If the businesses off the historic Retro Row in Long Beach were a family, Third Eye Records would be the cool, beloved uncle with a sharp ear for music.
Thanks to owner Gary Farley, the store boasts of a collection that music lovers of all levels will appreciate, aficionados included. That’s because the record store is meant to be a welcoming environment for all, according to Farley.
Third Eye Records skips on the pretension and instead focuses on what music can do, which is in the business’s slogan “opening minds.”
The name of the shop is meant to recognize that not only one, music can be a source of inspiration or comfort, but also two, music stimulates senses beyond hearing, according to Farley.
“We receive music not just through our ears but through our senses,” Farley said. “Spiritually, when you close your eyes, your actual ocular eyes, you can receive sound waves and frequencies through other means.”
Farley said he was drawn to records for their tangibility and vintage form. Over the years, Farley said his connection to records has only gotten stronger.
And in those years, Farley has built a community around Third Eye Records.
Paul Gonzalez is a musician who met Farley when his band played at Third Eye Records, a store he had not heard of until their performance.
Since then, Gonzalez has been going to the store as a customer and would step in during his breaks when he worked at the nearby bar 4th Street Vine, impressed by Farley’s fair prices and practices.
“There’s record stores that they sit on records and Gary, he wants to turn them out,” Gonzalez said. “He gives back to people because records are like the gift that keeps on giving. I believe Third Eye Records is a gift that keeps on giving.”
In December 2019, Gonzalez had finished a shift at 4th Street Vine to find his car stolen along with his turntables and his sizable collection of records that had been in the car from an earlier gig.
His car was later found totaled, but with Gonzalez’s equipment still undiscovered, his invaluable records seemed unrecoverable.
Yet exactly one year later, Gonzalez received a call from Farley, who was being sold a collection of records recovered from a property that held squatters. With Farley’s help, Gonzalez was able to get his collection back.
While Farley has grown Third Eye Records to what it is today, it isn’t a one man show.
Alan Connor is a Long Beach musician who started working for the store in 2017.
Connor is a drummer for a band called Drugs and creates solo music. He said his time working at Third Eye Records and with Farley has left an impression on his work.
“You can imagine working at a record store would be pretty insane if you also make music, because then you’re like, ‘Well, what do I even make right now?’” Connor said. “You’re just constantly listening to stuff.”
Connor said that Third Eye Records “caters to the weird,” a reference to Farley’s ability to find unique and rare records.
For the customers that are ready to embrace the weirdness, or already have, the store is a place for community and thoughtful conversations about music, according to Connor. He said that he’s not only learned from customers, but from Farley as well for introducing him to new music.
“This place just houses those sorts of conversations where people can learn from each other’s differences and make positive, emotional, spiritual gains or personal growth,” Connor said.
Third Eye Records’ following has continued even through the coronavirus pandemic, a time that has been burdensome for many small business owners.
“I can’t even put into words sometimes how blown away I am by the support we’ve gotten from customers, through fellow businesses,” Farley said. “Everyone’s pulled together and really made things a lot easier than they otherwise could have been.”
During this time, Farley said that Third Eye Records has built up a virtual presence, offering online orders and staying engaged with its followers on social media. According to Connor, the store, which practices social distancing and limits customer capacity, has been busier than expected.
As Third Eye Records approaches 10 years being part of the Retro Row community, a “dream come true” for Farley, he said he hopes he will always continue learning about the music scene.
“This was what I was meant to do,” Farley said.