Hurricane Records is a well-known record store located along Historic Fourth Avenue in Tucson, Arizona. This shop is owned by Tucson local, Rich Hopkins and is recognized for its new and used vinyl records, CDs, turntables, speakers, compact amps, vintage receivers and more.
The birth of Hurricane Records can be linked back to a fifth grader’s Christmas present. When Hopkins was 11 years old, he woke up Christmas morning pleased to see that one of his gifts consisted of the Beach Boys record, Surfin’ Safari. As a young musician, this sparked his interest in the world of music and eventually led to the start of his own record collection.
Hopkins started his music career in the late 1980s. He worked to progress his music skills by focusing on singing, songwriting and playing the guitar. Eventually, he was able to start up his first band, The Sidewinders. This local rock band from Tucson, Arizona caught the attention of two major record labels, RCA Records and Polydor Records, and resulted in being signed. They released two major-label albums and scored two radio hits in the United States.
“We never made it big, big but we were on MTV and had a video and it was exciting. We were at the top of the hype here in Tucson,” Hopkins said.
In the late 1990s, Hopkins realized that he wanted to indulge more in his own personal music. Therefore, he started Rich Hopkins and the Luminarios where he would start touring more as an independent musician signed by smaller labels out of Germany.
While his band was touring through Texas, Hopkins had the opportunity to meet Lisa Hopkins, his now wife.
“Lisa was an acquaintance who came out to see the band and it was not until about 17 years ago when I toured through Texas that I got to know her by playing a few shows with her,” Rich Hopkins said.
Rich Hopkins and Lisa Hopkins were able to turn their relationship from friends to romance, and in doing so, they decided to settle down and live in Texas together.
Yet, while in Texas, Rich Hopkins found himself constantly traveling back and forth to Tucson. Tucson is where he had grown up and he noted it was always considered home for him.
Lisa Hopkins ended up retiring from her business in Houston and moving back to Tucson where she knew Rich Hopkins would be happiest. This opened the door for him to start his business.
“I’ve always been a record collector ever since I was a kid. It’s just kind of something I’ve always thought I might want to do and when the opportunity presented itself three to four years ago, I decided to not wait any longer and just go for it,” Rich Hopkins said.
In 2017, Rich Hopkins finalized his shop by gathering all of the necessary goods. He set records aside that he no longer loved anymore from his own collection to be sold. He also bought many records from Texas and Tucson and once he reached a collection of 3,000, he felt it was time to open Hurricane Records.
When walking along Fourth Avenue, it is nearly impossible to miss this quaint location. The building is coated in a cactus green and decorated with hand painted messages such as, “Tucson loves vinyl,” and “whole lotta love,” designed by Rich Hopkins' wife. With it’s unique presentation, Hurricane Records immediately catches passersby's attention.
Monique Vallery, the creative director and chief operating officer of the Fourth Avenue Merchants Association, shared that Hurricane Records holds great value to the avenue.
“I think it's a cool mix of opportunity for people to have a place to go locally to look through the collections and be able to pick up vinyls and I think the community really treasures that,'' Vallery said.
Vallery also described the experience of being inside this record store to be unique and nostalgic. Customers are reminded of records and vinyls that they used to listen to and younger individuals are given the chance to explore earlier musical designs.
Along with the intriguing atmosphere, the abstract name, Hurricane Records, also drew in customers.
“My wife grew up in Houston and experienced many different hurricanes in her life and I experienced a couple myself with her and it just seemed like a really great name for our store,” Rich Hopkins said.
The first three years of running his business were successful and Rich Hopkins felt fulfilled by his job. Many people from around the world traveled into his shop along with local record collectors and University of Arizona students.
Samara Walker, a speech language hearing science major at UA, currently lives in an apartment complex located alongside Fourth Avenue. She mentioned how Hurricane Records vibe adds to the overall intrigue of the Avenue.
“My roommates and I walk down Fourth Avenue to get outside and Hurricane Records is extremely cute and very vibrant and inviting,” Walker said.
As Walker is a music lover herself, she holds much appreciation for the local record store and all it has to offer.
Although, in March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic caused the shutdown of all businesses, and Rich Hopkins' business was not spared.
“We have struggled. This was our third year being open so I really had some high hopes. So when the pandemic came around, all of those expectations had been gashed,” Rich Hopkins said.
As of October this year, Rich Hopkins said his store had lost nearly 75% of business. With his major consumers consisting of tourists, the pandemic has made it rather difficult for his business to get back on track. So he’s decided to start selling records online.
While Hurricane Records’ doors have remained closed for the coronavirus lockdown, selling the expensive records is what kept the business alive and Rich Hopkins busy during this time. He’s been able to sell rare records such as Tom Petty Wildflowers for as much as $600. Although selling online came with many new benefits, Rich Hopkins shared that it also brought about many new difficulties.
“There are some really picky buyers out there so when you're selling a record you better be selling exactly what they want or they will want you to refund their money which takes time and can be a pain in the butt,” Rich Hopkins said.
Lacking the face-to-face interaction with customers has also been a major challenge for Rich Hopkins. As his record store is a well known local business along Historic Fourth Avenue, it holds much recognition by the Tucson community and other dedicated collectors.
Rich Hopkins shared that throughout his three years of being open, he has met many genuine people from all walks of life passing through as tourists.
Once an older couple was looking to sell their record collection to the shop. They invited Rich Hopkins back to their home and gave him food as they shared their old record collection with him.
“It makes the job worthwhile when you meet great people. It’s not just about making money because making money is surely wanted but at the same time, it is difficult making money in this business. You have to look at the silver lining, which is people,” Rich Hopkins said.
With the lingering hardships of the pandemic, Rich Hopkins will continue to sell products online along with keeping his store open to walk-in customers four times a week. While his business may not be as booming as usual, he is motivated by the many great people that enter his doors to stay open.
“If we don't support locally owned businesses, they are going to go away and we don't want to lose what makes Tucson unique. Hurricane Records is one of those businesses and I hope that people will go in and support them,” Vallery said.
Every morning, four times a week, Rich Hopkins will continue to place a record on the turntable and leave open his doors to all who are willing to enjoy the unifying power of music.
Follow Abbie Kosoc on Twitter