Jarrod and Claire of Nashville, Tenn., perform at Gré Records and Coffee. Kelly Segré

The Coachella Valley is rich with music—but poor when it comes to the number of record stores.

After Record Alley ended its four-decade run in 2021, the Coachella Valley was left with just a handful of places to get vinyl, including Finders Keepers in La Quinta, and Dale’s Records in Palm Desert—and now, Gré Records and Coffee is upping its vinyl game.

Located in downtown Palm Springs, Gré has been transformed into a music-lovers’ paradise, offering not only a great selection of used records, but also books, art, performances and, of course, coffee.

“It’s obviously evolved from what we started out with—just coffee and a small bin of records when we opened in 2016,” said owner Kelly Segré during a recent phone interview. “Now we have over 4,000 used records in stock, so we’re definitely more of a record store, even though we sell coffee every day.”

Segré explained why she doubled Gré’s space and built a new stage.”

“Pre COVID, we used to do a lot of open mics, so we are going to continue to do that, but we’re going to do it only once a month,” Segré said. “With this new stage that we’ve built, and our new space, and the way it’s set up, we are really trying to focus on kind of living room-style concerts with really good musicians, and really good, smaller, more-intimate shows, where people come to listen to the music. You have a lot of shows where people go to bars and stuff, and they’re there to have fun and socialize, and that’s great—but a lot of times, the musicians are not really being listened to and appreciated as much as I think they should.

“A couple of weeks ago, we had Grant-Lee Phillips play, who was the town troubadour on the Gilmore Girls, and in the ’90s had the band Grant Lee Buffalo. The feedback that we got from him and the guests was that they loved that it was a super, super intimate environment, because he was able to talk to the audience and speak with the audience as he was playing, and do some storytelling. It’s kind of modeled after the whole idea of the NPR Tiny Desk concerts.”

Long gone are the days of common beatnik gatherings, poetry readings and folk singers in coffee shops, yet Gré has found success in bringing this very idea to the modern era.

“When you go to my shop in general, even pre-expansion, it feels very nostalgic,” Segré said. “I feel like most people who come into my shop express nostalgia. I wasn’t alive during the era of the beatnik, but when I was in high school, poetry readings in coffee shops were really big. That’s kind of where this all started from—my experience from when I was young—so a lot of this is based on the nostalgia of even films that are related to music, or the feeling of listening to the vinyl alone. … We’re in this time where everything’s electronic, and of course, we use that, but it’s really going back to, like, putting your phones down and having something tangible that you can have in your hands, or something audible that you can listen to without it being on Spotify or on the internet.”

The venue recently celebrated the expansion with an event featuring local music and a photography exhibit by Segré.

“I’m a music nerd, my husband is a musician, and that’s why I do the open mic, too, because it gives me a way to experience people,” Segré said. “We’re going to do a combination of local and touring acts. … It’s really about them understanding the vibe of wanting to do an intimate show and connect with their audience. It’s really just about finding the right people, whether they’re local or not.”

Gré Records and Coffee, which opened in 2016, recently expanded, adding a new stage and expanding its vinyl offerings. Kelly Segré

Segré is into all things art, and she intends to keep her events mostly free or affordable—but she said she will need some help from the community.

“We would get a lot of people who would come for open mics. We’d get a full house, and we wouldn’t have people supporting the business. In other words, they weren’t buying anything,” Segré said. “Employees and those types of things cost money, so as long as people continue to support and buy a drink, or two, or buy a record when they’re there, I can continue to keep the events free.

“We probably will do some ticketed events if I have touring musicians coming through, but the point is to make it affordable. That’s why I also say it’s about having the right musicians play, because it’s got to be people who want to be in that intimate environment.”

Gré’s expansion doesn’t just mean there’s more space for vinyl and live music; there’s more room for art in general.

“Before we changed the name because of the records, it was Gre Coffee House and Art Gallery, and there’s still a huge component of the art,” Segré said. “That’s something that you have to be there to see. All my photography is on the walls, and my photography really revolves around music, because that’s what I’m familiar with. It’s really a celebration of music, art and anything analog. We will be doing art shows, but not in the traditional sense. We used to host live art shows, where artists actually had to be creating their art during the event. … (The space) was tiny at the time, so now that we have more space, (people) can watch.

“The building (the Henry Frank Arcade) is such a unique space, and it’s a part of Palm Springs history. The building’s been in the Frank family for years… It was a coffee shop in the ’70s. We needed the room, with the records and the performances. Even though we can’t still can’t fit hundreds of people in there, (before), it was way too small. There’s now more room for a few more people to experience.”

Gré Records and Coffee is located at 278 N. Palm Canyon Drive. For more information, visit gremagazine.com.

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Matt King

Matt King is a freelance writer for the Coachella Valley Independent. A creative at heart, his love for music thrust him into the world of journalism at 17 years old, and he hasn't looked back. Before...

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