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.
Deb introduced me to Alayna Alderman, business partner and Vice President of The Record Archive. She was the driving force for creating The Backroom Lounge.
“I told Rich I wanted the place to be an extension of what we’ve been – a touchstone for the community,” she told me. “This is not a club. We’re a record store that sells beer and wine, not a bar that sells music. You can come, have a slice of pizza and a drink, enjoy live music and be home by 9. The music will always be our business. This is the next layer.”
Obtaining a liquor license was not a decision that they took lightly, she told me. It was a lengthy process, and required lots of forethought (not to mention the amount of paperwork!). In the end, they decided to license the entire space, including the retail area, so that people can enjoy refreshments while they browse through the store.
The guest list was a who’s who of friends and supporters of The Record Archive over the years. Frank DeBlase, writer/photographer and front man for The Busted Valentines, described the scene as “a new living room that comes furnished with guests.” Among them was Andy Babiuk, a founding member of The Chesterfield Kings and owner of Andy Babiuk’s Fab Gear music shop. Greg DeLuca from the local visitor’s bureau was also there. Members of the local press in the crowd included Emmy-award-winning journalist Seth Vorhees from Spectrum News, Susan Rogers, Executive VP of WXXI, and Mark Shuttleworth from Legends 102.7.
True to their commitment to support other local businesses, the Grand Opening event included sweets from Savoia’s bakery and was catered by Tasteful Connections. The spread was divine. My favorite of the offerings was a Bacon Rind Shrimp Shooter – a Bloody Mary with shrimp and celery, served in a bacon-rimmed shot glass.
Alayna took the podium and thanked everyone for their support in this endeavor. And a round of speeches ensued. Ted Potrikus, president and CEO of the Retail Council of New York, talked about working at The Record Archive in 1984, and about all the effort that went into making this venue possible.
“It’s the coolest place in Rochester,” he concluded, “I’m thrilled to be here.”
City Councilman Adam McFadden presented The Record Archive with a certificate from Mayor Warren. He also shared fond memories of times spent at the Record Archive, including the joy of meeting the members of Stetsasonic after seeing them perform in the store back in their heyday.
Baye Muhammad, Commissioner of Neighborhood and Business Development, presented a plaque from the City of Rochester and thanked the owners of Record Archive for being committed to staying within the city limits when they relocated to this space nine years ago.
After the speeches, shiny blue ribbon embossed with the City of Rochester logo was stretched across the stage. Members of The Record Archive family and key supporters made cuts, marking the official opening of The Backroom Lounge.
The Backroom Lounge is open to the public during normal business hours, with the exception of when it is reserved for private events. The bar stops serving an hour before closing.
The room is available for special occasions such as weddings and birthdays. Furniture can be rearranged to meet the needs of events (for example, theater seating or banquet-style table arrangements). Talk to Events Coordinator Deb Jones for more information about reservations.
The space naturally lends itself to musical performances. Happy Hours are held every Wednesday. Themed nights for metal and blues occur monthly. In-store performances are plentiful. They have a full bill for Record Store Day on April 22, including The Fox Sisters, Teagan & The Tweeds, Teressa Wilcox and more. There are performances by Staly on April 28 and Zara Larson on April 29 in collaboration with local radio station KISS FM. This is also becoming a popular venue for release parties, the next one with Junkyard Fieldtrip on the evening of April 29. For a full event listing, check The Record Archive’s webpage or Facebook.
33 1/3 Rockwood St.
Rochester, NY 14610
PHONE: (585) 244-1210
HOURS: Mon-Sat 10a-9p / Sun 11a-6p