Tracks in Wax Records to Go On After Passing of Owner Dennis Chiesa, says Julie O'Mahar Chiesa

Categories: News

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Jason Woodbury

It's with great sadness that we report that Dennis Chiesa, owner of Tracks in Wax Records, passed away May 1 of complications involving his battle against cancer. Chiesa was 67.

The Irish Cultural Center ran this obituary, expressing sincere sadness and extending condolences to his wife, Julie O'Mahar Chiesa, who is the managing editor of the Desert Shamrock Irish paper and treasurer of the Phoenix St. Patrick's Day Parade Committee.

I stopped into Tracks, located at 4741 North Central Avenue, to speak with O'Mahar Chiesa, who discussed with me the upcoming benefit scheduled in Chiesa's memory, and the future of Tracks in Wax. I was also able to reach Sam Hill, a loyal customer and friend of the Chiesas', who discussed his memories of Dennis and his love of the store.

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David Nichols
Dennis Chiesa

The store opened in 1982, a joint venture between Dennis and his brother Don. "Dennis knew the '50s and '60s, Don knew the '70s and '80s, and I counted the money," Julie jokes, stating that she raised the couple's two children.

Chiesa was walking and talking only three days before his passing, she says, explaining that complications from chemotherapy lowered his blood cell count, and that a mutual decision was reached by Dennis, his family, and doctor to stop treatment and allow him to go peacefully. 

"Collectors from all over would stop in," O'Mahar Chiesa says, noting that out-of-town collectors often stopped by to raid the bins for blues, R&B, and jazz platters.

"I've been going there since '83, two or three times a week," Hill says. "What I remember most about Dennis was his kindness to customers. On multiple occasions, people would bring in records that were less than desirable, and Dennis wouldn't turn them away. He'd give them some money -- when he could tell they really needed it -- then turn around and throw the records away."

Chiesa was an avid collector himself. "Dennis was into Dylan, and R&B doo-wop. He had a fantastic collection of EPs, and was really into Vogue Picture Records. He wanted to complete the whole run, but I don't think he ever did," Hill says. 

The store was has been for sale in recent years, but O'Mahar Chiesa has taken it off the market, noting she may attempt to sell it again in a few years. In the meantime, she'll be running the store, and a cast of regulars will be assisting her in the pricing of rare items.

"There are a lot of nice records here, and we want people to be able to come in and buy them," O'Mahar Chiesa says.

The next few months promise to be interesting ones for the store. In June, local film company  Running Wild Films are set to film The Big Something on location in the store. A murder mystery with the tagline "Vinyl may be a subculture, but murder is everyone's business," is about a record store employee who begins investigating the death of the record store owner.

"The film shares a sense of preservation and love of the store," director Travis Mills said over the phone. "I'm grateful that I'm being allowed to make my movie there."

According to Hill, it won't be the first time the location was used in a film. He states that scenes of 1995's Waiting to Exhale were shot there, though he isn't certain if they made the final cut of the movie (we aren't, either).

Tracks in Wax and the Chiesa family have an understated quality. The family "doesn't believe in funerals," and in keeping, the news of Chiesa's passing has been muted. A memorial concert is being planned for August 6, at O'Connor's Pub, with Bill Tarsha of the Rocket 88's curating musical guests.

"The store is a landmark," O'Mahar Chiesa says. "This is history here."



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13 comments
Cdelson1023
Cdelson1023

Dennis was a very sweet and kind man. I loved to just sit and talk to him while my husband was searching for an album or two. He really knew his music, and was always ready to share the knowledge with you. I am so happy that his wife will keep the place going. We will miss Dennis dearly, but are happy to be able to continue to shop there and show Julie support. God Bless you Dennis !

Dusty Paul Nelson
Dusty Paul Nelson

I spent many hours searching the aisles of this shop, over the past 18 years. I wouldn't have quite the large collection if it weren't for Trax in wax, Dennis and his wife Julie. I always found a smile and kind welcome words when I walked through the doors of the shop. I am glad Julie will keep it going and I plan to keep supporting her shop with my business. God bless!!

Dusty Paul Nelson
Dusty Paul Nelson

God bless!! What a good man and friend! I have a large collection of my records thanks to Dennis and his shop. I always enjoyed stopping in and chatting with him and would get lost for a couple of hours looking through the aisles over and again. Glad the store will remain in business and I will continue to give Julie my support. I'm still a vinyl addict.

Johnroseaz
Johnroseaz

Man, what a drag. I've been to Trax a million times since I was a teenager. The first record I got was a Cramps bootleg that I smuggled out the bathroom window. I later confessed the theft to Don & he looked up, said "Really?", snickered, & took another drag on his ciggie. Don let me work for records one summer, my fave score being a beat-up Sonics Boom lp on Etiquette. Both Don & Dennis were always willing to cut you a deal, esp bulk deals. Phoenix has lost a couple of cool brothers for sure. R.I.P.John R.

Philthyphil68
Philthyphil68

What an amazing place Tracks was and is. I have bought vinyl there in 3 different decades. So sad about Dennis' passing and Don's a few years ago. just hanging out in there was the best part really. Smoking, drinking beer and shooting the shit w Don was so great! PhilthyPhil

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