Eastside Records to Close By Year's End

eastside records closing.JPG
Benjamin Leatherman
R.I.P. Eastside Records 1987-2010
There's something of an unwritten law here in the Valley that dictates the following: Anything remotely cool will eventually either die or start to suck.

Don't believe me? Try tuning into KUKQ on your car radio while heading over to the Mason Jar or Jugheads to catch a show, followed by a trip to the Counterculture Cafe for a late night latte.

Come New Year's Day you can add Eastside Records to that list, as the renowned Tempe music emporium will be closed by December 31. Co-owners Ben Wood, Michael Pawlicki, and Steven Gastellum have decided to pull the plug on the long-running record shop after almost 25 years of existence.

Pawlicki told me that while they're still doing "a respectable amount of business," he and the other proprietors have grown weary of keeping the shop afloat amidst the perils of running a record store in this day and age.

"We've been working harder at keeping the place open for a little less return each year," he says. 

Pawlicki, who's pretty much worked at Eastside since it opened in 1987, also cites a desire to ditch the Arizona heat and experience living somewhere else.

"I've lived here my whole adult life," he says. "And I would like to go where the summer's are a little less brutal."

Eastside's proprietors state it will remain open through the Christmas rush; a decision that Pawlicki says has both its pros and cons.

"There's gonna be more business because of Christmas," he says. "But we're gonna see all these people that we don't see so often."

Eastside's end is a major bummer for anyone (myself included) who's been a customer of the establishment over the past quarter century. Along with Stinkweeds (which also launched in 1987) it was a retailer for indie, punk, ska, and jazz acts that music fans couldn't find elsewhere, providing an alternative to such Reagan-era retailers stores as Tower and even local chain Zia Records.

(Curiously enough, both Eastside's proprietors and Stinkweeds owner Kimber Lanning managed various Zia locations in the mid '80s before quitting the local chain at roughly the same time to open their respective record shops within months of one another.)

To call Eastside an institution would be a major understatement. In many ways, it was the Valley's version of Championship Vinyl, the fictional record store from Nick Hornsby's High Fidelity, with Wood, Pawlicki, and the rest of the staff serving as the real world embodiments of music snob protagonist Rob Fleming

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28 comments
Livinghead
Livinghead

I bought my first West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band record at Eastside, which of course, changed my life. Also miss the eel. Man that was a beautiful eel. How does it eel to eel?- Our music is red with purple splashes.

Geeoff602
Geeoff602

So lame but its not really a shocker. They have been talking about it for years. Really hope somebody throws a farewell show or something.

ngizzle
ngizzle

Super bummed to hear this news. Almost every single thing I associate with punk rock and/or the local music scene is gone. Thankfully the Nile is back, but it's different. They don't even do many punk shows there.

Reyrip
Reyrip

Was actually there the first week that Eastside opened. Remember back when Restaurant Mexico was next to Rundles? Good times. They were always informative and carried great indie material.

But now in 2010 I must admit I prefer the power of the internet retail world. With Allmusic.com, Youtube.com, Emusic.com, etc I can much more efficiently and effectively peruse those bands who I may have interest in investing my hard earned pesos. I just don't have the need to create a romance with a retail clerk. So enough said, I claim that those lads who left the storefronts and invested in servers should be applauded.

Ronald McDonald 69
Ronald McDonald 69

Too bad. That particular intersection seems to be in a state of flux. The old Co-op lot is still empty across the street. Buffalo Exchange seems to be the anchor now. I like Wet Paint and Otto's. Used to dig Cartel Coffee but it's a bit too crowded with hipster doofuses and loud now.Of course Casey Moore's is still down the street and hopefully will remain so for years to come.

Geoffsaari
Geoffsaari

I can also say, being just a small part of this wonderful existence... if true it is a sad loss for the Tempe area and actually all of the local METRO Phoenicians.( I remember people traveling from 43rd and bell to spend their paychecks.......to get some music .....this place gave me life working there, and even though life changes.can make you change your personal direction .... you always want to see "EASTSIDE" go on forever to feed the kids musically , the adults, and the few weirdo's who I remember frequented the store. I wish you luck in your future adventures.. and I hope you all can share the JOY I felt working there!

Real Blues Fan
Real Blues Fan

I spent a lot of good times poking around in those bins. I think some of my favorite stuff to this day was "recommended" to me by Ryan O'Sullivan as "unlistenable crap". They always had a strangely large selection of unlikely stuff like Andre Williams and Link Wray. I know their ska section was instrumental in driving the local ska scene in the early to mid 90s. I bought my first Juxtapoz mag there. In fact they were always into cool low-brow art like Robert Williams and Todd Schorr before it even had that name. Long before "devil girl" stickers became standard inventory at every record and skate shop, Eastside had COOP do the store logo- probably the first time I or most others ever saw COOP's artwork. How cool is that! There's a lesson to be learned here. Think about all the other independent small local businesses that you like. I guarantee you that most are hurting financially and are just barely staying alive- sticking out the recession until business gets better and making just enough money to pay the bills. Some are slowly losing money, gambling that the economy will pick up before the savings run out. Unfortunately for loyal patrons, the time sometimes arrives when business owners make the decision that they're just not willing or able to wait any longer. If you care at all about your local shop, make an extra effort to at least look there for whatever you need before going to ebay or a box store, be it punk vinyl, guitar strings, pizza, games, books, or whatever. That extra little effort will really make a difference right now.

Shane Kennedy
Shane Kennedy

oh...and sorry Benjamin, but East Side Records is wayyyyyyyyyyyyy cooler than KUKQ ever was (it was weak at best), and Jugheads (seriously?), or Counterculture Cafe (nerdsville...didn't they have, uh, Poetry Slams? yeeeeesh...)....Eastside has an amazingly cool variety of shit...THAT we can ALL agree on.

Yo
Yo

A great store, spent a lot of time there when it opened getting all the out of print Zappa LP's that they always had. Great store, good people, good tunes, thanks for the commitment guys! I'll miss ya.

Jason P. Woodbury
Jason P. Woodbury

This is obviously very lame news, and Benjamin summed up the whole situation much better than I can.

I'll just say that I've had my mind opened at Eastside, that I've met great people there, and that I've purchased records there that mean the world to me.

When I worked at the Tempe Zia, I'd frequently spend my lunch break hanging around at Eastside, and I still try to get in there every couple weeks. I love working for Zia, and I don't feel bad about our expansion into areas like video games, DVDs, books and toys (while still hanging on to records and CDs) but Eastside was a classic example of old-school record store-ism.

I count many of the guys who work or have worked there as close friends. Steven and Ballpark were always faces I loved seeing, and the few times I've talked with Ben he was just as great to speak with. I'm glad the folks of Eastside stuck around and fought the good fight as long as they did. My record collection thanks the guys, and so do I.

Vince
Vince

I hate to be the a-hole, but, perhaps if the people that worked at these places didn't treat different-looking people like schmucks and rubes, these stores could actually stay open. I live, eat, and breathe music, but I've never been treated well in a record store, and I'm old enough to have shopped in them plenty. I generally assume that I get treated poorly because I'm well-built (you know, like the jocks that used to beat these guys up) and often dressed for the office, and that most record-store employees automatically assume I listen to Nickelback and I'm a jerk. I'm only speaking for myself here, but thank heavens for the internets, because I haven't had to set foot in one of these places in nearly a decade (and btw, I do pay for my music online, I care enough about music to pay for it), except to pick up the occasional concert ticket. And every time I have, I'm reminded why I never want to go back.

I'm truly sorry for the people who feel like they're losing a second home. That sucks. I shudder to think how I'd feel if one of my favorite hangouts closed, but maybe there's a lesson to be learned here? Feel free to assault me, I have no agenda, but I know I'm not the only person who feels this way. Record stores are a lot like records labels in that regard. Treat your customers like shnit for so long, as soon as better options are available, you won't have customers.

Chris Bowler
Chris Bowler

This is just part of the decline of the Valley.I have never been much of a collector-I am never home, so I don't buy much music-I used to go watch it live-every night. Tempe is still a nice place to live, but it used to be one of the greatest small cities in America. That is what happens when municipal governments become real estate development companies. This town has become over-populated with really boring people who don't do anything but watch TV and eat shitty food. The bads are still out there, the venues aren't. Neither is the support. When Phoenix was the 12th largest city in the country on any given night if you wanted to go out you had make a list and cross most of the list off because there was just too much to do-now it's....meh, never mind.

Alec L.
Alec L.

I have said this so many times but I felt like I got punched in the stomach when I first heard. I can honestly say I've made most of my friends because of Eastside in one way or another and it's been one of the most important factors in my life for the past I don't know how many years. I really wanted to cry when I first heard. This made it all the more real for me.

Shane Kennedy
Shane Kennedy

fuck. life sucks a little more. the time are a-changing, and I don't care for it one bit.

Whatlaurasays
Whatlaurasays

Indeed.... Eastside was my first haven upon moving to this metropolis. Hoodlums also, but they brought me up to speed whereas Eastside kept my old soul anchored and in place.

Either way, thanks guys for being purveyors of 'our' culture... best of luck in whatever you do next!

joe.distort
joe.distort

my sentiments are pretty clearly stated in the article, but i would also like to add the weirdness that i bought one of ben leathermans zines there a looong time ago. the internet ties everyone together

azecho
azecho

this news is so depressing, i don't even know what to say. mike's a local legend and has been selling me records since i "rode into town" in '96. hell, he sold my buddy zen arcade in '85 on a payment plan because at 13 yrs old, he couldn't afford a double album...

best of luck with your future plans, tempe won't be the same without you.

Shane Kennedy
Shane Kennedy

I say "sorry" because I think Benjamin is a cool guy & a great writer...we don't have to agree on everything...it's more fun to disagree, anyways.

Ax_s
Ax_s

i don't look weird, and the cats at Eastside have always been completely cool to me. i agree with the post below, it sounds like you're a littttle too obsessed with how people are supposedly constantly judging you. kind of ironic coming from a jock-looking type...

Benjo Widwitz
Benjo Widwitz

from the sounds of it, this may have more to do with your own lack of comfort in a space than anything anyone actually does to you in that space. bottom-line at most of these place is the music - if you took the initiative to be friendly and ask about the record playing, or ask for recommendations based on some of your favorite records, they'd probably be more than willing to engage you.

sure, it's not the "ask-every-customer-how-their-day-is-going" approach of barnes & nobles or border, but assuming that the person behind the counter is judging you probably has more to do with how you feel than anything they are actually thinking/doing.

bias: most people who have worked retail probably understand this.

Shane Kennedy
Shane Kennedy

...I always thought being a bitter snobby prick was part of the job description of 'record store clerk'....I didn't go there for cheese ball customer service...I went there for rekkids...Good music is more important to me than good cheerful service, and lucky for you that your taste lies within the boundaries of commercially available MP3 downloads, not everyones does, and for those of us who fall into that category, putting up with a few snarky comments from some miserable bastard who works at a record store is worth every penny & worth every second. (disclaimer: I don't buy as much from record stores as I used to, because I just don't have the disposable income that I once had, but when I can, I still do...also, I have goofy taste, and it is hard, sometimes, to find what I'm looking for, and sadly GEMM & ebay ALWAYS seem to have it...that's just the nature of the beast...if I want it, I'd PREFER to get it at my neighborhood shop, but if they don't got it, I'm-a gonna find it somewhere...).....and yeah, Mr. Well-Built tough guy ass kicker, you do sound like a dick...and so do I......welcome to the club, Dickleback.

Inn
Inn

Get over it. The selection was mediocre, the price tags generic orange dots with $2.99 horribly written (yes, you think that is hardcore),the vibe was pompous,the owners kept the good traded vinyl, half the store was cds (not a true vinyl store), Ben is a homosexual who raided the record conventions, YOU COULDN"T TRY OUT THE USED VINYL (no record players BUT PLENTY FOR SALE!!!!), new vinyl was overpriced. What a bunch of damn sentimentalists. It was a business with a persona.

Vince
Vince

Since I can't reply to the original, I will do it here. The second-rate thing was a bit of a reach, I admit, but it's obvious you don't take yourself too seriously, and that's an admirable trait. Cheers.

Vince
Vince

I worked retail for nearly a decade. I understand it plenty. You're making too many assumptions here; for what it's worth, I've done all of the things you mentioned, with repeatably poor results - almost like, umm, science. To wit, my favorite exchange ever (this actually happened):

Me: I really like this (referring to the record being played), who is this?Record Store Cnut: I don't think this is something you'd like.

Now, this miserable btich had no reason to know what I might or might not like. I had just entered the store, thus there were no records in my hand for her to make this assumption - just my appearance and friendly attitude. If she was able to figure out that I'm Jewish, and it was a Rahowa record, I guess she's mighty perceptive, because I actually don't like Nazi rock. Turns out it wasn't, so I still can't imagine how she could make such a decision.

I don't know who the fcuk you think you are, either, but I'm plenty comfortable in my own skin no matter where I am. I don't shop at Barnes and Noble or Borders, but the places I do spend my money repeatedly have EARNED my business. Giving justification for someone's shitty business practices doesn't make them less shitty. You seem to be missing my point altogether as well, so I will spell it out clearly:

Don't treat your customers like sh!t, because soon you will have no customers.

Vince
Vince

Hey dude, slow your snark roll. I never said my taste in music was easily satiated by "commerically available" downloads. There are still out of print records that I wish would be made available, and I do buy plenty of physical product - just not from the local joints that go out of their way to be anuses. You don't know me, why would you presume to know anything about me or my taste in music? Good music is more important to me than anything in this world, I'd take a good song over a good shag any day of the week, just ask my ex-wife (she wasn't really a "good" shag, though).

I could give a flying fcuk about "cheery cheeseball customer service" - but I break my back for my money, so if I should choose to spend it at your establishment, I'd like to think that should preclude me from being actively treated like garbage.

My point was precisely this: if your business model relies on employees treating customers like dirt, as soon as a better option comes along, you shouldn't be surprised when those customers tell you where to jump.

As far as why I've been treated poorly by record-store a-holes, I only offer my suspicion. Because I'm tall and athletic doesn't preclude me from being a music-addict. And because I (used to) wear nice clothes 5 days a week doesn't mean so, either. I always laughed at the irony of a dickweed with 9 face piercings and a pink mohawk judging me on my looks - tattoos, piercings, and stupid haircuts are just as much of a uniform as a suit and tie. Nobody likes to be judged by how they look. And I never once claimed to be an ass-kicker, just pointed out the fact that I might look like one. I go out of my way not to judge people, I grew up as an outsider and had my own ass kicked many, many times, and music is what always got me through. Sorry, but your argument doesn't hold much water, although I don't know why I'd expect any sort of rational, cognizant thought from a second-rate DJ. Although, I gotta admit, "Dickleback" had me laughing. Well done.

There is a lesson here for every business: treat your customers well - ESPECIALLY the ones you don't know. That's all.

RaHoWa
RaHoWa

"Now, this miserable btich had no reason to know what I might or might not like. I had just entered the store, thus there were no records in my hand for her to make this assumption - just my appearance and friendly attitude."

are you sure you're talking about the same place? because I dont think there has ever been a female employee of eastside records.

Shane Kennedy
Shane Kennedy

2cnd Rate? But New Times says I'm the best, see I have this plaque to prove it right here...Dickelback was supposed to make you laugh....You're right, I don't know you & you don't me, but we do have rather nice rapport..we'd probably get along just fine...I don't have any face piercing either.

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