■ By Rusty Strait / Senior Reporter
When Rick Hawley opened his first Hungry Heart Records in March 1988, next door to the Historic Hemet Theater located on Florida Avenue, he had no idea how long (if at all) that his business would exist.
“We occupied a little hole in the wall. After sixteen months in that location we felt business was doing well enough to expand to a larger site. We spent 16 months in our cubby-hole before moving east on Florida Avenue, next door to Tay’s Restaurant. Anyone younger than 20 will know it as Ory’s today,” he explains.
In 1986, Hawley found a better location at the southeast corner of Florida Avenue and Harvard Street. “We occupied those premises for 20 years. Finally, we felt it was time to move on because sales of CDs and DVDs were slowing down.” Music fans were downloading songs onto their computers and phones, selecting individual tunes rather than albums.
“My wife and I decided to take the show on the road, you might say. Although we continued to do business on eBay, my wife and I began to sell records at record shows and big do’s, like the Beatle festivals in New York and the Elvis fests in Memphis. We went to the fans and were very successful and we continue to sell at record shows throughout Southern California.”
Meanwhile, Hawley continued to amass a large storage space filled with thousands of predominantly LPs. “I never stopped collecting. So, based on eBay sales declining and our old location becoming available again, everything came together and here we are.”
As we spoke a customer came up to the counter. Her bill was almost $180. Hawley says he cannot resist hounding yard and garage sales, rifling through boxes of records, some of which have been hidden away so long in dark places that he has to wipe away the cobwebs in order to seek out the treasure troves he desires. It is like mining gold. You don’t hit dirt every time, Hawley said, “…every so often you will find something that makes it all worthwhile.”
Teenagers and collectors continue to be his main source of business.
“I’ll tell you how it happens sometimes. For 35 years I have been searching for a Mamas and Papas album with a toilet on the cover. There have been a number of reprints but the toilet has been left off. They are not originals. I came upon this gem and was as excited as a kid on Christmas morning. Not only does it excite me but imagine how much it is going to thrill a fan of the group? That also excites me.”
Hawley sees the changes in habits and tastes since he first arrived in the valley 54 years ago.
However, folks lust for music not only their own but also that of their parents (which is usually the music they are listening to throughout their childhood).
So, if you have a hankering for some song by some artist who has passed on, is no longer recording or is back at his or her game again, you won’t have to go to the big city to find it. If the Hungry Heart doesn’t have it or can’t find it, it probably doesn’t exist. Hungry Heart Records is awesome. I’ve been there myself and it is the most exciting vinyl store in Riverside County.
You’re probably thinking, “Is that all there is?”
I’m glad you asked; the answer is not quite. Here’s how the store came to have the name “Hungry Heart.” Rick’s son Richard, a fanatical Bruce Springsteen fan, named the place Hungry Heart to honor The Boss from his original piece of music, “Hungry Heart.” But there is more to the saga. Joey Ramone asked Bruce to write the song for him but, once completed, Springsteen liked it so much he kept the song for himself. His original recording was done on June 23, 1979 at The Power Station Studio in New York City but wasn’t released until October 21, 1980 as a single on the Columbia label.
You just never know where a business name may emanate. With that being, don’t ever tell anyone that I didn’t give you the whole story. Incidentally, Richard was very involved nationally with the Springsteen fan system.
Rusty Strait is a senior reporter with the Valley Chronicle and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.