Listening back

For our first installment of Audiophile, we reached out to Shady Rest Vintage & Vinyl in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago after a blissfully perfect customer experience: girl walks into intimidating vintage hi-fi music store, knows nothing, and feels insecure. Girl walks out feeling informed, without condescension, and with the best anniversary present ever in tow.

Shady Rest Vintage & Vinyl specializes in buying and reselling used vinyl records and cassettes; vintage hi-fi audio components and equipment; cameras and camera accessories; art, culture, and design books; original artwork; and vintage posters.

The store’s entire inventory is procured individually, with care. Stock is not ordered from a wholesale distributor, but instead hand-selected by store owners Peter Kepha and Nuntida Sirisombatwattana. Shady Rest was born out of their shared love of collecting.

Nuntida started saving up for her first dj turntable setup at 16, two Vestax PDX-2000 turntables and a Pioneer DJM-600 mixer, pieces that are still hooked up in her living room to this day. Peter’s dive into hi-fi was a conscious decision. He collected records since he was a teen and wanted to hear them on a better system. Second hand equipment was more affordable and accessible than modern gear, since new market price points can be quite high in the audiophile world.

As a new, minority and women-owned business, we don’t exactly fit the traditional mold of the wider hi-fi community, which can be intimidating. For this reason, we aim to introduce unfamiliar demographics to the analog world, making it approachable, accessible, and fun!

Nuntida Sirisombatwattana, Shady Rest co-owner

Most people walk into Shady Rest not really knowing what they want, or where to start. A good place to begin is with important things of note like what your budget is, if aesthetics matter, and how you plan to use your system. A vintage setup is meant to be lived with, displayed, like a piece of art or furniture. It’s not meant to blend in and disappear into the background like a soundbar or bluetooth speaker. It should show off your personality, what qualities you hold dear, and your musical taste.

We relish in spreading our enthusiasm, and are happy to explain the basics, answer questions, and give demos of the different stereo components we have in the store. Our greatest joy is cultivating return customers, folks who purchased their first system from us and come back to upgrade because they’re now excited and appreciative of vintage audio gear.

We are firm believers that if you invest heavily into your music collection, whether that's spending $30 or $500 on a record, what’s the point of playing it on a cheapie turntable? You won’t be able to experience the full range and layers of what analog sound has to offer. Vintage components are so great because they are affordable, and come from a time when companies built products to last, which could be repaired or customized. Vastly different from our modern throwaway culture, where products are replaced with each new model.