In a time when locally owned stores are struggling to stay afloat, The Record Archive in Rochester is finding new ways to thrive. On Friday, April 8, they unveiled their latest endeavor, The Backroom Lounge, with an official Grand Opening Party. A venue like no other, this all-ages community space is annexed to the region’s largest record store. It’s a place to kick back, enjoy live music and have a drink – The Record Archive has the distinction of being the first and only record store in New York with a license to serve alcohol. NYS Music was invited to be part of this prestigious event.
Pulling up to the building at 33 1/3 Rookwood Street in Rochester, there’s an immediate sense that this is not your run of the mill music store. From the sunshine yellow exterior to the enormous record framing the front door, everything about The Record Archive feels extraordinary.
The interior opens up to a 10,000 square foot retail space, chock full of music, stereo equipment, gifts and memorabilia. For music lovers, it is the equivalent of being a kid in a candy shop. It is a veritable feast for the eyes and ears. It’s hard to imagine that the entire operation began in 1975 with a crate of records on the floor of a flea market stand.
The entrance to the lounge is beyond the extensive collection of CDs, through tall arched doorways framed in black curtains. For the Grand Opening event, guests were greeted with glasses of blue champagne. We also had the choice of a wide variety of drinks. The shelves held regional wines, craft beers, music-themed beverages and some new discoveries. Beer was available on tap. The cooler is stocked with non-alcoholic beverages, including the local brand FIZ Pop.
Near the entrance of the lounge, Record Archive founder Richard Storm greeted guests. I asked him what he thought about all of this, and he said, “I never in my wildest dreams imagined I’d have a venue with a bar.”
The space is furnished eclectically – a mishmash of eras and styles, like remnants of random time travel. Jukeboxes are scattered around the room. Lava lamps bubble up on a far table near bookshelves overflowing with biographies of musicians. One wall is lined with boxes containing a myriad of 45’s spanning decades and genres. Seating options included a diner booth, a cozy couch, pub tables or a 1960’s ball loveseat. The room is lit by the warm glow of chandeliers in varying styles. The look of the space was put together by Reo Alderman. His design aesthetic brings the seemingly disparate pieces together in an artful showcase. And speaking of showcases, many of the pieces in the lounge are available to purchase.
At the antique piano near the bar sat a musician who could have also been plucked out of a bygone era. Honky Tonk Henry was playing jaunty old-timey tunes. These are the songs I used to listen to with my grandparents back in the day. It was comforting to know that someone is keeping the music tradition alive.
In the corner, under the watchful gaze of a full-sized T-Rex skeleton, is a stage large enough for bands to perform comfortably. I sought out the Record Archive’s Events Coordinator Deb Jones to get the scoop on the sound system.
“We’re very proud to have Fulcrom Acoustic speakers,” Deb said, “It’s a locally-based company. They’re world class speakers -they’re being installed in Madison Square Garden. We’re the only place in Rochester to have them. And the amps are Ashly Audio.” Ashly Audio is also a local company, which produces state-of-the-art sound equipment.