Mallory McClaire and Chantala Kommanivanh work as an arts administrator and as a professional artist and educator, respectively—but the couple also run Web-based record shop Beverly Phono Mart. In August they plan to open a brick-and-mortar retail location at 1808 W. 103rd in Beverly. This interview was conducted July 26.
As told to Leor Galil
Chantala I’m the youngest of four brothers—my brothers were into hip-hop, and into music a lot, so having music in the house was an everyday thing. My older brother Sid dabbled in DJing. As a young kid, I was really mesmerized by the records—taking them out of the jackets, putting them on the record player, and rubbing them back and forth was intriguing. So for me, dabbling in DJing and also collecting records since I was maybe 12 or 13 gave me the knowledge. Owning a record shop in my late 30s is sort of the icing on the cake.
Mallory I grew up with a lot of music in the home. My parents, they took us to all the big city festivals growing up; I grew up on Jazz Fest and Blues Fest, and it’s just always been around. My dad in particular—he’s from Harlem—listens to a lot of soul, a lot of jazz, a lot of Afro-Latin jazz, and thankfully was really mindful to expose me and my sisters to that. I’ve always been going to live shows and exploring music my whole life. Like Chantala, it just feels like the shop is a pretty natural course.
Chantala I grew up in the northwest side, in Albany Park, and I lived there from 1983 till last year.
Mallory I grew up in Beverly. We moved down here in fall 2019—we knew when we were buying a house we’d either end up close to Chantala’s family or close to mine. We ended up down here, right around the corner from my childhood home and a block away from where I went to elementary school.
We met on Tinder. I maintain that we probably crossed paths and didn’t know it—we would go to the same shows and hang out in the same places.
Chantala I have an art studio on the south side, and I’m from the north side, so if I didn’t swipe when I was in my studio, we wouldn’t have matched.
Mallory It was a very long, long first date, and the second half of it was probably all just talking about what we listen to and what we like to do. We also like to travel and started doing that pretty early on; when we travel, we eat and we buy records.
We’d always had an interest in building a business of our own centered around community and our own personal interest in some way, and I think it took us a while to figure out what that angle was. Part of it was also just looking at what we wanted in our own community. Coming down to Beverly—when you’re a kid growing up here . . . I can’t speak for everyone, but for me it was like, you feel like it’s so far from all the action, and it’s so quiet. You get older and you want different things. I never imagined that I would actually be back here.
Now that we are here, it’s like, “Well, why do we have to go to the north side to have a really cool record shop?” There is a neighborhood shop, Beverly Records, they’ve been here for a long time. Beyond their presence here, you’d have to hit Hyde Park Records and then Pilsen. We felt like there was space for a store that could bring in elements of art and food and things that we love, and also just be a place for people with similar interests to gather.
Chantala Getting a loan, that’s the hard part. Putting our personal collection in the shop is a great help, and also a great start, and having e-commerce prior to the shop opening—it’s also helpful to get a jump start into the business.
Mallory It’s really scrappy. I think our first start was getting our LLC and our tax ID in February. We would do one little thing a week until we hit the point where we were like, “Well, all there is left to do now is find the spot, to sign the lease.” I’ve done work in operations before, so that part felt familiar to me, except for the fact that I was now doing it for myself.
Chantala We found a location on 1808 W. 103rd Street, and we got keys last week. We are in the midst of building out the shelves and the bins, and a little painting and things like that. We should be open come mid- to late August.
I always tell my students—there’s 24 hours in a day. You just have to prioritize how much of those hours you want to use on your own interests.
Mallory Yeah, work after work—and weekends. I think we’ll eventually find ways to balance that, cause we’ll also be the presence in the shop too. It’s great to have examples of people who have done it in our lives, and just see that it’s doable.
Chantala Miyagi Records has been a huge catapult for us, helping us get our recognition out there—they’ve always reached out, invited us to collaborate with them in these pop-ups that they’ve been doing.
Mallory The Beverly Area Arts Alliance, they’re really good supporters of all types of creatives in the neighborhood—they’re all folks who actually run the Arts Alliance outside their own full-time jobs. We’re doing a pop-up with the Beverly Area Arts Alliance this upcoming weekend. And then there are folks like Shady Rest Vintage & Vinyl.
Chantala Who also have full-time jobs.
Mallory We talk a lot about that community element; we want the shop to be approachable. We’re hoping to have performances and DJ sets and things like that in the space too, so just other elements of culture. We’ll have art up as well; we’re hoping to open with a group art show in the space. We hope that it’s like a starting point for people to explore all types of cultural interests, but with music as an anchor.
Chantala And also explore the south side, the far south side. The south side has been going up north for so long. Maybe it’s time for the north to come down.