In the summer of 1979, my mother, who lived out of state, came to visit my father and me. At some point she noticed my stereo and collection of records. She was planning to visit Lennox Mall during her stay and said, “I should take you to the place where I bought my records when I was your age.”
It was exciting to think that my mother knew a hidden source for hunting records, and that such a place would still be around after the close to thirty years since she had been buying her 45’s. I figured this place must have an incredible inventory of records.
We made the journey down to Buckhead, not too far from Lennox Mall. At that time, customers could park on Peachtree Street right in front of the store, providing that they had bought along enough coinage to feed the parking meters. Once inside, my mother discreetly let me know that the man behind the counter was Mr. Salle, the same gentleman who had sold her the hit records that she had listened to as a swinging teen.
Salle’s Record shop was founded on Peachtree Street in the Buckhead area, in 1946. Up until then, Mr. Salle had served as a state trooper in Joliet Illinois. He decided to relocate his family to Atlanta and try his hand at operating an appliance and record store.
At that time, appliance stores were the main retailers that most shoppers purchased their music from, which made since as they were the places where people purchased their hi-fi’s and televisions. When first opened, Mr. Salle’s shop was located directly across the street from its future location where my mother and I would shop. The opening of his store pre-dated the introduction of the LP and 45 by a couple of years. The record world of 1946 spun at 78 RPM.
Salle’s store did not have a modern atmosphere. If anything, thing it felt like a time capsule. The only natural light came from the front windows which faced the street. Old store displays were scattered about and there was a vintage coke machine near the back.
Upon entering shoppers would find themselves among the racks of the LP’s, and along the left wall, shelves of 45’s. Just beyond those was the sales counter, and behind that counter, was a big wall of 45’s. To me, this was like the Library of Congress version of a 45 inventory. They were all filed sideways like books, by record label and then their catalog number, which was carefully written in pen, either vertically or horizontally on the top corner of the sleeves by Mr. Salle.
I didn’t hear music playing there very often but instead the sound of television shows from the TV set that Mr. Salle liked to keep on. It’s not surprising though since Salle’s store had been an official RCA TV dealership during its history.
My main mission when going to Jim Salle’s was to track down the elusive 45’s that were on my wish list. Thousands of old singles were still in print, and they were all cataloged in a gigantic retail dealer book called the Phonolog.
I would go over to Mr. Salle and tell him the name of the record I was looking for (usually something I had not been able to find at other outlets). He would then put down his cigarette and saunter over to the Phonolog, flip it open and run his index finger down the columns of listings. Once he found the catalog number, he would go over to the wall of 45’s and thumb through the corners of the sleeves looking at his hand-written catalog numbers. This part always gave me butterflies of anticipation. Then, like a magician pulling a rabbit from his hat, Mr. Salle would pull the record from the shelf, and present it to me. The first one he ever pulled for me was Capitol 1829 “Another Day” by Paul McCartney.
The other section of 45’s which were laid out in rows on shelves near the front left-hand side of the store were all discontinued singles (sometimes referred to by dealers as “dead stock”). I enjoyed flipping through that section and finding rarities that had missed the top-40 (and some that did chart briefly). Many of these had picture sleeves.
A few years later after I had begun to drive, I discovered that that there was actually a parking area behind the building and that you could access Salle’s Record Shop through a back door and a corridor that led into the rear of the store where it looked like appliances had once been staged.
In 1985, the tract of buildings which housed Salle’s shop and several other tenants was sold to a developer with plans of mixed-use redevelopment. In October of that same year, Jim Salle announced the closing of his store. Salle told the Atlanta Constitution, “I hate to close because there are only a few stores left like mine, but after 40 years, I think it’s time.” In 1985 the music industry was beginning its transition from vinyl to compact disc.
I’m still often reminded of Jim Salle and my shopping adventures in his store whenever I pull a 45 from my record library and see his catalog number written by him on the corner of the sleeve.
One thought on “Jim Salle’s Record Shop”
My mother shopped here also. I remember being really bored as a little kid, not into records yet, while mother shopped for country music.