written by: Christie Marcy photo by: Adam Finkle
In 1987 Kevin Kirk saw a need in the Salt Lake music scene, so he shuttered his record store in Sandy and opened a new one on State Street—this time with a name that told potential customers all they needed to know: The Heavy Metal Shop. “Salt Lake has always been a big metal town,” Kirk says. “Salt Lake needed something like this.”
Equipped with a logo designed by a customer and a tagline that Kirk originally wrote for a SLUG advertisement, a merchandising enterprise was born. In fact, hardly a day goes by that Kirk isn’t selling Heavy Metal Shop merchandise out of his tiny downtown store—the buyers are locals, traveling bands, tourists and people from around the world, thanks to his online marketplace and the star power of the musicians who wear the Heavy Metal Shop gear.
The walls of The Heavy Metal Shop are adorned with photos of famous faces wearing T-shirts with the iconic skull logo—from Alice Cooper to Ryan Adams—and the sale of the merchandise is what keeps Kirk in business. “I have something Amazon doesn’t have, so that’s cool,” Kirk jokes. “I didn’t plan it that way, so that’s probably why it worked out.”
Despite the shop’s name, Kirk’s tastes aren’t just metal, as a quick flip through the records he sells in the store will reveal. When asked about his enthusiastic support of alt-country band Drive-By Truckers, Kirks explains there’s not as much distance between alt-country and metal as you might think. “I like Alice Cooper and Cheap Trick and the Ramones, too, though. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like them and I wouldn’t want to.”
The Heavy Metal Shop has become a destination for music artists seeking in-store venues, too. Kirk says he’s picky about what acts he allows to play on the stage behind the counter at the store. “I’m a big fan—it’s not like I’m making a bunch of money. I’m more of a fan than a businessman.”
Even though the shop turned 30 this summer, “I’m still having fun,” Kirk says with a smile on his face. “I just love music.”
Heavy Metal Shop: 63 Exchange Place, SLC, 801-467-7071, heavymetalshop.com
See more inside our 2017 September/October Issue.