As the Christmas season rolls round once more, I am put in the mind of Peaches Records & Tapes. Peaches was a record store chain whose "gimmick" was their easy-to-assemble kits of LP storage boxes. These were of wood and made to mimick retro peach shipment boxes complete with vintage appearing art. (Brian Wilson & Van Dyke Parks had an excellent album Orange Crate Art inspired by the same conceit).
Peaches had only one location in the Columbia area, a large space on the College Street side of the old Sears complex on Harden Street. The store had the not entirely positive distinction of having turnstiles, bag checks, and other theft prevention measures that were quite unusual at the time, but once you got in, it was quite nice. Although they did have a tape section (that's where the whole And Tapes thing came in), their main focus was vinyl, and they had quite an interesting selection. Possibly it was due to their Columbia location being close to USC, or simply that they had more floor space than The Record Bar or School Kids, but there seemed to be a higher possibility of finding something really interesting there than at those other shops.
They also had a large collection of "cut-outs" (new, but discontinued records) through which I loved to browse when I had the time and money (money was definitely in shorter supply than time..). I remember in particular finding an album by the German group Trio which had the killer songs "Da Da Da (I Don't Love You, You Don't Love Me)" and "Boom Boom" which as far as I could tell was available nowhere else in Columbia other than the studios of WUSC.
I mentioned up front that the Christmas season made me think of Peaches. That is almost entirely due to the fact that they were the only store in town which stocked Christmas 45s in depth. Then as now, Christmas albums started popping up everywhere, record store or no as the days turned to fall (though I think they usually waited at least until Halloween was over in those bygone days...). Christmas 45s were a bit more rare however. Of course you could find this year's Christmas songs at The Record Bar, but classic Christmas singles hardly ever. Starting in the late 1970s on cassette, I had been building a Christmas song program, adding and rearranging things a little every year as I found more of the music I wanted. Today we would call it a "mix tape". Anyway, I remember finding a number of tracks in their Christmas single collection that were impossible for me to find otherwise. The Temptations "The Night Before Christmas" for one, Elton John's "Step Into Christmas" / "Ho Ho Ho" for another and Bruce Springsteen's "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" for a third.
As far as I can gather, Peaches made a very bad business decision in the 1980s: They believed that the CD format would not catch on. As it turned out, this was very much not the case, and by the time they saw the writing on the wall, it was too late to retool and the chain went bankrupt. (Of course, even chains that bet on the CD have been killed by downloads, so Peaches would probably be gone now in any event).
After the chain folded, their (almost completely glass-walled) store stood empty on Harden Street for years. It stayed intact for longer than you might expect, then windows started being broken, and the thing became an eyesore. Finally when the old Sears strip was revamped for at least the second time, they knocked down the whole Peaches building, and put up the current Office Depot structure. I guess they shook the tree.
Special bonus content!
Here's the final lineup for the Christmas Mix, which took about 20 years to finally source completely from CD:
UPDATE 11 October 2009: Changed closing date in post title from "1980s" to "1994" based on comments.