Viral to vinyl

10-22-08 SPM Record
Published On:
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
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Turning the tarnished knob to the little green house on Seventh Avenue, the sound of the Bee Gees is loud and thousands of records fill the would-be living room — this is a real record store.

T.J. Jordan and Steve Zimmerman took their friendship to a new level last fall when they became business partners and founded Revolver Records in central Phoenix.

Jordan, a 34-year-old Maricopa resident, says he’s been working in record stores since he was 17.

Jordan says, he met Surprise resident Zimmerman, also 34, a few years ago. “This guy kept coming up and was selling all these records and we just kind of struck up a friendship,” Jordan says.

Revolver Records now neighbors Copper Star Coffee. The two used to meet at the coffee shop to discuss opening up their own record store right there in central Phoenix.

In August 2007 they signed the lease to a former scrapbooking store and began renovating. Revolver Records is a small green house on Seventh Avenue packed with books, movies, local art, CDs, shirts and crates and crates of vinyl. “We’re cramped for space right now but it’s really cozy,” Jordan says. “We try to carry as much as we can but we’re definitely running out of space.”

Opening a record store in the day of downloading might be considered a step backwards by some, but Jordan and Zimmerman seized the opportunity anyway.

“If I didn’t go and start my own record store, I wasn’t going to be able to work in a record store because they’re all going to go out of business,” Jordan says. “I’ve got to have one record store that serves the community.”

Jordan says it may sound lofty, “but record stores hold a really important part in society.” He says Revolver Records provides a place to discuss, experience and listen to music.

Jordan says there was a certain amount of pressure when they first opened to stay afloat as a record store, but even more so now after the one year anniversary. “Our break-even number was exactly what we were making when we opened.” They had a bump in sales in December and retained it until May. “Then 100-degree weather hit and Phoenix just kind of slows down a little but it picked back up after a month.”

Revolver Records’ first anniversary came on Sept. 1. The store celebrated with a storewide sale, live music and extended hours. Jordan, however, says he feels there is even more pressure on the store after the anniversary.

“What we constantly struggle with is how we are going to grow the business but not spend more money because we don’t want to be in debt,” he says. “When we make more money, Steve and I don’t take the cash, we put it back into the store.”

However, Jordan says the current state of the economy is affecting the store.

“Consumer confidence is really important,” Jordan says. He says when people get to put their money towards entertainment instead of fuel then sales are higher. “I’m hoping that whoever’s elected consumer confidence will come back,” he says.

Jordan and Zimmerman plan to expand Revolver Records by one day moving to a warehouse. They want to open a building in order to be able to carry as many items as they want without being picky due to limited space. Revolver Records has two employees.

Joe Zimmerman, no relation to Steve Zimmerman, 28, of Tempe has been to the store a few times and says it’s good the owners are willing to attempt a tangible record store. He’s a singer and guitarist for a local garage-punk band The Rebel Set. “It seems like nobody actually buys the physical record anymore,” Zimmerman says, “It’s cramped, but in a good way.”

Psychology senior Brett Neale says in these days of digital music, record stores such as Revolver Records are evidence of people supporting music at its roots.

“When most people are downloading music off the Internet, I like that there is still somewhere I can go to dig through records the way it was supposed to be done,” Neale says. “I don’t think people really realize how much enjoyment they can get out of owning a record player.”

English senior Mike Cook agrees. “Record stores like Revolver are excellent because they still keep the magic of discovery intact. Going to a record store isn’t just the process of buying a new album but browsing a huge selection of stuff,” Cook says in an e-mail. Cook is a member of the Facebook group Vinyl is Better. He says downloads are too sterile.

“In a record store, you can have conversations with total strangers about music you love and it would be difficult for this to happen in a different setting.”

Revolver Records has many returning customers, including one shopper in a cowboy hat and Wranglers who shouts he just stopped in to buy some of his favorite things, “records!”

Reach the reporter at lauren.cusimano@asu.edu.