Cultural managements

Another cultural blow: Rhino will close its doors

by Mick Rhodes | [email protected]

Claremont continues to shed its cultural touchstones at an alarming rate with the announcement today that Rhino Records, a much-loved mainstay in the village since 1974, is closing its doors and moving.

Rising rents in the village are the reason for the town’s loss of the prestigious independent record store. His beloved video rental store, Video Paradiso, is also moving. The two will be in one the Montclair site will likely be named by July 1, according to Rhino product manager Aaron Kenyon.

The new Rhino Records store will be on Moreno Ave., east of Montclair Place Mall. Rhino will announce the address closer to the closing day of the Claremont store.

On the heels of the final Candlelight Pavilion performance on March 20 after 37 years in Claremont, and just before the impending closure of the Laemmle 5 cinema, Rhino’s move is particularly heartbreaking.

Rhino, of course, has always been more than a record store; it is a place where music lovers can meet, discuss, rejoice and commune. It has also hosted hundreds of national and local musical and spoken word performances on its small in-store stage, although these cherished concerts have been suspended since the outbreak of COVID in March 2020.

Perhaps more importantly, for 48 years, it’s also been a place to explore and cement one’s identity, musical and otherwise.

“There was always this thing for me about Rhino, where there was something that transcended commerce,” Kenyon said. “It’s about having a central place where people can meet, talk and share the same experience. Social media and all that will never replace that thing.

The writing was on the wall months ago for Rhino’s departure from Claremont. The landlord let Rhino management know that he would raise the rent by double digits over what he had paid, an increase that would put it on par with current commercial rents per square foot in the village. The proposed increase was simply too large for the company to absorb and remain profitable.

“Of course, when we knew this thing was going to go down, we tried our best to stay in this town,” Kenyon said. “We love this city. This is where the business grew and where we found love in the community. We hear so many people say, “Oh yeah, I bought something there when I was young, it changed my life.”

Much like Candlelight, Rhino’s business model isn’t the issue. It’s going well, Kenyon said, in a very competitive market.

Gentrification is the word on everyone’s lips in town these days. Depending on your perspective, it either saves or destroys Old Town Pasadena and Third Street Santa Monica. Ventura’s Old Town Main Street neighborhood is in the midst of its own dance with gentrification, with mixed results so far.

Claremont, it seems, is heading in a similar direction.

No one can argue with the nice sales tax cushion that gentrification can bring to the city. Homeowners benefit from an increase in property values ​​as towns move from scenic to destination. And of course, business is business, and commercial property owners have every right to seek rental parity with comparable spaces in the area.

But there is a price to pay.

“Artists and freaks can kind of be there as long as rents are low,” Kenyon said. “But as soon as artists and freaks make the place popular, or gain notoriety, then suddenly the rents go up where those people need to go. And nobody really found a balance in that where you could say, ‘Well, can we make bread here but can we really still make room for artists? ?’ »

The candlelight pavilion has disappeared. Soon we will say goodbye to the Laemmle. After the Hip Kitty closed in 2015, The Press was the only live music venue or late-night bar in town. With butcher paper on its windows for more than two years now, it’s unclear if The Press will ever reopen. And now Rhino is upping the stakes. And these are just the musical and theatrical victims of the Village’s new commercial exclusivity.

“We will really miss it thing“, said Kenyon. “I myself probably feel the same way as you do in all these places – from [Bamboo Tea House] to Barbara Cheatley, and even places I’ve always associated with old school Claremont, [with] Candlelight Pavilion obviously included – that was it thing which I think gave Claremont so much of its charm, or so much of its core, or so many things that was that artistic quality of the city.

Taylor Kingsbury is one of Rhino’s store managers. He too is a 20-year-old employee.

“I will always love this town because I have so many memories there, but for people new to Claremont, I don’t know what reason there is to really come when all there is to do is eat. at the restaurant,” he said. . “If all the interesting places and landmarks are gone… you can only eat at so many places. I think you lose a lot when you lose the artistic side of things, having musicians playing in the park and on the streets and things like that, which we’ve always had here and you really don’t see much more.

Rhino’s original location in 1974 was at 271 W. Second St. (now the home of the Jasmine Gift Shop). He moved to 225 N. Yale Ave. (now Viva Madrid) a few years later, then in 1991, at his current home at 235 N. Yale.

Kenyon, 51, has worked at Rhino for 20 years. He started as a fan; scratch that: a super-fan. Since the age of 12, he had been there several times a week scouring the used bins upstairs from the store’s old location. He was so obsessed that he was the very first customer at the then new store when it opened in 1991.

Former longtime Rhino manager Dennis Callaci opened the door for him that day.

“I just walked in and I’m like, ‘First customer in!’ I was like, what’s the first thing Rhino Records should buy from the new location?” Kenion said. “I just looked over the top thinking, ‘Oh, Mötorhead sticker!’ So I went and grabbed [it], put it on the counter and asked Dennis to call me. I was like, ‘First time buying the new Rhino!’ »

Kingsbury, 43, also started out as a Rhino follower. He’s been shopping there for 30 years now, the last 20 with an employee discount. He received his master’s degree from Claremont Graduate University. He has a show on KSPC. He’s Claremont through and through, though he doesn’t live in town.

“With the absence of Laemmle here, the absence of La Presse here, I don’t know what it’s going to be like for me, as someone who’s been around her all my life, to walk down the rue du Village and to see nothing of the landmarks that have always brought me here,” he said. “The city is definitely losing some of its very special character. And I think that’s a very sad thing.

Rhino Records is still around. We have about three months to soak up its unique vibe, buy some music or a cool gift, and chat with one of its longtime employees. These folks – many of whom have spent decades with the store – are yet another incalculable loss; the value of the musical knowledge they each carry in their internal databases is impossible to quantify.

Wondering about an obscure blues record? An avant-classical piece by the Kronos Quartet? Oh, and who made that song in the early 80s about the belly of the whale? (answer: burning sensations). Asking another music maniac (in person!) at Rhino and then searching for your particular jam in a store filled with thousands of records from every genre is an increasingly rare experience.

We’ve been fortunate to have Rhino Records in our town for almost half a century. The company has withstood recession, wars, disco, punk rock, another recession or two, 9/11 and even Napster. But he couldn’t resist a gentrified Claremont Village.

As I wrote last week on the occasion of the closing of the Candlelight Pavilion, what’s next, Claremont?