Daniel Clodfelter dreamt of starting a record store since he was a teenager, and as of September 2020, that dream is located at 5123 ½ York Boulevard. At Arroyo Records, music isn’t wired directly into its listeners’ ears but held, displayed, celebrated and shared.
In early 2020, with a six-month-old at home, Clodfelter said he left the health food store where he had long worked, having had some misgivings about how it was handling the pandemic. To keep afloat financially, Clodfelter said he began selling records from his own collection on Instagram, then sold a collection for a friend, building up a customer base along the way. An opportunity came along when his friend Lance, who owned four locations of Permanent Records, decided to condense it to just one. One of the locations he left became Arroyo Records.
“So he was shedding all his other locations and the timing lined up perfectly. I hit him up and I was in here two weeks later,” Clodfelter said. “It was kind of accidental the way it all just fell into place last year.”
Liam Palmer, who lives in Seattle, began buying records from Clodfelter’s Instagram page in May 2020 because of pandemic restrictions on in-person shopping. But even when those restrictions were lifted, he continued to buy from Clodfelter online: mostly 60s and 70s rock and funk, he said.
“He has as much of my money as a lot of my local places, that’s for sure,” Palmer said. “[And] the condition of the record [is] always exactly as he described it, which is important.”
Palmer said for him, vinyl is tied to physical memories: venturing as a kid from his small town in Oregon to dig through the bins at the Portland record stores, going to house parties in college where people played actual records.
“I do still stream most of the music I listen to,” Palmer said. “But part of me still really enjoys the experience of going into a place and talking to the clerk and listening to what they’re playing in the store.”
But even though Palmer has never been to Arroyo Records’ physical location, he said he feels loyalty to the store.
“I really appreciate, in Daniel’s case, the audacity of opening a new record store [during the pandemic],” Palmer said. “I was very, very touched and moved by that.”
For Clodfelter too, records bring back a slice of his teenage years. He said he remembers doing homework while listening to old funk records or Buffalo Springfield from his dad’s record player when he was 13 or 14. That was around the time he began collecting records, frequenting Dr. Strange and other record stores around Chino Hills, where he grew up. It is a passion that still hasn’t faded.
“It was like a weekend Exodus to the record store,” Clodfelter said. “[Going] back to the roots of that actual recording was always appealing to me, getting the original way that it was supposed to be consumed. And also just having stuff in physical format, and the art’s bigger and there’s just the history of a record passing through people’s hands.”
Bert Hoover, the store’s only employee, has worked at record stores throughout his adult life. He said vinyl draws him in for a similar reason.
“To me, the whole thing is making music less of a passive experience and more of an engaging experience,” Hoover said. “The artwork is larger, you can read through the liner notes while you listen to the record. You have to flip it, so you have to be paying attention.”
Both Hoover and Clodfelter play guitar and sing in their respective bands; Hoover’s is called Hooveriii (pronounced “Hoover Three”) while Clodfelter’s is the Shark Toys. They met at a DJ night at Permanent Records called Feed the Freaks, and in September 2021, while Hoover was looking for new work, he joined Clodfelter at Arroyo. Being part of the music scene in LA has been important, Clodfelter said, as a lot of his inventory is sourced from distributors and others he met in the community.
When digging through the hundreds of records in the bins, Hoover said he is often drawn to records with interesting artwork, or the staff picks at stores. For those who are unfamiliar with records, Hoover suggested just walking into the store.
“You can pretty much find everything and if you want to have that kind of experience with music, then yeah, give it a shot,” Hoover said. “You can find cheap records. You don’t have to drop like 30 bucks each time, you know. Bargain bins — that stuff’s always fun to surprise yourself with.”
Palmer too said for him music is full of surprise, especially as he grew more omnivorous in his music taste. He said he loves everything from funk and soul to a well-constructed pop song.
“Just being witness to a group of people making a thing together, it’s always been very moving for me,” Palmer said. “I love listening to the product of creative obsessive people trying to make art. I think that’s the experience of listening to music at home for me.”