COZY VINYL HAVEN / WOODEN TOOTH RECORDS
Cozy vinyl haven and record label Wooden Tooth Records has quickly become an essential part Tucson’s music community.
Tucked away in a converted row house on a quiet side street off of Tucson’s bustling Fourth Avenue, Wooden Tooth is an inviting destination for music lovers. Worn wooden floors, crimson walls lined with music posters and records, vintage furnishings, and, of course, endless jams create a homey and relaxed atmosphere.
When I popped in on a windy weekday afternoon as a monsoon was building, co-owner Jake Sullivan welcomed me from behind the counter as he played an early Rolling Stones record and affably chatted about The Band with a regular customer.
Leafing through the well-organized bins, you’re sure to quickly find a gem. Much of the used vinyl comes from acquisitions of impressive personal collections and includes first-presses and rare imports of collectible classic rock. Covetable new releases are covered, too, with everything from Kendrick Lamar to your favorite Tucson band. Sullivan said, “Since we are restricted by the small size, we carefully curate what goes on the shelves and the amount of junk is minimal.”
What sets Wooden Tooth apart is owners Jake Sullivan and Kellen Fortier’s devotion to the Tucson music community. Two years ago, at their original location within Café Passe, they frequently hosted local acts and record release parties in the courtyard. Although the new location does not facilitate this, they are still promoting local music through their label of the same name with the help of their friend Mark Addington, who, according to Sullivan, “has been involved since day one, with everything from painting to accounting.”
They have already released 27 cassettes and several records showcasing Tucson’s best musicians, beginning with last year’s Katterwaul 7-inch “Follow You Home,” and most recently a 7-inch split with Free Machines and Whispering Wires.
Collaboration between Fortier, Sullivan, and their friends has been key from the start. The charming records sign over the door was hand-painted by Sullivan’s partner Lauren Russell. Sullivan mentioned that a few tourists have asked to buy it. They now have four part-time employees, including the well-know local musician Karima Walker, who picks up shifts between tours. “Running this place doesn’t feel like work, and we don’t have to act like bosses,” Sullivan said. “We’ve been able to hire friends who do a great job because they want the store to succeed as much as we do.”
With Wooden Tooth Records, owners Sullivan and Fortier filled a conspicuous void of record stores in the greater downtown Tucson area. “We love records and thought we’d give our dream job a go for a year and see if it works.” Two years in, things seem to be working out pretty well. “Day be day, we’re just taking it as we go, and are happy to be able to pay rent every month,” Sullivan said, modestly. We’re happy Wooden Tooth continues to make rent, too.