Rhino Records prepares Montclair store to open August 5 – Daily Bulletin

The final days of Rhino Records in Claremont were unruly, with old customers gathering inside to buy again. On the last day, June 26, a row of 100 people walked around the building to get in as temperatures were similarly close to 100.

Some were weekly customers before the pandemic, others haven’t seen in a decade, but felt the need to breathe the air and get a souvenir from a store that was a touchstone. Grandparents brought in their grandchildren, who were flipped through LPs by old bands and asked the eldest what album they got.

“There is something beyond trade,” Aaron Kenyon, who has been at Renault for 20 years, told me in a conversation last week. “Part of it was buying music and part of it was that place to go, that place where communication takes place.”

The new town hall will be located in neighboring Montclair, where Renault is moving after 48 years in Claremont. It’s two miles away, across the San Bernardino County Line, and is located in a mall at 5458 Moreno Street, two blocks east of Montclair Place Mall.

Opening: August 5, 11 am

Potential clients were looking through windows or knocking on the door after signs were raised at Rhino Records’ new location at 5458 Moreno St. in Montclair. However, the store will not open until August 5th. (Photo by David Allen, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

“We use the phrase ‘soft opening,'” owner Chuck O’Ken Jr. told me during my private visit to the new space on Thursday. “The grand opening will be September 16-18. But with social media, you can’t hide anything.”

As a longtime customer and client of Rhino Music, I can be proud for years to come that I was among the first people inside the new store. I even wore an old unicorn T-shirt for the occasion. Thank God no one put me at work to price anything.

The vibe of the highway suburb of Montclair is clearly very different from the local college town of Claremont, where Reno has occupied an old grocery store on a corner in the walkable downtown. Well and the staff understand. “Some people will hate it,” Oken admitted.

I would miss walking to the store, which was a half mile from my house, or showing up casually during my tours of the village.

But Rhino 2.0, as I think of its latest incarnation, doesn’t seem particularly strange to me.

Record store, bookstore, animation store, these are destination places for any interested segment of the population. If, like me, you’re the type to look for them, either around Southern California or while traveling, you’ve been to plenty of malls, industrial parks, and run-down neighborhoods.

Oken searched around Claremont and Pomona for a suitable location, but to no avail, even checking out the Montclair Place Mall before he was chased by the streaming music. However, the strip mall sold it.

The rent is 50% less than he paid in Claremont, and for the money it gets a third more space in a new building with fewer headaches. Oken hopes that without the pressure of renting from Tony Claremont, his shop can continue to operate indefinitely.

Kenyon put it this way: “It’s all about the survival of traditional stores.”

Aaron Kenyon checks out vintage LPs from a customer who bought it Thursday at the new Rhino Records location in Montclair. Note Prince and Sade’s covers in the piles. The old employee said the record store could be a place where “people turn you into something other than your life.” (Photo by David Allen, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

How does Rhino 2.0 look on the inside? Bright, clean and carpeted. It doesn’t have high ceilings and the lively feel of the old shop, but the modernity is attractive. And there’s more shelf space, maybe more of everything.

Once Rhino is fully stocked, Oken expects to have 30-40% more products on offer at Claremont. For audiophiles, who want releases beyond what you might find at Target, the wide selection is a plus.

However, customers practically cleaned up the Claremont store. This helped smooth out the movement, but left gaps in music breaks even for folk bands.

“If you look at Led Zeppelin, we have nothing. If you look at Pink Floyd, we have nothing,” Oken said. “We didn’t expect people to run out.”

About ten employees on my visit were busy setting up the store. The new electronic sales system would be more efficient but would mean entering every item from scratch.

The left half of the store is what Oken calls the digital side: DVDs, Blu-rays, and CDs. The right half is the analog side: LPs, books, turntables, and tapes.

Jeremy O’Ken, son of Chuck, was organizing the display area for the posters, the first of its kind in the store. (Before, they were mounted high on the walls, and clerks had to climb a ladder to fetch one.) Ed Montoya, a mainstay of former Reno video rental store Paradiso, was arranging DVDs.

Across the room, Kenyon was behind a counter checking stacks of vintage LPs, including “Purple Rain” Prince with the original poster label, from a customer’s purchases. Nathan Wilson had the store’s sound system up and running to amazing effect.

Touches by Nathan Wilson’s favorite LP in the jazz department Rhino Records. Longtime employee and audiophile love the expanded space in Montclair’s new store “because there’s more room for everything.” (Photo by David Allen, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

“I love it because there’s more room for everything,” Wilson, 55, said as Vangelis’ “Blade Runner” soundtrack seemed to envelop us.

At 6,700 square feet, there’s plenty of room, “we got here and freaked out,” admitted Wilson, the longest-serving employee in 33 years. “We have all that space and we need more products.”

This is why August 5th is a simple opening. The store wouldn’t be perfect. Not all stickers or other decorations will be in place.

But among the first items to be lifted was the fake rhino’s head, clamped as if it was being loaded by a large game hunter, that was a staple in the old shop. And a huge framed painting by David Bowie.

Oken told me via email on the last day of the store that he declined offers to sell the painting. This is as it should be. Some things, Kenyon said, are out of trade.

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