The Highland Park neighborhood, north of downtown, has turned into a little vinyl district over the last two years. On Euclid Avenue, all within walking distance of each other, are Red Rooster Records, Wayback Records and the most recent addition, The Underground Rock Shop, which opened last spring.
Steve “Ratt” Radcliff, 47, first opened The Underground Rock Shop in Newton three years ago, but relocated to Des Moines where there’s a larger market of music fans and record collectors.
“In Newton I would sell maybe $100 worth of CDs and records a month,” Radcliff said. “People would come in to buy clothes and hippie necklaces. Here I sell a lot more records.”
And that was always Radcliff’s goal. Since he was a teenager he’s wanted to own a record store. He currently has more than 15,000 records in stock, along with 5,000 CDs. The store also features clothing, signed merchandise, custom-made ashtrays and coasters, and scented candles made by Radcliff and his family.
“It’s like when he was a kid, but his room has gotten really big,” said Pat Gearhart, a lifelong friend who helps out at the store.
Radcliff built the Des Moines store’s collection by purchasing the stock of two closing record stores in Cedar Rapids. He also seeded the store with 1,000 records from his personal collection so there would be some real gems when The Underground Rock Shop opened. Radcliff’s tastes run more toward punk and metal, along with an appreciation for classic rock and blues.
He said his collector side can sometimes come in conflict with his business sense.
“When some really great punk stuff comes in it’s hard to put them out for sale,” Radcliff said.
The walls of The Underground Rock Shop are covered with fliers from past shows at Des Moines’ Hairy Mary’s, Vaudeville Mews, the House of Bricks, People’s, Wooly’s and other venues. Radcliff’s hope is that people perusing his store might catch a glimpse of some show they remember while flipping through old records, CDs and even eight tracks.
When you look at the store’s bathroom door, it’s tagged by dozens of local and touring bands.
The shop regularly hosts small hardcore, punk, metal and more straight forward rock shows in its back room. Since it opened more than 170 bands have performed. Radcliff has plans to expand the size of his concert offerings soon, but said it’s too soon to say how exactly.
In addition to expanding his current location, Radcliff hopes to have a second Underground Rock Shop up and running at a to-be-determined location by the summer.
“I don’t settle,” Radcliff said.
The Underground Rock Shop
Where: 617 Euclid Ave.
Hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Saturday