This spot was once occupied by a never-ending stream of South Florida's music lovers. Perpetually packed, Peaches Records & Tapes welcomed esteemed artists and audiences alike. The Fort Lauderdale record shop stood out as one of the most successful branches in a chain of 50 stores in 23 states. It was also the last Peaches standing, before the store’s closing in 2001.
When the shop opened in 1975, Greg Goode was one of the first employees hired. He recounts an array of celebrities who dropped in to make appearances or buy tracks. Among the highlights were hanging with ZZ Top and encountering Jimmy Buffett.
“I was the night manager at the time when this guy was looking at the [Buffett] display. I look at him and told him he looked like Buffett. A few days, maybe a week, later, a rep from ABC Records comes into the store. Another manager and I are talking to him when he pops up with, 'By the way, Jimmy Buffett was in the store. He said a guy told him he looked like himself.'”
Goode admitted to the record rep that it was he who had unwittingly spoken with Buffett, and he says he never lived it down. Luckily, the rep told Goode that the incident earned a chuckle from the "Margaritaville" singer: “Jimmy thought it was funny.”
Goode also drank beer with the guys of ZZ Top. He says he and his co-workers kept the soda machine in the employees' room stocked with Heineken. "During the ZZ Top in-store, they came to the back afterward when finished with the fans," Goode says, remembering how the bandmates “cracked up” when they discovered beer was hiding in the back. “Nice bunch of guys. We hung out and chatted a bit before they left. Billy Gibbons kept telling me to come to the show that night and hang out with them, but I couldn’t go.” Gibbons gave him a hard time about it, saying, “It had to be some girl to keep me away from hanging with their little ol’ band from Texas.”
Peters even had a “hysterical” encounter with the Six Million Dollar Man, Lee Majors. “I saw him and went, ‘Hey! It’s Lee Majors!’ He was so funny — he was making a scene as if everyone in the whole store was going to stop what they were doing.” Peters says it was a Saturday morning at 10. “I was like, ‘Buddy, no one really cares but me.’”
Celeb sightings were reportedly run-of-the-mill at Peaches. Everyone from Carly Simon to Liza Minnelli stopped by during the store’s 26-year run. And who could blame them? A certain magic flickered inside the beacon standing on the corner of East Sunrise Boulevard and NE 15th Avenue.
Step back in time as you imagine a 10,000-square-foot store with wood-paneled walls and faux-red-brick flooring that stretched for days. Wooden fruit crates, overflowing with vinyl records, bore the colorful signature peach logo. Six-foot-tall album-cover replicas lined the façade, spotlighted for all to admire. They and the merchandise bearing the familiar logo were staples of a beloved music sanctuary.
“The whole motif of the store was kind of based on the Peaches crate, which was a wooden crate that you would keep records in,” explains Daniel Saraceni, describing the interior as “very California, very earthy.” He grew up in Fort Lauderdale and, like many others living in the area at the time of the Peaches boom, found himself employed by the famed record shop. He worked there from 1976 to 1979.
“The thing about Peaches, there was a culture there," Saraceni says. “Coming from a kind of vanilla background, it was my first time encountering people who were gay, people who were very creative, and people who were downright strange.”
The now-64-year-old reminisces about how music was the bond among his co-workers. So was the wild work culture. “[In] our manager meetings, the lowest manager on the totem pole was the one who would have to spin all the joints.”
The rock ’n’ roll utopia drew crowds of local music lovers who lived nearby. And a similar scene was taking place across the country. Appealing to more than the everyday music lover, the chain's shops began popping up in towns throughout America, from the first store's launch in 1975 to the final closure in 2001. Almost overnight, the name exploded in popularity. As a steady trickle of celebrities started showing up at locations across the U.S., Peaches began hosting performances and signings with some of the hottest musicians in the industry.
Journey, the Runaways, Lenny Kravitz, Mötley Crüe, Kiss, Tanya Tucker, and the Bee Gees were among the myriad high-profile artists who made appearances at stores nationwide. Tom Heiman, the founder of Peaches, was inspired by Hollywood’s original Chinese Theatre to display famous visitors' handprints in front of his stores. Purportedly, the gimmick didn’t catch on until May 19, 1976, the day Peaches' Atlanta location landed the prints of Paul McCartney.
“McCartney couldn’t come to do the press because of his scheduling, so we took wet cement to the backstage where he was performing, and he did it.” Heiman says they rushed back and installed it in front of the Atlanta shop. After the Beatles star blessed the pavement, it seemed like every artist wanted to be immortalized outside of a Peaches.
One of the visitors who didn’t end up following in McCartney’s literal footprints was Carly Simon. Mark Michel, who ran Peaches Fort Lauderdale for a stint in the '80s, remembers the legendary singer-songwriter swinging by. “Carly was visiting radio stations and newspapers [in the area]. She came to Peaches Fort Lauderdale for a signing, and it couldn’t have gone better... She was great and stayed until everyone got a record signed.” But, alas, no handprints.
Names such as Simon and McCartney helped further elevate the Peaches-loving craze of the '70s, '80s, and '90s. Heiman reflects on how Elton John, Neil Diamond, and Eddie Money were among the multitudes of superstars who made it no secret they liked the brand. An L.A. native, Heiman explains why he believes it was a roaring success: “The whole idea was to bring a little California to the rest of the country. People were just ready to have a little bit of Hollywood, the music scene, the glamour.”
He was right. Founded in 1975 by Heiman and partner Bob Rothstein, the chain was bringing in $100 million a fiscal year during its prime. But eventually, the business went bankrupt. Heiman was forced to sell, which he attributed to “competition expansion, an oversaturated market, and the gas crunch.” Purchased March 31, 1982, by the acquisition company Peaches Entertainment Corporation, the Fort Lauderdale location was one of the several branches saved.
Local jazz musician Randy Bernsen remembers when it went out of business. To him, the area thrummed as a cultural, social meeting place, which was why it was a “sad moment” when he heard about the closure. What made it worse, the guitarist says, was “when Hustler went in there. They had a battle.” He believes the erotic store “urinated on the point that Peaches was gone and the replacement was that.”
The battle Bernsen mentioned went down between the City of Fort Lauderdale and Hustler founder Larry Flynt. For three years after Peaches closed, 1500 Sunrise Blvd. stood
Susan recalls how her father fought the rise of adult-novelty businesses in the area but was no longer in office in the early '00s. Having served on the commission for one term with Mills, Naugle carried the torch. The mayor teamed up with Dean Trantalis, speaking out in opposition to Hustler's opening at 1500 Sunrise. They even went as far as trying to change city's zoning laws to stop Flynt in his tracks.
Trantalis and Naugle were ultimately unsuccessful, and Hustler opened its doors to the public July 23, 2004. More than 14 years later, Trantalis is now mayor himself and stands by his decision to try to block the adult shop from opening in his town.
“No, I have no regrets, because I feel now, as I felt then, that it violated our zoning law because it came within the restricted boundaries and proximity to a church" — a church, Trantalis admits, that happened to be his own. He still believes Hustler doesn't fit into the “type of family fare that we are looking to create in Fort Lauderdale.”
Sticht thinks Hustler Hollywood is “a beautiful store, with no people hanging around in the parking lot.” He’s not alone in his view that the boutique poses no problem. Mitch Watkins thinks it was an ironic replacement. Having worked for Peaches for 14 years, he’s experienced his fair share of tomfoolery. “We had some crazy people working there and crazy people shopping there,” Watkins chuckles to himself, “so I think the Hustler coming in after us was fairly appropriate.”
Decidedly more disturbed by Flynt’s addition to the area is Debra Maciol. She grew up in a home behind Peaches and is one of its original employees. Having lived in Victoria Park since 1967, she was not pleased when the erotic shop took the record store’s place. “It's a family-oriented area; there’s a huge park right there. Hustler is a kind of seedier name, and you go in there and it's sex stuff. Kids don’t go in there.” Maciol says she thought it would “lower the neighborhood.” Considering it now, she surmises that “it didn’t really affect it so much” but still views it as a “downgrade.”
But former Peaches manager Mark Martin echoes a sentiment shared by the majority of Broward locals interviewed for this piece. He is merely content to hear that the handprints are still there. “The best ending for the store,” Martin reckons, “is that the next place that's there is sympathetic to it.”
Decades later, Fort Lauderdale is one of the two remaining spots in the States with their Peaches prints preserved. That’s owed to Hustler.
Johanna Weston has been an assistant manager at Hustler Hollywood for the past six months. An avid Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd fan, she gravitates toward older music and admits a fascination with the history of the building where she works. “It’s cool knowing you work somewhere where some of the artists that you listen to frequented.” She also says the handprints are a constant reminder of the legacy that belongs to the spot.
“We usually get customers walking by that stop and take a look at them,” Weston says of the prints. They're a conversation piece, especially among visitors who have lived in South Florida for decades. “They’ll go, ‘I used to come here when it was Peaches, and now it’s Hustler,’" Weston says, "and share a lot of the experiences they had in the past coming here.”
It's thanks to these digital shrines and cemented trademarks outside an erotic shop that South Floridians continue to speak of Peaches today. Long gone is the area’s most beloved record store, but what Peaches Records & Tapes Fort Lauderdale meant to longtime locals shall never be erased.
Driving by that corner of Sunrise Boulevard, Susan Gentile doesn’t see the bright-red lights illuminating a familiar building or posters of scantily dressed women adorning the walls outside. She sees the handprints clustered on the sidewalk, reminding her of a better, simpler time. She vocalizes a view shared by many community members: “It will always be Peaches to me.”