Astoria Plywood Mill

Erickson discussed some of the memorable items that have been brought in over the years, including a piece of wood from the fromer Astoria Plywood Mill, pictured.

When did the business begin?

“[John] Pierce Christie started this business 25 or more years ago, in the early 90s. There was Flying Barney’s, an all-ages dance club and concert venue in the back, which was open at night. Pierce sublet the front area to sell records, he had a huge record collection. He started collecting more and more musical instruments and vintage art-related things. I started working for him 22 years ago and helped him off and on. He had a stroke about three years ago and wasn’t coming down to work, so he said to me, ‘So you wanna be a big wig, huh? I’ll sell you the store.” So I went into an agreement and bought all his stuff and the Mallternative name.”

More instruments

Erickson plans to expand the musical department at Mallternative to fill a void left by the closure of Thiel's Music Center.

It’s always been ‘Mallternative?”

“It was Christie’s Mallternative but now it’s just Mallternative. You could say Terry’s Mallternative. It’s kind of funny because people often thought it was a girl named Christie and now they probably hear Terry and still aren’t sure.”

What inspired the name ‘Mallternative’?

“It’s the mall alternative. I see people driving by every day and I just know they’re going to Fred Meyer to buy a Bluetooth speaker or a video game that they could buy here a lot cheaper. And I think that’s what Pierce meant when he said ‘Mallternative.’”

Vinyl records

Demand for vinyl records and LPs has surged while sales for CDs and DVDs has shrunk.

What accounts for a majority of your business?

“One of the main categories is vinyl records and LPs. It’s changed over the years. We used to sell a lot of DVDs but now not so much. It’s kind of nice to have a collection of interesting stuff. Our musical instrument department is expanding since Thiel’s closed and there’s no other music store in town. We also have a comic book section now.”

How has it changed or evolved since you opened?

“Only old people buy CDs nowadays and there’s a whole lot less theft with music CDs and DVDs.”

Vintage games

New and vintage video games are available at Mallternative.

What’s been some of the more unforgettable things people have brought in?

“At a garage sale I found a dozen Astoria Plywood Mill hats. They were yellow, baseball-style caps. I passed them out to people who would appreciate them. One came in and gave me a piece of plywood from 1962 that was made at the Astoria Plywood Mill.”

Terry Erickson worked for Mallternative founder John Pierce Christie

Terry Erickson worked for Mallternative founder John Pierce Christie for more than 20 years. Erickson eventually bought the business after Christie suffered a stroke roughly three years ago.

What’s the most expensive item in the store?

“I’ve got a Tonaveri accordion that’s worth about $1,000.”

Are there certain things you’re always interested in?

“If it has tubes in it. Anything that has tubes I’m interested. I’m looking for guitars and amps right now… maybe a mandolin, violin or banjo.”

Customers browse

Erickson picked out a guitar cable for a customer as others browsed video games and vinyl records at Mallternative.

What are some of your favorite records of all time?

“Cat Stevens’ ‘Teaser and the Firecat,’ Miles Davis’ ‘Kind of Blue,’ Ry Cooder’s ‘Boop til you Drop’ and Black Sabbath’s ‘Paranoid.’”

Is there anything you regret selling?

“Yes, all the cool stuff — a whole bunch of guitars and cars.”

Barter, sell and trade

A barter, sell and/or trade business, Erickson regularly haggles with customers and often rewards them with discounts.

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