot of young people will come in with their parents, and their parents will give them some ideas of what records to get as far as stuff from the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s. It’s kind of a cool bond with some of my customers between their kids that are starting to get into vinyl and talking to them about the music.”

“One thing that’s nice is getting younger customers in the store and playing them an album and sometimes we compare it to the MP3 version and notice a significant difference. You don’t have to have a fine-tuned ear to notice the difference between analog and digital.”

Silver Eagle Audio also stocks certain products from the past that aren’t stereo-oriented, most notably Polaroid OneStep cameras “For a couple of holiday seasons, I was the biggest supplier of used Polaroids.” He also has the necessary film for the cameras in stock, courtesy of Impossible Project, a New York-based company that bought the Polaroid film plant in 2008.

Otari Console
Joseph often has obscure pieces of equipment, like this Otari analog 24-track recording console. Photo credit: Greg Carlson

Other notable items include a 24-Track Otari analog recording console, similar to what Sub Pop Records used during the early stages of the Seattle grunge sound, several 8mm film projectors, which are always in high demand during the holidays when people want to watch old family home movies, and a classic JCPenney catalog pinball machine – “One of those things that every kid of that era wanted for Christmas” – that went for $465 back in 1976.

In regards to long-term plans, Joseph would love to open up a record store in downtown Centralia sometime in the near future. “I’ve got more ideas than time, though. That’s the hard part.” For now, Joseph’s storefront at Yard Birds an ideal destination for the audiophile who remembers the when buying music was a social event, and conversations regarding an album or stereo system were done face-to-face.

Silver Eagle Audio is located at Yard Birds Mall, 2100 N National Ave., #115, and is open Thursdays through Saturdays, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Joseph is planning to close the store from 1/23/17 – 2/28/17 to assess his inventory and take a vacation, but the doors will be open in early March. Up-to-date information regarding Silver Eagle Audio can be found via their Facebook page.

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