Every once in awhile you find a store that is truly unique — from the moment you step inside you instinctively know it. Cactus Records is one of those places. Entering Cactus gives the distinct impression of a space that has been carefully curated and crafted to create a memorable experience. Every square inch is covered in colorful bits of musical memorabilia, patchwork squares of vinyl records or generally unique products that serve to illustrate the atmosphere of the shop. Cactus has had a long time to develop this atmosphere during its 45 years in Bozeman, and since has become a landmark of the town to many.
Although founded in 1970, the shop was taken over by Mike “Bueno” Good 14 years ago. Bueno bought Cactus from the former owners after they retired. He says that the store remained mostly the same after he took over, with one large exception being the amount of vinyl records. Today the shop offers hundreds of vinyls, but when he took over “they maybe had one or two records” said Bueno. His previous job was in vinyl distribution for a record label in San Francisco so when he started at Cactus it was only natural to introduce more vinyl. “I’m not a huge audiophile,” he says, “it’s more of a collecting thing for me.” He enjoys the beauty of a well-designed EP and loves collecting records both new and old.
But Cactus Records is not only a haven for music lovers; it also stocks a huge range of strangely wonderful little knick-knacks, as well as a variety of locally designed or crafted products such as t-shirts and jewelry. One section of the shop is devoted to body piercings, while another corner consists of shelves stacked high with incense. This is part of what makes the store so memorable — it has a character that just can’t be pinned down. “It’s the kind of place I’d like to go and it’s an expression of our past and every employee that has ever worked there,” Bueno said, adding that everyone who works at the shop brings something different and everyone has a certain part of the store that reflects them. In a way Cactus will never stay quite the same, it will always be in some amount of flux as time goes on. Most recently, the shop has just started carrying comic books.
The basement area has become filled with comic books old and new after Bueno bought a collection of nearly 7,000. He also says that there are two employees of the store who are “the biggest comic book nerds ever” and have been pricing and organizing the collection. Another big addition to the shop was the introduction of online ticket sales to local shows. Cactus’ website has seen a big spike in traffic over the last two or three years, when it became a ticketing resource for local events. And of course all of these tickets can be purchased in-store as well. But sometimes you don’t even have to leave Cactus to see live performances; as part of their ongoing effort to support local music they occasionally host live shows in-store. And if you miss those you can always browse the permanent collection of local music that the shop carries. This along with the local goods they carry show it is clear they strive to maintain a tight connection with Bozeman no matter what.
This is what makes Cactus Records the store it is today. It doesn’t attempt to constrain itself to any one thing. Like Bozeman itself, the shop is composed of a multitude of diverse interests and colorful people. As Bueno remarks “We just want to be a reflection of Bozeman as a whole.” He dislikes “sterile environments” and “homogenized culture” in general. That is why a visit to Cactus Records is always a worthy trip; to experience it personally, in all of its wonderful, non-homogenized goodness. Every Bozemanite should go to Cactus at least once. And while you’re there be sure to give the store mascot Bacon Bit (an enormous dog) a belly rub. She loves that.
Learn more about Cactus Records by visiting the store at 29 Main Street or by going online to cactusrecords.net.