By Lauren Wise
By Anthony Sandoval
By New Times Staff
By Chris Parker
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Lauren Wise
By Jason P. Woodbury
By Chase Kamp
While the Zias of the Valley offered the latest discs, Eastside carved a niche as being the place to go to pick up all manner of rare gems. And if Eastside didn't have a record, its clerks most certainly could order it.
And chances are good that the person placing the order was either Pawlicki or co-owner Steven Gastellum. Each brought his own area of expertise to the job. While Gastellum is what Wood calls a "walking encyclopedia of classical music, jazz, and funk," Pawlicki has been a diehard punk fan since his teens. A veteran of the early '80s punk scene and regular at shows at the Mad Gardens and Calderon Ballroom, he started haunting bygone local record stores at age 16. He was later hired by the late Brad Singer (founder of Zia Records) as a clerk at the chain's Tempe location, which is where he met Wood.
707 S. Forest Ave.
Tempe, AZ 85281
The two became friends, and Wood eventually asked Pawlicki to work at Eastside three months after it opened. Gastellum came along in 1991, and both have been there ever since.
"I wanted a work environment where you could drink beer on the job and wear your pajamas. Who gives a fuck, right?" Wood says. "Do what you want to do, not because you're in it for the dough, [but because] you're in it for the love of music, especially on the level that Michael and Steve have been. When you're selling a beloved art form, you should have a comfortable environment, and you should make it comfortable mostly for you because customers will come once they realize those niches of music were here."
At one point, he even made them co-owners.
"In my mind, they deserved it. I wanted them to be part-owners because they were worthy of it and were responsible for the store's success," he says. "My whole idea with opening Eastside was because I thought, 'Music's fun, and it should be fun for everybody all the time.'"
And what fun it was, whether it involved playing their favorite music or conversing with customers about musical minutiae. At any given moment, the patter inside Eastside could encompass anything from debates about CDs versus vinyl to which band, The Ramones or New York Dolls, launched punk.
Then there was the mischief. A group of former Eastside employees is somewhat legendary for pulling pranks, including reportedly having hundreds of gallons of ice cream delivered to the Tempe Zia location during a Vanilla Ice in-store in the early '90s.
"That prank has been built up a lot over the years," Pawlicki says. "I met Vanilla Ice later on, and he's a totally nice guy."
Such pranks helped the staff weather the dramatic changes that befell the record industry in the past decade.
Pawlicki says the owners fought to keep Eastside afloat for as long as they could after the music landscape began its irrevocable change with the arrival of MP3s and peer-to-peer services like Napster. Eastside even survived some scary financial crunches and a few near-closures over the past decade.
"Since 2000, when the music business kinda hit a pinnacle and went over a hump with all the downloading, it's been a rougher game, and we've had to do a lot of changes ever since," he says. "Closing became a constant discussion. We've come close a couple times, where for two or three weeks we didn't know if were going to stay open."
Pawlicki decided enough was enough. Wood says he was heartbroken when his partner (whom he calls "the heart and soul of Eastside") informed him he was moving to another city to open a record store.
"And it got to the point in Tempe . . . that, yeah, we could stay open, but we would have to sell a bunch of shit we don't like. None were willing to do it and I wasn't, either," Wood says. "At a certain point . . . It's kind of like putting Old Yeller down. I've gone through the anger and the upset and the sadness, but there's also a sense of relief for me that now it's gonna be over soon."
That doesn't mean that they're not gonna go out with a bang. In true Eastside style, it involves an obscure song.
"When this thing ends, 'Baby's on Fire' by Brian Eno will be played as the last song at Eastside, because it's the song that started the joint."
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