“We buy stuff off the street. Used records. That’s where all these things come from. You get a bunch of people. And sometimes it’s a great interaction, and sometimes it’s not, you know?”
Standing against the exposed brick of his vinyl record store, 41-year old Chadwick Hemus knows music has always been his true north. Co-owner of The Record Parlour in Hollywood, California, Chadwick remembers how records had an immediate allure for him, and working in worlds where records spin marked an early beginning to an enduring rhythm of life.
On his hand, there is a small tattoo of a faded cat sitting on a crescent moon.
“It’s off of a Ventures record cover. I don’t know. It just struck me.”
Music is like that for him, too.
His first record was a ’70’s Mickey Mouse Club record. “With Lisa Whelchel from Facts of Life, an ensemble cast,” he smiles.
Since that first vinyl, Chadwick can talk to you about Chick Corea while flipping an Otis Redding record. The store is self-described as ‘a mecca of pre-digital entertainment and home to over 15,000 records, rare jukeboxes, restored vintage audio gear, music memorabilia and much more.’ Chandeliers and naked light bulbs glimmer in the sepia space rich with vinyl and other nostalgic things. Chadwick and his business partner Chris Honetschlaeger have been in business here for three years now.
“This is the first time I’ve had my own store. But that’s all I’ve ever done since high school,” says Chadwick. “That’s how I’ve made a living.
“I grew up in San Diego, and I happened to be in a neighborhood where, at the time, there were four or five music stores of varying size. There was a Tower and Warehouse. And then some very important independent stores in the area too. One of which ended up being the first place I worked.
“I just fell into that and had a knack for … kind of the way my brain works… you know, I’m pretty good at memorizing things. It lent itself to pricing,” he says. “It wasn’t something I thought consciously, ‘oh this is something I’m going to do with myself.’ I loved records.
“In the ’90’s, there was very much a trend for this snobbishness in music stores. That’s faded quite a bit. I think that overall the sort of humbling of maybe the music industry and the fact that the money’s not like it used to be … there’s not really a lot of room for that.”
As much as his work in the record store is a labor of love, he admits there is definitely labor involved.
“It’s a lot of hours and there’s always a lot of other things to deal with besides just the good parts,” he says. “There’s a lot of street interactions. And when you run a business like this … you have a lot of other aspects to deal with that are not always pleasant.
“Sometimes you’re just a therapist. Just a bartender type helping somebody kind of move on. Sometimes you’re dealing with somebody who is very very desperate and very upset that we’re not able to help them.
“It’s not always just the stuff off the street that can be crazy. I mean, the sourcing… the places you have to go to get stuff can be really pretty creepy.
“There’s a lot of hoarders that have a lot of records. Records kind of lend themselves to that. And a lot of times, by the time their collections are available, the person has either passed or may be in a really bad part of their life. And you’re dealing with a lot of what comes with hoarders: the dirt and filth and bugs. So there’s a lot of that when you’re sourcing this kind of stuff.”
The Flip Side
“One of the mysteries of music… is the sort of power of it and the longevity of it.
“And one of the reasons I think we have been very successful in a short amount of time is there’s a lot of interaction with people. I want to find out what they want and what they want to be turned on to, and it really doesn’t matter if that’s what you’re into or not. It’s more about getting someone streamlined into what they want. All of those interactions are what make a good day.
“Small businesses like this are always about relationships. That’s why people come in. When people are selling records, especially when it’s their own records, they really want acknowledgement over them. That the stuff is good stuff. That they took care of it. Or maybe they didn’t because they loved them. But there’s definitely that exchange. It’s so often not about how much money. It’s so much about acknowledging the importance they’ve given these objects, and they really want you to give that.
“I’m sure this is part of what my over-arching dream would be for an existence. I don’t know what that is. Right now, I’m more about survival and realigning. It’s a very strange time period. So the idea of sort of a dream or a bigger picture — ugh — it’s not where I’m at.
“My favorite mantra has always been ‘don’t look down.’
“That’s the key to hanging in there. ‘Cuz it’s pretty scary.”
Maybe music helps us look up. And make sense of things. Especially in tough times. In the moment. And well beyond. In the words of musician and artist David Byrne from his book How Music Works:
“A slew of musical associations bounce around in our heads, linking to recurring memories and feelings, which, after a while, facilitate the creation and reinforcement of specific neural pathways. These pathways help us make sense of those experiences. They make us who we are.”