Support Local Journalism


Subscribe


After years of working in record stores around the nation, Kels Koch has come back to his Montana roots to open The Wax Museum in Bozeman, a record shop on the north of town specializing in used records and good company.

“I want to have a place where the real music freaks of Bozeman can come and just focus on music and have it be kind of a cultural, social meeting place,” he said. “I want to definitely have a lot of really good inexpensive used vinyl … If someone walks in with a $20 bill, they can walk out with four or five records that they’re really going to dig.”

The Wax Museum opened last Monday and, despite COVID-19, he said it was a good day for the new business.

“I really didn’t know what it was going to be like,” he said. “I didn’t know if I was shooting myself in the foot … I was pleasantly surprised.”

Koch grew up in Billings and went to college at Montana State in the mid-1980s when he played in local bands like The Beat Nothings, DJ’d on KGLT and was a devout Cactus Records customer. He worked at record shops and played in bands in Seattle, Austin and Nashville in the 90s and, at the end of the decade, briefly moved back to Bozeman with the intention of opening a record shop.

“I just kind of thought, I’m 30 now, It’d be nice to open a cool little record store,” he said. “As I was looking around then, I didn’t really see anything. I didn’t see any good spots … I kind of put that dream away for another day, as Frank Sinatra once sang, and moved on to Nashville.”

In Nashville, Koch worked at the famous Ernest Tubb Record Shop and even spent some time working at a record pressing plant.

But, in 2018, Montana called to Koch again. His parents in Billings were getting older and he wanted to be closer to them. He spent a few months in Billings in 2018 working at the record shop Ernie November and then came back to Bozeman and spent about a year and a half working at Cactus Records, a spot he still loves.

“I would even come up from Billings in high school and shop at Cactus,” Koch said. “It was an honor to be working at the same place I had bought so many records.”

Some old friends of Koch’s let him know about an opening of a tiny store on the North side of town at 404 East Bryant St., where the Wax Museum is now.

“It’s about the size of most people’s bedrooms, and I just thought, yeah, that’s about the right size for me to run a crazy cranky old man record store,” Koch said.

Support Local Journalism

To see what else is happening in Gallatin County subscribe to the online paper.

Melissa Loveridge can be reached at mloveridge@dailychronicle.com or at (406) 582-2651.