The idea for Zzz Records was conceived in the late 1990s. After Archives Records closed its doors in 1995, Des Moines was without a vinyl-friendly independent store for many years. Convinced that there was still a market for records in Des Moines — and sick of having to drive two hours to buy them — we decided to open up a store that featured an eclectic mix of rock & roll, indie rock, electronica, jazz, country, and more.

On September 23, 2000, Zzz Records opened at its first location in the Masonic Temple at 10th & Locust. It was a small space with approximately 800 square feet, but perfect for our fledgling business. Our initial inventory consisted of about 2,000 albums, a few hundred tapes & CDs, and a handful of 45s and 12″ singles. Slowly, the business (and inventory) began to grow.

Less than a year after opening, Des Moines city officials declared that many buildings in our area were in danger of being demolished in favor of a “gateway park”. The idea for the park was pushed hard by Allied Insurance, who was planning a new headquarters just across the street from our store. Allied’s plan called for the removal of many historic buildings, including: the AIB building, the Masonic Temple, and the Arlington-Hallett, among others.

Preservationists in the area fought the proposal and were able to help save a handful of buildings in the area, including the Masonic Temple. However, local Masons decided to sell the building at the end of 2001; thus, we were suddenly scrambling to find a new home.

In 2002, Zzz Records opened in its second location at 424 Ea. Locust Street. The new store was relocated into an historic storefront — the building was built around 1885 — and allowed us to greatly increase our inventory. We were now part of the fledgling “East Village”, which was starting to become an interesting collection of restaurants, old bars, and independent shops. As time wore on, we weathered many challenges including an electrical fire, the floods of 2008, and Archie Brooks. Brooks, along with city manager Rick Clark, threatened to use eminent domain to take ownership of our building, despite no obvious problems with the structure. After a considerable amount of bad press, the city finally backed down, and we were able to stay. There were many accomplishments at this location. We held a series of in-store concerts in 2002 & 2003. This seemed to fill a temporary void in local venues; luckily, this niche was later filled by the Vaudeville Mews. Some of our anniversary parties were pretty interesting, including a couple of game shows & a spelling bee. The first Record Store Day in 2008 was also a fun and busy day for us. We edged Bi-Fi Records in our only softball game ever. Oh, and this was also where we saw the first Zzz t-shirts with the now famous Iowa logo.

In October 2008, several factors led us to find yet another home. For the first time in our history, we moved our store outside of the downtown district. On November 2, 2008, we re-opened at our current address of 2200 Ingersoll Avenue. It is a little smaller than our last space, but we still managed to squeeze all of our inventory inside. (As of 2021, we currently have about 10,000 records, as well as plenty of CDs, tapes, magazines, posters, buttons, and collecting supplies.) In September of 2010, Zzz celebrated its tenth anniversary. We hosted a huge bash at local club The Vaudeville Mews, with a show that included local bands The Jerkels, Dresden Style, and Cleo’s Apartment. The night culminated with the announcement of the winner of the Email of the Decade Contest”.

In the 2010s, we have had many fun events, including hosting the Third Man Rolling Record Store (twice!), an in-store DJ performance by Sylvan Esso, a meet-and-greet with Johnny Winter, and many Record Store Day events. We also grew the Des Moines Music Collectors’ Show and moved it to a larger venue downtown. We look forward to more surprises and many more years with you!