While technology steadily marches on, the analog trappings of yesteryear still prove a draw for a very dedicated type of music lover. Nice Guy Eddie’s in Bellflower is one of the few record stores still servicing Downey area record hounds with funky good vibes and stacks of wax. Despite a pandemic and a commercial corridor lacking in potential vitality, the shop survives and offers what online retailers cannot: an experience, man.
The titular nice guy, Eddie Aguirre, opened his doors in November 2020 after its former occupant, Avalon Jewelers, shuttered their business of over 70 years.
Despite some cosmetic tweaks, the shop’s interior still speaks to the days of old with wood paneling on the wall and a floor freshly bereft of carpeting.
Customers are greeted by the standard bins of records, flanked by shelves of memorabilia and other media, such as a myriad of VHS tapes, a velvet portrait of Elvis, and Motorhead’s 2000 release “We Are Motorhead.” Past the register lies unorganized stacks of inventory.
Hailing from the world of record shows and swap meets, Aguirre has been immersed in the grind of collectible media since 2003. He says a storefront offered an opportunity to allow for a more cultivated selection and long term sales strategy.
“In the morning, there’s always a sweep by other vendors,” Aguirre says about the pop-up model. “At the end of the afternoon, there’s another sweep, and you hope in between that you can profit the most. Right?”
“Here [at the shop] it’s different,” he said. “I don’t have to set up and break down.”
Like any in-person retailer, Aguirre watched as online shops altered his physical storefront. But, unlike many in a similar position, the nice guy ultimately has little concern for his online competition. Confident in the experience his store offers, he is sure that the collectors he caters to will consistently choose a friendly face—and one who is amenable to some good faith haggling—over an anonymous eBay or Discogs seller.
“[With] eBay, you have to trust somebody’s grading,” Aguirre said. “You know, let’s say you get five or six records off the wall. Now we start talking bullshit for a few minutes, that sticker price isn’t going to be [the price you pay].”
His continued push of this human angle prompted the advent of what could very well become the business’s staple. Conjured by his buyer-informed business acumen and a few cannabis cigarettes, Aguirre hosts a monthly auction of some of his more notable stock.
While initially met with some indifference from customers—the inaugural auction of a Rolling Stones 60s mono box set barely drew 10 attendees—more recent offerings have drawn bigger crowds. First pressings of a Metallica trilogy auctioned on departed bassist Cliff Burton’s birthday saw crowds doubled.
The nice guy upped the incentives for his most recent offering. Enlisting nearby Fantasy Cakes for catering and a performance by local group The Don Brown Quartet, Aguirre auctioned off three sets of jazz classics on March 24. Aguirre says the event drew a crowd that roughly matched the previous Metallica auction.
“I want to… promote local music. And the young man who’s playing is musically educated [and] knows his shit,” Aguirre said about Brown, the quartet’s frontman. “He knows scales and compositions up and down. I mean, I’ve seen him play the drums. I’ve seen him play the bass. I’ve seen him play guitar. The dude’s a musician. And he’s from Bellflower.”
Despite the myriad of businesses that populate the strip, it is painfully clear to passersby and merchants like Aguirre that Bellflower Boulevard is still coming up short in its ambitions of becoming a nightlife hub. Aguirre feels that the presence of seemingly abandoned storefronts can curb the otherwise positive influence of anchor food spots like Steelcraft and nighttime venues like The Stand Up Comedy Club.
“There’s two pawn shops that are never opened on a Friday night and Saturday night,” Aguirre said. “Come down here and do a follow-up on a Friday or Saturday and check out the crowd that’s out in front of our store.”
But neighboring stores need not be the nail in Nice Guy Eddie’s coffin. Aguirre’s industry know-how coupled with the customer experience of in-person record buying seem to bode well for Bellflower’s record emporium still having many years ahead of it.
Should you wish to pick up a Dylan-esque pop bubblegum favorite, or a limited release early West Coast hip-hop pressing, Nice Guy Eddie’s is located at 16540 Bellflower Boulevard in Bellflower.