Like with any industry, record stores tend to come and go. Beloved vinyl emporiums may close, but over time, new shops will open up where entrepreneurial record collectors see a need while older chains expand as they refine their successful habits.
Selling records in the age of digital streaming, when even the practice of buying entire albums digitally has decreased, is not as easy of a job as it used to be. The chain music stores of the past are long gone and CD sales continue to decrease annually, yet the demand for vinyl records continues to increase each year. Thankfully, here in the Valley, there are plenty of independent record shops where record collectors can shop for new and used records as well as record equipment.
Of course, every record shop is different and has its own particular audience in mind. Some shops specialize in high-quality, audiophile releases in particular genres, whereas other shops tend to focus on stocking newer and current releases. Figuring out which record shop carry the records you like can be a time-consuming task, so we’ve put together a list of 12 of the best record shops across metro Phoenix.
Asylum Records2990 North Alma School Road, #5, Chandler
For all things heavy metal and rock and roll, Asylum Records is one of the best shops of its kind in the east Valley. The shop has survived multiple moves over the years; it started out in Tempe, moved to downtown Mesa, and finally landed in its new space in Chandler. While the walls of the shop lined with stacks of Funko Pop dolls might be a turn-off, collectors will be reassured by the great selection of used vinyl records, CDs, and cassettes.
While known for its selection of metal and rock records, Asylum Records also stocks some pop, hip-hop, comedy, and country records. It also has perhaps the best-stocked cassette display for rock and metal artists.
The Ghost of Eastside Records45 West Southern Avenue, Tempe
Having survived multiple moves, closures, and rebirths in over three decades of service to the Valley, Ghost of Eastside Records is a no-fluff record shop that sells music in all genres and formats, but specializes in vinyl. Located in the Danelle Plaza on the southwest corner of Southern and Mill avenues and across the street from Zia Records’ Tempe location, Ghost of Eastside is certainly a go-to shop for rare and hard-to-find records.
Owner Michael Pawlicki has been selling records in the Valley for over three decades. His knowledge of the music history of Tempe and Phoenix, and of music in general, is expansive. If you ever have a question about the history of the music scene in metro Phoenix, Pawlicki either has the answer or can point you in the right direction.
While the shop excels in its collection of used punk records, its jazz, country, reggae, and rock selection is equally varied and ripe for spending hours of digging. There’s always some interesting tunes playing in the background to get you ready for browsing.
Ghost of Eastside also features displays from Stinkweeds, King of the Monster Records, Ash Avenue Comics, and many other shops. If you’re looking for affordable, used music equipment, Pawlicki works with local electricians and tinkerers to fix and sell used turntables, cassette decks, receivers, and speakers.
Grace Records2200 East Williams Field Road, #112, Gilbert
The east Valley has few options when it comes to independent record stores. Zia Records has locations in Tempe, Mesa, and Chandler, but independent record shops rarely are seen in the area. Not anymore.
Located at the SanTan Village shopping center in Gilbert, Grace Records is an oasis in the record store desert. It opened in December 2017 with a focus on making collecting records affordable. The shop displays thousands of cheap used albums, with entire sections in multiple genres marked at $3 per record, making it easy for anyone to start building a collection. Grace also stocks new releases and reissues in vinyl, as well as a few used CDs. The shop sells record equipment, including speakers and turntables in a range of quality levels and price points.
Listening stations are set up around the store, so you can check the audio quality of any record before you buy it. It’s perhaps not the best store for those looking for a large selection of new music, but Grace is definitely a great place to spend time digging through oldies.
Uncle Aldo's Attic6016 East McKellips Road, Mesa
Uncle Aldo’s Attic isn’t purely a record store, as it also offers an array of secondhand treasures and collectibles ranging from 8-bit Nintendo games to comic books and copies of '80s kids magazine Dynamite. That said, most of the floor space at this quirky east Mesa shop is taken up by bin after blessed bin of records. Like any good vinyl emporium worth its weight in 45 RPM adapters, a majority of the records are arranged in alphabetical order by artist. (The also have sections for specific genres and “hard-to-find” titles.) Uncle Aldo’s also stocks both CDs and cassettes, just in case you prefer to listen to your music in tape or disc format.
Grand Avenue Records1504 Northwest Grand Avenue
Nestled between Bikini Lounge and Trans Am Cafe, right next to the former home of The Trunk Space, Grand Avenue Records is the go-to shop near the downtown Phoenix area now that Revolver Records is gone. Opened in 2016 by DJ and producer Konstadinos “Cocoe” Tsimahidis, it’s a shop for casual record collectors and DJs alike.
Grand Avenue Records primarily carries vinyl records with a great selection of hip-hop, jazz, electronic, soul, indie rock, and international releases. Of course, a record shop run by a DJ wouldn’t be complete if it didn’t have a great selection of singles, and the shop’s stock of 12” singles and 45s of hip-hop and electronic releases is always freshly rotated. They also carry an assortment of goods and merchandise such as record-cleaning products and recycled tote bags.
The 'In' Groove3420 East Thomas Road
This east Phoenix record shop is a massive shrine to vinyl records which sells just about everything you need to fully enjoy the record listening experience. While not specializing in any one particular area, The ‘In’ Groove is one of the best all-around record shops, with a great selection of new and used vinyl as well as CDs and cassettes.
Each display of new and used vinyl is meticulously organized with genres clearly labeled and dividers in place to help quickly browse for popular artists. Dollar bins of used vinyl are found throughout the store for those who wish to do more digging. While shopping for used vinyl in the dollar bin can be a gamble in terms of quality, The ‘In’ Groove cleans and, when necessary, flattens all of the other used records before they’re placed out on the floor.
The record shop stocks both new and used record equipment for both those who are looking to put together a beginner system and those looking for audiophile receivers and turntables. Cleaning supplies and record storage products are available such as protective inner and outer sleeves. The ‘In’ Groove also buys records for anyone looking to part with their collection.
The Record Room2601 West Dunlap Avenue
The shop owned by longtime Valley resident, former punk, and record collector John Rose has been around since 2012. The Record Room spent a spell at its original location in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale before moving to its current home in north Phoenix in 2016 due to skyrocketing rent. Not much has changed with the place (other than its address), as Rose stocks a curated selection of new and used vinyl from a wide variety of genres, ranging from rock and punk to jazz, funk, and soul. There are tons of rarities, gems, and obscura to be found in The Record Room's wealth of bins, all of it in very-good-to-near-mint condition.
Mojave Coffee and Records4747 East Thomas Road, Suite A
When Revolver Records closed its doors after more than a decade on East Roosevelt Street in the heart of the downtown Phoenix arts scene, the community suffered a heavy loss. Though Revolver can’t be replaced, former owner TJ Jordan is still in the record-selling business with this record and coffee shop in east Phoenix.
Mojave Coffee and Records stocks a small selection of vinyl, CDs, and record-listening equipment. While it doesn’t have the largest selection for browsing, the shop offers record collectors the chance to relax and talk music. The shop hosts a weekly Classic Album Listening Hour, when music fans can talk about a specific record over a cup of joe.
Record High in Phoenix4242 East University Drive
Located in the middle of an industrial area on University Drive, west of State Route 143, Record High lives on its reputation of carrying high-quality vinyl for audiophiles who demand the best sound. While the shop carries many different genres of music, it’s the selection of jazz and blues records that sets it apart from any other record shop in town. If you’re looking for a crisp, 180-gram pressing of a rare blues album, it’s where you visit. If there’s a particular record you’re looking for, the staff can find it and order it for you.
In keeping with the respect for cleanliness and maintaining the clarity of sound of the records it sells, all of Record High’s albums are sold in protective inner sleeves, not the cheap paper ones from the factory that can leave paper contaminants in the groove. Record High will also clean any of your records for a small fee, and also offers a vinyl-flattening service for those warped records that are causing tracking problems for your turntable.
Of course, high-fidelity records deserve audiophile-level equipment to be spun on. High-end refurbished turntables, receivers, and amps are usually in stock, and any of the friendly employees can guide you through the process of putting together a great system.
Stinkweeds12 West Camelback Road
For more than 30 years, Stinkweeds has served the Valley’s music needs as a record shop. Located on the southwest corner of Central Avenue and Camelback Road, it’s where you can go to find the latest music.
Stocked with hundreds of new CDs, vinyl, and cassettes, Stinkweeds always has the latest releases from record labels large and small. It’s also one of the few shops to have sections in its vinyl, CD, and cassette stock specifically dedicated to musicians and bands from Arizona. When it comes to figuring out what new music to buy, Stinkweeds rotates its multiple listening stations with fresh releases.
The shop can often feel cramped thanks to a narrow aisle that may have you getting shoulder-to-shoulder with other music collectors. Additionally, certain genres aren’t as well-stocked. Still, used vinyl is always in great condition, and the shop also carries a decent selection of periodicals and music-related books. It’s one of the few places in the Valley where you can find the 33 1/3 Series, in which each issue focuses on a single album.
Tracks in Wax4741 North Central Avenue
Sandwiched between a couple of stores on a nondescript strip mall on Central Avenue just south of Camelback Road, this iconic record store is one of the premier places in metro Phoenix to shop for used vinyl. Nearly every inch of wall space in this iconic record store is covered in used vinyl ranging price and quality.
Tracks in Wax has been in operation since 1982 and has long been one of the best shops for buying and selling used vinyl in the Valley. The shop stocks a large collection of used vinyl in various genres including hard-to-find comedy, soundtrack and international records. Rare vinyl is always in constant supply, and simply walking through the store and admiring the singles and EPs push-pinned to the walls is a joy in itself.
A large and often unnoticed piece of their stock is the vast collection of used 45s and singles. While Tracks in Wax’s stock in used vinyl is vast, quality can often be an issue, so make sure you give the record a spin on the listening station before making a purchase.
Zia Records Tempe3201 South Mill Avenue, Tempe
The independent music store chain has six locations throughout Arizona, with five of them here in the Valley and one in Tucson. But while Zia’s Tempe store on Mill Avenue isn’t its largest outpost, its location in a part of Tempe rich with musical history makes it somewhat of an unofficial headquarters.
Zia Record Exchange is now in its 40th year and undoubtedly has the largest selection of new and used vinyl anywhere in the Valley. The ease in browsing through the rows of neatly organized and legibly labeled vinyl makes Zia one of the most buyer-friendly record shops in the state. Plus, their sell and trade program makes updating your record collection a breeze. Along with vinyl, Zia also stocks a large selection of CDs, though the cassette tape selection is still slim. If you’re into comics, movies, video games, or collectibles, a large chunk of floor space is dedicated to nonmusic items.
Zia’s Tempe location, along with Ghost of Eastside Records on the opposite corner, makes the intersection of Southern and Mill avenues a one-stop shop for all your record-collecting needs.
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on May 15, 2019, and has been updated. Benjamin Leatherman contributed to this article.