No Fly List: Notes From the Airport Store (September 2015)
People Are Still Asking Us Who We Are and Why Are We Here
“A Sub Pop store? At the airport?”
This is a common refrain we hear, as the store wraps up its second summer at Sea-Tac Airport. For the percentage of travelers who are familiar with Sub Pop, the idea of having a store (and placing said-store in the airport) is usually met with astonishment and/or incredulousness.
I’d say this happens for two reasons. The first being that for people of a certain age and/or mindset, Sub Pop is associated with a very specific slacker/grunge/anti-establishment sentiment, and the blatant money-grab of a store in an airport is the final cause célèbre that the label has *shudder* sold-out.
If there was a specific blueprint laid out 27 years ago, that planned the existence of a store in an airport, I haven’t found it yet. But there is retail precedence for the label, and in my mind, the audacious idea of having a store in the airport is very much in keeping with Sub Pop’s motto of ‘spanning the globe for profit,’ along with a history of garish displays of ego, such as planting our flag on the goddamn Space Needle.
(I’d also say that this mock derision is the least-likely response to seeing the store in-person, behind curiosity, excitement, and blissful ignorance.)
The second reason is that a lot of people treat the airport as a non-place. (If you need time to brush up on the anthropology of super-modernity and non-places, I’ll be here waiting.) Essentially, no one visits the airport willingly; it exists solely to funnel people to their final destination, where they really want to go; airports do not need to reflect history or culture because people only come to the airport in order to leave.
After being open for 16 months, I’m able to say that we’re slowly changing people’s expectations of what an airport store can do. While we receive our fair share of surprised travelers every day, we also meet people who actively seek out the store. Every day I hear a different story. Yesterday, there was a woman flying from Buenos Aires to Montreal, who specifically chose Seattle as her layover in order to see the store. Last week, a couple told us that they plan on getting married (!!!) in-front of the store one day, before running off (or in this case, flying away) to Mexico. I even see familiar faces and repeat visitors, which at the start of this job, I would not have expected. People from all different corners of the Earth converge on the store, and sometimes, a little piece of Sub Pop goes home with them. If that’s not ‘World Domination,’ I don’t know what is.
So, as a busy summer draws to a close, I want to say thank you to everyone who visited us, including the avid fans, the suspicious onlookers, and the curious people who had no idea what Sub Pop was until they wandered into the store. We look forward to your next visit, where we will probably try to convince you to buy more things (but in a totally non-pushy way).