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This past weekend Pilsen welcomed its third record store in a year: Shady Rest Vintage & Vinyl, at 1659 S. Throop. Owners Nuntida Sirisombatwattana and Peter Kepha, a longtime couple, officially opened the shop Saturday. They're also longtime vinyl collectors, and knew the ins and outs of crate digging before they met. Prior to finding a permanent storefront, they'd sell their wares at record fairs—which increasingly exhausted them. "I would pretty much carry the entire store with us," Kepha says.
That back-breaking labor is part of what inspired the pair to look into a retail space. "The store is something that Peter and I both had in our brains for a couple of years," Sirisombatwattana says. "It's a way for people to come to us instead of having us lug crates around every other weekend."
The couple had their eyes on Pilsen, in part because of Kepha's history with the neighborhood: he founded Pilsen nonprofit Chicago Urban Arts Society six years ago with his sister Lauren Pacheco. Two years back, Kepha and Sirisombatwattana started sizing up the storefront they wound up occupying—even while the building was still under construction. According to Sirisombatwattana, they signed a letter of intent with the landlord way back then but didn't complete the final rounds of paperwork till recently. "It was the second week of April when we signed the lease," she says.
Shady Rest sits on the corner of Throop and 18th Street, putting it about halfway between the neighborhood's other recently opened record stores. Pinwheel Records, which opened last July at 1722 W. 18th St., is a short walk west; 606 Records opened in October at 1808 S. Allport, just east of Shady Rest. Kepha and Sirisombatwattana see themselves as part of an unofficial cooperative of neighborhood record shops, not as just another competitor. "It makes [Pilsen] a good destination, to have all these record stores in close proximity," Sirisombatwattana says.
As Kepha points out, each shop has its own personality, and Shady Rest specializes in what he calls "a way of living." In addition to selling records, the store also offers audio equipment; when I stopped by Sunday, I saw a lovingly presented array of speakers, turntables, and cassette decks—there was even a portable eight-track player. Shady Rest also stocks some furniture, books, and knickknacks. "This place looks like our house," Kepha says. "[Only] a little cleaner."
Sirisombatwattana and Kepha are still getting settled into the shop. There are still plenty of LPs to price, more shelves to set up, and a mess of seven-inches and CDs that haven't hit the floor yet. But if you're looking for an original copy of the Replacements' Let It Be, you should get to Shady Rest sooner rather than later. The store is open Wednesday to Saturday from noon to 8 PM and Sunday from noon to 5 PM.