by Lisa Morgan –
It was 1978. The music scene was a kaleidoscope of influences. Van Halen had just burst onto the scene amidst the cultural phenomenon of Saturday Night Fever and Grease. It was also the year Jim Stephens, music devotee and entrepreneur, hung up his last piece of drywall, took the bold, adventurous leap and opened his own business, Record Alley. Originally tucked away in an alley behind other stores in North Palm Springs on Palm Canyon Drive, hence lending to its name, Jim poured his self-taught knowledge of music in all genres into the vast selection of records and merchandise he carried. Record Alley soon established itself as the place to go to find that album, collection or cool band apparel every music lover and vicarious “groupie” needed to have that couldn’t be found anywhere else.
Record Alley made a big move to Palm Desert Mall in 1985, where the facilities and location were greatly improved, but it also came with some risk. Knowing that their family owned and operated business would be directly competing with the big corporate owned record stores like Tower Records and Sam Goody, Jim had to work hard to hold his own against the competition as well as the highs and lows of the economy. Ultimately, Record Alley would be the last record store standing. When asked, Jim attributes his longevity and success to the loving help and support of his wife Michelle as well as to his incredibly knowledgeable and loyal staff members, past and present. Still, one must give credit to the savvy business decisions he’s made adjusting to an industry that has also faced huge technological changes. With new music more easily accessible to the market via the internet, Jim went from carrying new product, to facilitating the trade and purchase of used CDs and DVDs and continuing to offer a vast, unique collection of band merchandise and fan favorites not found elsewhere in the valley. According to Bob Stock, former desert resident and owner of Phase 1 Mobile DJ who has done business with Jim and Record Alley since its beginning, “Jim is a tribute to the independent business owner. He is a great guy and family man who weathered the storm building up his business to ultimately become an anchor to the Westfield Mall. Whenever we come back to the desert, my wife and I plan at least an hour or more to visit the store and always walk out with stacks of CDs.”
When you walk into Record Alley, you find yourself transported back in time to the old record store experience. Immersed in the widely diverse options ranging from Classic Rock, New Alternative, Country, Heavy Metal, to Jazz and International music, you will soon discover it is NOT cheaper to buy online. Here, for five or six dollars you can purchase 20-30 songs. And there is something to be said about the “old school” approach of buying music: standing there, surrounded by decades of musical legacy that you can actually hold in your hand, reading the cover front to back, stumbling onto that random find of a new artist or an old one that you had almost forgotten. You can even have that cool genre specific conversation with staff members Dale or Eleni or even Jim himself, each a virtual musical encyclopedia and fellow enthusiast. They also carry a huge collection of used DVDs and are STILL the place to go to find new and used vinyl records facilitating the trend of the coolest of DJs and those of us who simply love the nostalgia.
Record Alley has managed, under great odds, to preserve a part of our culture that was almost lost to the impersonal and manufactured era of internet marketed music. It is truly an interactive experience that would be lost to our new and future generations if weren’t for Record Alley.
Record Alley is located in the Westfield Mall at 72840 Highway 111, Palm Desert. For a current and complete list of on-going sales and merchandise check out their website www.recordalley.com