Aug. 1 was the grand opening of What’s Left Records. Located at 829 N. Circle Drive and featuring a new mural from the Knobhill Urban Arts District, the small space on the top floor was —responsibly and socially distanced — full of customers flipping through racks of vinyl records, perusing the selection of books and magazines, browsing through band T-shirts and playing the store’s Mortal Kombat arcade game, all while a D.J. was onsite to provide the appropriate ambiance.
What’s Left Records is the latest project from the brothers Bryan and Sean Ostrow, who are fixtures in the Colorado Springs music scene.
“In 2010 I started a zine with a couple friends called What’s Left,” Bryan said during a phone interview. “A few years after that, I ended up just making What’s Left a record label, and now we’re able to do it as a store.”
His DIY industry
The store is a natural extension of Ostrow’s work in the local music scene, not just as a guitarist for local metal bands Night of the Living Shred and Upon a Fields Whisper, but as a promoter, booking agent and label owner.
“I was booking shows over at the Triple Nickel, and we actually did a festival called ‘What’s Left Fest.’ We did five of those,” he said. “I did four ‘71Grind’ festivals as ‘What’s Left Presents.’ We ran the DIY space Flux Capacitor and we did that for two years until we were shut down; and then we worked with the Pikes Peak Library District briefly for their Knights of Columbus Hall building.
“I’ve been working at the Triple Nickel; bartending and booking shows there.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has delivered a serious blow to the local music scene, with bars and clubs forced to close or severely limit the number of patrons in their establishment, making concerts and shows unfeasible. Some venues, like the Zodiac, have closed for good.
“I haven’t been able to bartend or do shows,” said Ostrow, “so this is a good way to get the community involved and do music and have it be safe.”
The store is also an extension of Ostrow’s work running his own record label.
“I wanted to be able to help release cool bands,” he said. “I’ve probably done around 20 albums or so. Some of that is just me throwing a hundred dollars at a release and getting a couple of albums. I was just putting out records for my friends and their bands and distro-ing them and trading them at shows and events.”
While it might seem strange, given the times and the widespread availability of digital music, Ostrow couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make this store a reality.
“I’ve always loved record stores and I’ve always wanted to do one,” he said. “I mentioned it to my friend [Luke Blanton, a local property manager for music practice spaces], and he called me out of the blue a few months ago and told me, ‘Hey, I have a new building and I’m looking for tenants and I have the perfect spot for a record store if you still wanted to do that.’ I wasn’t working and I didn’t know when bars were going to reopen.
“I know it’s a weird time but it’s the perfect opportunity to move forward.”
Inside What’s Left
What’s Left’s inventory is heavy on vinyl records, which have long been prized by audiophiles and collectors.
“I think vinyl is making a huge comeback,” said Ostrow. “I think a lot of people are realizing they do love that physical copy to hold in their hand, look through the liner notes, read along with the lyrics while you’re listening, listening to the album as it was intended to be played from the first song to the last song.”
While the selection is not as varied as larger stores, Ostrow carries a lot of unique and local records that are hard to find elsewhere.
“Punk and metal and hip-hop are very close to me,” he said. “We have a really great scene within those communities as well. I think having it be niche is kind of a good thing in the sense of knowing what you’re working with, people coming in knowing what they’re wanting, and then it being there. You’re not spending a bunch of money on inventory that is all over the place.
“We’re definitely carrying other genres and more mainstream things, and that’s why we have other things, so that anybody can come in and find something that they want to leave with. It doesn’t just have to be the hottest new death metal album.”
The physical storefront also allows Ostrow to continue supporting local musicians. “Locals are a huge thing here,” he said. “We want to take care of … and support them and promote them. We have two separate local sections, vinyl and CD, and we have a bunch of shirts from a variety of local bands.”
Customers who are still wary of in-person shopping can access What’s Left Records’ inventory online.
“We have been selling our records on Discogs,” Ostrow said. “Discogs is a smart thing to do right now when people can’t leave their houses.”
Those online sales are helping the new business.
“We’re doing way better than I thought,” he said, “I may need to not log everything [on discogs] because I still need stuff in the store.”
What’s Left Records is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday.