Zia Records' newest store in west Phoenix opens this weekend | Phoenix New Times


Zia Records opens a new Phoenix store ripe with possibilities

The new storefront has an added 2,000 square feet of space for Zia's many offerings.
Zia employees gather at the new location near 35th Avenue and Bethany Home Road.
Zia employees gather at the new location near 35th Avenue and Bethany Home Road. Eric Clark
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Since 1980, Zia Records has been a vital component of Phoenix's vast and rich arts and cultural landscape. But even that longevity has meant moving around metro Phoenix quite a few times.

"I think it's been six [moves] from the very beginning," says Mary Papenhausen, the chain's market and public relations manager. That includes stints at 7th Avenue and Indian School Road and 19th Avenue and Indian School. (There are four other locations in the Valley, including Thunderbird and Tempe, plus one store in Tucson and two others in Las Vegas.)

And so, after 11 years, Zia is relocating from 19th Avenue and Camelback Road to 35th Avenue and Bethany Home Road. But just as with every other move in the chain's storied history, there's a very good reason.

"We're gaining 2,000 more square feet, which is really exciting," Papenhausen says, which makes this location Zia's biggest to date. "We at Zia Records, obviously, have always continued to grow."

Papenhausen says the store, which sits in the shopping center at 6135 N. 35th Ave., has been given a proper Zia-branded makeover in time for the move.

"It's fully updated, with new flooring and new signage," she says. "There's also a really cool mural in there by Tanner Christensen that is very Phoenix and very reflective of what we want do to support local community artists and really reflect where we are."

But where the cosmetics may be bright and new, Papenhausen says the store's amenities remain mostly the same, adding, "We're not reinventing the wheel. We're giving you sturdier tires."
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The exterior of the new Zia new location near 35th Avenue and Bethany Home Road.
Eric Clark
Still, the excitement likely comes as this new location represents a novel opportunity for the chain to not only further grow but to do so in a really interesting time for both the Valley and pop culture at large. First and foremost, that means expanding farther west in the Valley and trying to engage a new kind of consumer.

"It's great because we get a lot of people, especially on the west and north sides of Phoenix, that have always wanted locations," Papenhausen says. "And so we're kind of getting a little bit further west and a little bit further north so we can make even more people happy in Phoenix."

That distinct section of the west-adjacent Phoenix offers a lot of unique opportunities for Zia.

"That area is really growing, too," Papenhausen says. "With Grand Canyon University over there, it's a huge student population. The average age for what we've seen in that area is young ... it's like 25 to 35. So it's kind of surprising because that neighborhood is older."

A younger-leaning consumer base means that Zia can further build its massive vinyl market, which has expanded significantly in years thanks to a youth-led cultural resurgence.

"You know, in the last 15 years with Record Store Day, [vinyl] has boosted things immensely," Papenhausen says. "If you think about it, for a 20-year-old kid, Record Store Day started when they were 5."

That very dynamic is often reflected in the kinds of records that have sold at Zia and shops nationwide.

"You've got juggernauts like Taylor Swift that sell thousands of records and hold up indies in the last couple of years in a big way," Papenhausen says, adding that these records have "[translated] record stores to a national level."

But there's also no denying that vinyl remains an attraction for older music fans, and Zia is just as savvy to hone in on that unique population segment with this new location.

"It's a really interesting thing for those that are older ... they've been going to record stores their whole life," Papenhausen says. "Record stores are very much part of youth culture. But when you're a 43-year-old company, you have this balance of, 'I've known Zia all my life.' And, 'Oh, you guys are still around.' We get a lot of that from the folks that have been here forever."
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Zia employees plan out their move at the new location near 35th Avenue and Bethany Home Road.
Eric Clark
Young or old, Papenhausen says that all that added space "allows us to get more diversity and more variety in our collection." That also includes engaging consumers beyond their age, and trying to build a selection that caters to other groups with a deep interest in record collecting.

"And then you've got like a Latin market, you know, that needs developing," she says. "And so markets and areas like Vegas or Tucson, or even into Alhambra and Camelback, we get a lot of people asking to have Latin records. And when I say Latin, I just mean Latinx and Hispanic heritage and all the way to Bad Bunny. That's just a huge market."

Beyond that segment, Papenhausen says that the folks at Zia are interested to see how this new store will further develop its own "personality" in terms of the media preferences of the surrounding community.

"If you ask any vinylhead or any video game collector or movie person, they'll be like, 'Oh, I go to Tempe for this. I go to Thunderbird for this. I go to Tucson occasionally for this,'" she says. "Our trade business has always been really strong. So we have a slightly big trade counter [at the new location], too. And there's a different market to teach about buy-sell-trade. That's also an educational [component] that we work on."

To a noticeable extent, this move west isn't just about what kinds of things will be sold to what groups. It's also a larger continuation of Zia's place in the broader community of the Valley. The chain has always maintained a big interest in not only growing with the region, but in a way somehow leading the charge for economic development in various communities and neighborhoods.

"That's how we felt when we went to 19th Avenue and Camelback," Papenhausen says. "When we first went into that area, it was the same thing where people were like, 'Why are you going there?' It's the heart of Phoenix, and there's a huge population there. And it's the same thing with 35th Avenue and Bethany Home. We've watched each portion of metro Phoenix develop."

Papenhausen says that there are clear signs that the entire area is experiencing something of a return to its halcyon days of the pre-'90s.

"The Maryvale area has been around a long time, but it's that resurgence you're talking about," she says. "In that complex alone, every space is full now."
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A Zia employee hard at work at the new location near 35th Avenue and Bethany Home Road.
Eric Clark
As such, people in the surrounding area are especially excited when stores and other "attractions" move in.

"It's a big deal on that side as opposed to maybe a lot of other places in the Valley," Papenhausen says. "We have a cacophony of people saying, 'Please open a store over here.' We're getting closer."

Not only is this entire process good for one part of our fair city, but it only adds to the prestige of Phoenix as a whole. For Zia, they're the spear of a proper scene that rivals almost anywhere else in the U.S.

"I was just saying, pop culture-wise and record stores, Phoenix is amazing," she says. "Zia has been here a long time. Stinkweeds Records has been here a long time. It's a music town. The amount of venues we have ... our community is really connected. So as Phoenicians, I don't know sometimes if people realize how lucky we are. We're just integrated, in part, that for a lot of people, you go to the record store and then you go to the show."

And that idea of "ownership," as it were, extends even to the very idea of physical media. In an age where big-time studios like Disney and Warner Bros. routinely pull movies and shows from their streaming platforms with nary a whim, owning your DVDs and records is more essential now than ever before.

"When you come to Zia, you can find it and then it's yours," Papenhausen says. "It's not on loan or something you can just see sometimes. So I think that gives some power to people and their ownership of their collections."

Perhaps as a means of further reminding folks of the robust engagement that these stores regularly provide, the new Zia location is looking to book more events in the coming weeks and months.

"This one has a really good space for in-store events and things," Papenhausen says. "We're still trying to work on more. We've seen a resurgence lately [post-COVID] and are starting to book a lot more in-store signings and performances."
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Another Zia employee hard at work at the new location near 35th Avenue and Bethany Home Road.
Eric Clark
All of this isn't to say there weren't significant challenges in moving the already massive Camelback shop. (The location closed in full starting the afternoon on Aug. 21 for a three-day move, according to Papenhausen.) But the mere logistical nightmare aside, Papenhausen said one of the bigger challenges has been about keeping the community informed of what's actually happening with their storefronts.

"The biggest challenge is just having people follow us there," she says. "But we've done a really good job and our customer base is very much loyal and watching and listening to us. I'll say all of our social media is very organic."

She added, "The people that are looking to us are looking because they know us and we're their friend. And so they'll go with us where we go."

Because no matter where they move, and what happens with the city at large, Zia will always do what it does best — just more of it.

"It's the goal for us to be able to bring people what they want in the areas that they want us to be in," Papenhausen says. "If you had a vision of Zia in 1995 or 1983 or 2020, it's still got that essential Zia aspect to it of a record store. You can buy record players, but now you can also buy salt lamps and socks."

The new Zia is located at 6135 N. 35th Avenue. The grand opening is set for Saturday. For more info on that opening and the store in general, head to Zia's official website.
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