The Rhino Roams Once Again

A legacy maintained and reborn in the face of global crisis.


It was 18 months ago that I was sitting at the edge of my bed, hunched over my phone. I should have left 10 minutes ago as my closing shift at Rhino Records was hanging in the balance. The knots in my stomach grew tighter over the contemplation of calling out of work for the third day in a row. With confusion swallowing the community whole, my mind grew dizzy with trying to make the right decision. I loved this place. How could I let them down like this? “They’re going to fire me, I know it.”

No small business can sustain fluid production with being down an employee for even an afternoon, let alone three days. After stewing over the news of what was looking to be a potential global health crisis, I had made my decision. With the shop’s number ready to dial, and a desperately rehearsed speech of why I wasn’t coming in, I got a text message from my manager.

“We’re closing down the shop.”

After a much needed sigh of relief, my heart sank even deeper with a greater worry. What’s the future of Rhino Records going to be?

After finding their home in the Claremont Village 30 years ago, they would close their doors indefinitely. This news brought gasps amongst the music community at large, and left the hearts of their dedicated customers in a perpetual state of fracture.

Rhino is not only a place of refuge for the music lover; it’s a sanctuary for making memories.

Some of the most treasured moments with my family were spent under their roof. Stopping by for a shopping spree became a staple in our itinerary during my return home for the holidays. Funny enough, I felt I had become a regular while living out of state; a time of great uncertainty and painful longing to be united with friends and family.

At Rhino, I was home.

This was where I got my first record player. This is where I began my never ending journey of record collecting. After recovering from the wounds of heartbreak and loss, this is where I found myself.

I found my true self beneath their fluorescent lights.


Photo Credit: Aaron Story


Every nuance was always felt tenfold. The dust under your fingernails from digging through the bins, the smell of decades of foot traffic in the carpet, the buzz of the neon sign reading “Records” on the back wall and the sound of laughter mixed with conversations about all things music made every shopping experience a heartfelt endeavor.

It always felt like a holy place.

After moving back home and making an effort to stop by the shop at least once a week, I made friends with one of the longtime managers by the name of Anthony. While on a deep dive into the shop’s punk and metal selection, Anthony approached me. I figured he was just strolling by to say hello, but he began a conversation that changed my life forever.

Having been dealt one of the roughest hands anyone could never ask for, a beacon of hope broke through the fog. I was offered a job at Rhino Records.

“Yo, you working right now?”

I had just been laid off from a job that I despised a few weeks prior. I was at a loss as to where to go or what to do with myself. This was divine intervention.

While I broke down my availability, we shook hands and agreed to stay in touch for an interview. As we were about to part, a fellow customer came up to Anthony and asked if they had any releases for an obscure metal band; him being a hip hop head, he was perplexed by the request. Being a self proclaimed historian of all things punk rock and heavy metal, I knew exactly where to find the band in the shop’s inventory. Anthony and I shared a smile. I chuckled and said, “I guess I’ll start on Monday.”

I was in. It took a few weeks to finally get an interview with the owner but the job was mine.

I always looked up to the employees of any and every record store. From the long lost days of The Wherehouse and Tower Records to Amoeba Music and all the smaller shops across the nation. These people are sages of creativity and the delegates of musical expression.

I always wanted to be one of them.

Once I had my name tag on a lanyard around my neck and stood behind that register, one of the greatest working experiences of my life had begun.

I sold records to Keith Morris of Black Flag and Circle Jerks notoriety; one of my heroes. My mind was blown by a few celebrity sightings that I still can’t believe. I helped countless parents with their holiday shopping and had the privilege of assisting the next generation of music lovers in finding life changing music.

Most profoundly, I made dear friends.

The customers that I once shopped alongside with soon became kindred spirits. Standing behind the counter presented so many opportunities to share recommendations, reflect on each other’s opinions of the classics and chat about how our day was going.

As powerful as my interactions were with the customers, nothing compares to the undeniable joy I received from befriending the staff of Rhino.

The memories of our teamwork, our times together after work and our inside jokes will make me misty eyed forever. I love these people.


Photo Credit: Aaron Story


Near my three year anniversary of employment, people started to get sick.

The news became bombarded with reports of some new super virus. Having gone through many supposed “doomsday sickness” scenarios in the past only to have them burn out quickly, this new thing they were calling COVID-19 seemed likely to pass within a few weeks.

Once there had become an official death toll that wouldn’t stop growing, that’s when this seemed different. That’s when I started to get scared.

By the second week of March 2020, the health crisis had started to ravage the world like a forest fire. Every story on every news organization was reporting on how many people were getting sick and dying. It was only a matter of days before a monumental shift in our way of life would be put in motion.

Hospitals were being overrun. Massive graves were dug and filled. Campuses across the country, including ours, had made the decision to transition to online or cancel classes outright. Small businesses began to close or operate at a smaller capacity nationwide.
This was no joke.

I became very concerned for myself, my fellow staff and our beloved customers. Having no inclination at the time of what we were facing or how this sickness operates, being in any public space felt like russian roulette. Knowing that there were folks in our crew who had family with health issues, it felt dangerous and irresponsible to be working with the public at such a high volume.

This uncertainty left me with reluctance to return to work. I felt so bad. I loved this job. This store meant the world to me. It was honestly the best job I’ve ever had.

I couldn’t bring myself to walk through those doors. I was so scared.

After the holidays our work flow understandably tended to be a bit slower and with the shop being in shaky shape at the time many of our hours were cut. I was only scheduled to work three days during the week before everything shut down.

I just couldn’t do it.

I called out the first two days, hoping things would improve in some way. By the third day, after stewing in my room and wanting to vomit from the stress of everything going on, I got the text. “We’re closing down the shop.”

I immediately called Anthony and with very little to go on he broke it down real simple. “As of now we’re all fired. I don’t know when we’ll be back, or if we’ll be back. I’m sorry.”

I wasn’t alone in my fear. I wasn’t alone in wanting what was best for us all. It was still hard though.

The momentary sense of ease was quickly replaced with an emptiness I’ve never felt before. Where are we going to go? Where are our weekends to be spent now? We had nowhere to go and were unsure if we’d ever see each other again.

It was heartbreaking.

As the news in the world kept getting worse and the more recluse we were forced to live, I came to terms that their doors would probably never open again. Their sister store in Riverside called Mad Platter suffered such a fate and I felt it was only a matter of time before my home away from home became boarded up and abandoned. I drove by one afternoon last year, and the cobwebs and leaves that had collected at the front entrance left it looking like a haunted house.

The only glimmer of hope was that their online business was still thriving. They revamped their online store with much of their in store inventory and offered way more than they ever had before.

As the months passed Anthony reached out with the exciting news that he was back working in their warehouse managing their backstock. I could tell he was just so happy to be in the presence of all that physical media once again. Hearing that in his voice gave me hope. Of course I wanted my job back, but all I cared about was that their efforts to bring music to the people didn’t stop.

With the passing of a few more months, I read on the shop’s Instagram one of the most uplifting things I’ve read in the past two years. Rhino Records would open their doors once again.

I called Anthony right away. I had to get the scoop.

He mentioned they would be open for only five days a week for eight hours a day. Unfortunately they would be working with a smaller crew on account of the pandemic and my position was not needed for the time being, Which I was completely fine with.
Of course I’d love to have my job back, but just hearing this good news was such a glimmer of hope that maybe things were finally headed in the right direction.

I waited a month or so to return. This was at a time when businesses were unsure on how to reopen and operate with all the new rules and regulations in keeping the public safe. I wanted to wait for everyone to work the kinks out before I went anywhere.

One sunny afternoon this past February I made my return. I was anxious. I felt like I was about to walk back into my childhood home. I wasn’t sure if it would feel the same way.

Moments after walking through the doors, there was Anthony. Even with his mask on I could see that big smile of his. We went in for a hug; my first hug outside of family for over a year. It was a real moment. One I thought might never happen again.

Before getting too choked up, it was time to dig.


Photo Credit: Aaron Story


It felt so good to get that dust under my nails again, to smell that stained carpet that I used to vacuum every night and to find the records I planned to buy over a year ago to still be sitting where I had left them.

It was good to be home. I was so happy to see my friends and they were so happy to see me.

I needed that. I needed it just as much as they did.

Rhino Records is back and they’re here to stay.

My collection has once again started to get out of control, as I never walk out of there without buying something. I saved no money working there; but the friendships, the memories and the music are worth way more to me than any paycheck.

Music is my life and music is worth living for.

Thank you to my crew. I love you all.