I’ve been shopping at local record stores since the mid 1950s. When I was at Jefferson Jr. High and Wilson High School, no one in my family dared supply me with a motor vehicle, a smart move considering my accident record when I began driving.
In 1958, I had to take a city bus as I almost died from a very bad smog-related asthma attack when I was returning from a daylong visit to San Diego in 1957. A few years later, I returned to visit that border town to check out Arcade Records, where unsold records went to die. Had I bought their quarter-per-record titles then, I’d own some extremely rare and valuable records, but I bought only the ones I knew.
After my hospitalization in Harbor City, I took a weekly bus downtown to get allergy shots at the Kaiser clinic on Ocean Blvd. The bus stop was at the Bernaderet Record Store on First St. next to an alley east of Pine Ave. Every week, I’d go in and pick up the KFWB Top 40 Survey for the week. One time the lady at the counter mentioned, “I never see you buy anything,” so I went through her .39 cent browser bin and bought something. She never complained again.
I still have all those surveys.
The main shops in Long Beach were Morey’s and Humphrey’s on Pine Avenue in the 50s. Morey’s had a bin of new 45s with a locked stick through them to prevent shrinkage. It worked, but was a less-than-friendly sales device.
But the main players for rock and roll fans were two shops just north of Long Beach: Wallich’s Music City in Lakewood, which opened in 1957 and Wenzel’s Music Town in Downey, which opened in late 1958. Wallich’s, which had an extreme shrinkage problem as they’d let teens audition 45s and LPs in listening booths (stick the 45s in your clothing and briskly walk out) was frequented by cruisers as Hody’s Drive-In was just across Lakewood Blvd.
I loved both stores. I got to know Wenzel’s quite well in the 1970s as I gave them the idea to sell collectable records, which kept the store afloat into 2001 when they posted the sign, “Wenzel‘s has left the building.” Wenzel’s was where great surf instrumentals like “Pipeline” by the Chantays and “Boss” by the Rumblers were recorded and released on their Downey label. At one time, Barry White was a Wenzel’s talent scout.
Over the years, record shops have come and gone. Tape and Record Room, which was subject to a raid a few years ago was begun by Ray Goucher, whose idea was to rent records. Jeremiah McCain on the Shore als rented rock LPs in the 1970s, but Goucher’s idea was to rent 45s. He took on a young partner and sales guy, Mark Stuckey, who still sells records on the Orange County Record Show. At some point, new owners took over.
Of all these stores, only Bagatelle is definitely known to survive. It’s now on Atlantic just south of Third Street and is jam-packed with vinyl. One of the Bagatelle cards was from when owner Steve Mintz and his mother opened up on Fourth Street after arriving from Sacramento – that address is on the card. For a while, Wil-Mar on Atlantic, a few doors from Bagatelle sold sound tracks, but despite two editions of their card, folded for lack of business.