Spin Doctors

Record Alley, which has been in the valley for 36 years, scratches the digital trend with new vinyl and old-school music memorabilia

Record Alley co-owners Jim and Shelly Stephens have kept their music store business thriving for 36 years.

“Big-box stores started selling CDs near cost around ’95, which started to impact smaller record stores,” says Record Alley co-owner Jim Stephens. “Around 2000, downloading became an even bigger issue, leading many of these stores to close their doors.” Kids coming of age and cruising the mall around the turn of the century likely remember shops like Record Alley — where you could drop by, tune in, and check out. 

Located in Palm Desert’s Westfield Mall, the Record Alley originally opened in 1978 on North Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, when eight-tracks were more popular than vinyl and had yet to be overshadowed by cassette tapes. “Some of my best memories are from the old store in the early ’80s,” Stephens says. “In ’83, they had concerts at the old Bronco Billy’s in Cathedral City. It was quite a show for the valley — concerts were rare then, especially after the ’69 riots at Angel Stadium. Felony, Sparks, and Missing Persons were the headliners, and Missing Persons did an in-store signing here that drew hundreds of fans who lined up all around the building.”

A move to the mall later that decade meant steeper rent and greater pressure to keep business turning. Attracting visits by such artists as Billy Gibbons, Barry Manilow, and Alice Cooper, Record Alley also made news for more rowdy appearances by bands like New Boyz, whose on-site dance contest caused a riot and subsequent coverage by KESQ.

Fearful that their shop would suffer the fate of the Sam Goodys of the industry in the early 2000s, Stephens and his wife, Shelly, played outside of the box and began “experimenting with merchandise” that would keep customers interested. It turns out the newest item is also the oldest — or at least a version of it. “The only music we sell is on new vinyl,” he says. “Mostly classic rock, but current stuff too.” The rest is on used tapes and CDs.

Music lovers of the old and new schools alike seem to still appreciate artist memorabilia, from Beatles T-shirts to Bob Marley posters and Pink Floyd sew-on patches. Perhaps what keep fans coming back, aside from a hit of nostalgia, is the shop’s exclusive items. “Just about everything we carry is unique to our store,” Stephens says. “We stay away from products you’ll find at other places.” 

Record Alley, 760-341-2017; www.recordalley.com

Comments to this website are moderated by staff. While all comments are welcome, we encourage all to be polite and please do not use this system for advertising or business promotions. Any complaint towards a business or service should be directed directly to that business and not posted here. If anyone has a complaint that a comment is defamatory, please contact me at tmay@palmspringslife.com and I will take appropriate action promptly. Thank You

Add your comment:
Edit Module
Palm Springs Life
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Articles

Dining in a Winter Wonderland

Palm Springs' Lori Tiedeman, an interior designer for more than 30 years, tells us how to bring the holiday magic to our own homes.

Santa Baby

Here are Him and Her holiday gift suggestions to reward your significant other for being so nice (or naughty) with a sweet something under the tree.

Share the Cheer

Start your holiday retail therapy on Black Friday in the Coachella Valley with extended store hours, knockout discounts, and stellar sales. Here’s where to find the perfect gift for everyone on your list — and help others at the same time.

What’s Old Is New

An upscale consignment boutique in Palm Desert is a dream setting for ladies who love high fashion.

Carry the Cause

A unisex boutique in Palm Springs’ Uptown Design District lends help to local teenagers in distress.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Promotions + Contests

Cartoon Caption Contest

Cartoon Caption Contest

Each month, we provide a vintage 1950’s cartoon illustrated by Alice Rovinsky. You are invited to submit a caption or vote for your favorite caption.
Fashionista Friends

Fashionista Friends

Experience the glitz and glamour of Fashion Week El Paseo 2015.
2014/15 Best of the Best

2014/15 Best of the Best

Palm Springs Life’s annual Best of the Best. Readers tell us who their choice is for the “Best of the Best” of the Coachella Valley in over 40 categories.