Zia Records: a haven for collectors


All around Tucson you can find the phrase “buy, sell, trade” painted on the windows of stores that sell exercise equipment, clothes and media and electronics.

It would seem that Tucsonans love to keep up with the new by recycling the old, or replace the old for the older.

Zia Record Exchange is a multimedia store that specializes in new and used video games, movies, books, toys and most importantly, music.

“I think Tucson as a community embraces the older style, Tucson embraces nostalgia,” said Billy Englert, manager of the Zia Records location at 3655 N. Oracle Road.

The chain has a total of eight stores, with two in Nevada, four in Phoenix and two in Tucson.

Despite the digital boom caused by iTunes, Netflix and online retailer Amazon, the record store has continued to thrive in it’s offering of books, television, video games and most of all, music.

Englert believes that the store is able to adjust to the trends and still cater to an audience that is alive and well in the Tucson area.

“Zia’s good at adapting to the market, we’re good about reacting to what’s coming into the mainstream and finding our own niche in that,” he said.

When you walk into one of the stores, you’re greeted by the cashiers, the familiar smell of vinyl, CDs, manga and a strategically placed incense display.

All the products are either new or used, with the used items designated by a yellow sticker bearing the Zia logo and the item’s price tag.

Nothing is ever too strange to be accepted at the trade counter and employee Ian Hudick has seen his fair share of off-beat potential trade-ins.

“In our store we’ll pretty much look at anything,” he said. “We do get some odd things, from elephants to kissing wooden statues.”

Without the wacky or far-out inventory, things would become stale and not set the store apart from the crowd.

The uniting theme is diversity in all the products available.

“I think our hope is that (customers) will get lost. We are all about that experience,” Hudick said.

The music selection ranges from the usual pop, rock and hip-hop assortments one could expect from a good record store but will spread as far as tribal sounds, musak and warm bossa nova, like a GREAT record store.

Vinyl, CDs and cassettes are the music mediums available and are able to fill up a library that employee Jacob Bentkowski believes most people would want to proudly exhibit.

“Buying a physical copy, it shows you have a library, it shows you’re cultured,” Bentkowski said. “A lot of people are still into that and not up with using computers or downloading stuff.”

The movie and TV collections are just as vast. The new releases are pushed front and center and the hidden gems are sprinkled in a mix that includes Criterion Collection editions, box sets of current and canceled shows and just about any wrestling pay-per-view one could ask for.

Books, a more recent edition to the selection, are mostly a variety of biographies of musicians and filmmakers, as well as volumes of comics and special interest literature.

Even toys can be found in the store, and they are plentiful. From Star Wars toys to ReAction figures from iconic movies, themed Mr. Potato heads and gag gifts like switchblade combs, there is anything and everything for the kid in us all.

Englert believes that as people buy less of actual physical media, they tend to crave something else that will give them something to show off.

“People want to have a physical representation of something they love,” Englert said.

It would take hours for someone to search through every last piece of media a Zia location has to offer.

The stores are like a library and there is no reference sheet. There’s no description of what you’re looking at other than the artwork. The store is a place to go and get lost at, whether you’re looking for something or not. It’s a cornucopia of pop culture, new and old to digest.

“I think people come with something in mind. Our hope is that they will get lost because the whole point of having a record store is for that nostalgic feeling,” Hudick said.

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Zia Records employee Ricky Washuk puts away new and used vinyl records in shelves that arrived on Oct. 20, replacing the green crates where the used records were once stored. (Micheal Romero/Aztec Press)

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