West Side Record Shop Part Of San Antonio's New Cultural Heritage District
Updated 3:25 p.m.
A family that runs a West Side record shop on Old Highway 90 is celebrating the recent decision by the city to declare the neighborhood a Cultural Heritage District.
Stepping into Del Bravo Record Shop is like stepping into a musical time machine. The store has been a home for the West Side's favorite music recordings since the 1960s.
Javier Gutierrez said it is literally a mom and pop shop.
“My father and mother — Salome and Diamantina Gutierrez — opened the business in 1966,” he said. “They came here from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico — my dad a songwriter in 1950, you know, looking for a better life.”
Gutierrez said before the record shop, his dad was ran a garage recording studio on the West Side.
“He started recording with my godfather Jose Morante,” he said. “They had a little recording studio on 24th Street and Rivas — Norteno Record Label (and) Sombrero Record Label. So my dad was the producer (and) the engineer who would record these groups in (a) garage.”
Among them were artists who would make it big.
“So he was recording Flaco Jimenez (and Lydia) Mendoza — groups like that back in the day,” Gutierrez said. “And then in the late 60s, my dad opened his own record label — DLB Records — and opened the store in '66, so they opened this little store on Old Highway 90.”
And while Salome Gutierrez died more than a year ago, a sign inside Del Bravo Record Shop honors his memory.
But, Gutierrez said, his family’s story is not unique — there are many families like his in the neighborhood. He said it’s the people that helped create the unique, cultural vibe of the neighborhood, and they are glad the city is recognizing it with an official designation.
“The culture that we have here in the Old Highway 90 corridor is what makes it special,” he said. “A lot of these businesses here in this corridor — it’s about six miles on Highway 90 — it’s all family owned businesses. We all keep in touch with each other. We don’t have any big box stores here.”
He said Old Highway 90 received its name after the new Highway 90 was paved closer to Lackland Air Force Base in the 1960s.
“It used to be the main drag coming in from Del Rio, Eagle Pass, from the west going into San Antonio,” he said. “It used to cross through downtown San Antonio and out to Houston.”
Del Bravo Record Shop survived the loss of passing traffic by the shop after the highway moved, but his dad decided to downsize from three locations in the 1980s as there was a shift from vinyl to compact discs. Meanwhile, Old Highway 90 endures.
The shop sells some CDs, and vinyl is making a comeback.
“About a year ago, I had two kids — about 14 years old — walk into my store. They were on skateboards, (a) girl and boy,” he said. “They walk in, and I’m like, 'They must be lost. They’re looking for directions or something.' They walk in and go straight to my vinyl rack. They start flipping through vinyl. At that point, we’re going to be OK. There are still people looking for vinyl. We are still in business.”
Gutierrez said music just sounds better on vinyl.
“Listen to a jukebox — CD jukebox — (and) compare it to a 45 record jukebox and there’s a difference (in) the sound,” he said. “There’s something about the crackling on the record.”
Brian Kirkpatrick can be reached at email@example.com
CORRECTION: The name of the store was incorrect. It is the Del Bravo Record Shop.