The erroneous report last week of the demise of Pepperland Music, a combination record store and music shop that’s been in Orange County 35 years, was, as most erroneous reports tend to be, erroroneously reported.
Unlike what the sloppy writing in an OC Weekly obituary (written by someone whose last name in Spanish is cerveza) of longtime OC open mic host, musician and all-around great guy John Carrillo suggested, Pepperland is alive and well at its location in Orange. The 3,800-square-foot store still has hundreds of used and new records and CDs, some 150 guitars and ukuleles lining its walls, memorabilia and music books, and is doing a good business offering music lessons and serving as a collective gathering place for people who love music.
Mike Lefebvre, who originally opened Pepperland in the 1980s in Anaheim mainly as a way to sell his extensive vinyl collection, has weathered the demise of vinyl in the 1990s, and the rise of things such as YouTube (where many people now get free music lessons) and Ebay, which has cut into his merchandise and novelty business. He credits the rare existence of a brick-and-mortar record store in 2017 America to both his clientele of avid vinylphiles as well as his decision in the early 2000s to augment the music with instrument sales and repair and music lessons.
"It really is a combination of both,” said Lefebvre, who has been in his present location in 1996. “We had all these posters on the wall but one day I was thinking that since we had about 500 guitars in the shop, why not use the (wall) space for merchandise. So we added a wall, and put up a stage and started offering music lessons and we’ve had a lot of fun since.”
Over the years, Pepperland, whose name is an homage to the Beatles, has hosted a number of local bands as well as artists associated with bands as varied as the Moody Blues and Slayer to Lisa Loeb and .38 Special. It’s also frequented by such local names as Mike Ness, Exene Cervenka and Dexter Holland.
But, while Rusty Anderson, a guitarist for Paul McCartney, has performed on its stage, so far no member of the Fab Four has visited. But they almost got the drummer.
“We almost had Ringo but he didn’t’ make it," Lefebvre said. "He was signing this series of figurines and we’d talked to the company putting them out if we could have him sign here. But apparently, he’d signed so many the day before that his hand got tired and he didn’t want to do any more signings.”
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While Pepperland has benefited from the resurgence of interest in vinyl (along with its 20 bins of used records it also three bins of re-released and re-mastered classic rock albums as well as newer fare), many of its customers have been coming there for decades.
One is Michael Austin, an avid collector who dropped in the spot Thursday morning. Though Austin owns well over 4,000 pieces of vinyl the Yorba Linda resident says, “I can always find something interesting here. Mike’s a great businessman and great collector of music. Finding any record store in Orange County is so difficult, and to have such a super store like this, which also offers guitars, and instruments and music books, is just a great opportunity. You just can’t find these places anymore.”
So, to repeat: PEPPERLAND IS ALIVE AND DOING QUITE WELL, THANK YOU VERY MUCH!
850 N. Tustin Ave., Orange, (714) 639-0909. Open Mon-Sat., 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m.-6 p.m. www.pepperlandmusic.com.