47 years a lot of memories. I’m about to celebrate my 48th anniversary in Chicago, in December. I lived and worked (WGLD) in Oak Park and shopped at Val’s Halla for many years. She was an old friend to me and to many. I’m very sad to report this news.
After 47 years as one of Oak Park’s most iconic businesses, employees at Val’s Halla Records announced the shop will close at the end of the month.
According to store manager Shayne Blakeley, the record store, located at 239 Harrison St. in the village’s arts district, will shut down by Nov. 30. Named after founder Val Camilletti, the original Val’s Halla opened on July 26, 1972 at 723-1/2 South Blvd., before moving to its current Harrison Street location in 2006.
Camilletti passed away at age 78 in July 2018 after a two-year battle with breast cancer. Blakeley had hoped to take over ownership of the store, but said sales have slowed significantly this year.
“Unfortunately, we determined that the business is just not viable,” Andrews said. “This will be a loss to Oak Park and the region. This sad ending should not overshadow the incredible positive impact Val and Val’s Halla had on our community for several generations of Oak Parkers.”
Andrews said he bought his first record and his most recent record at Val’s Halla, 35 years apart.
“My fondest memories are going to Val’s Halla with friends in the 1980s, and Val’s genuine enthusiasm for instilling the importance of music in our young minds,” Andrews said.
The store became the go-to place for new and used music, with crates of 45s, LPs, cassettes and CDs lining the walls and tables on the sales floor. Crowds descended upon the shop for the yearly Record Store Day event, as well as its annual “Hallapalooza” anniversary celebration, a two-day event that featured live music, sales and refreshments.
In 1962, Camilletti started working for Capitol Records, and by 1968 she began to manage a small record store chain on South Boulevard. The closure of that record store chain led to Camilletti planting her roots as a community fixture when she opened Val’s Halla at that same location.
Blakeley has worked at Val’s Halla for 18 years after arriving in the Chicago-area from central Michigan. He said he handed Camilletti a handwritten resume, calling the record store business his passion.
“Val’s going to be a part of my life forever,” Blakeley said. “She was one of my best friends and I considered her a mom, even if she wasn’t actually my mom. She’s so dear to me and took me under her wing this whole time.”
Laura Maychruk, president of the Oak Park Arts District and owner of the Buzz Café, which sits around the corner from Val’s Halla, said the loss is a blow to the area. “I’m heartbroken for Val knowing that her business will no longer be here,” Maychruk said. “It was so much a part of her and who she was. It’s just a bummer.”
When Camilletti was looking to relocate in 2006, Maychruk said she and other arts district representatives actively began recruiting the record store.
“We, the businesses at the time, lured her to the arts district,” Maychruk said. “We had a little mail and postcard campaign that got her to come down, and she ended up locating her shop in our district. It was a great feather in our cap. It was wonderful to have Val, not only for her business, but her herself. She brought so much energy and enthusiasm and was a huge contributor to the arts district.”
Earlier this year, the Oak Park Area Arts Council unveiled a mural of Camilletti along the South Boulevard retaining wall near the location of her original store.
Artist Joe Abboreno said he purchased his first album, The Rolling Stones ‘Through the Past, Darkly,’ from Camilletti at the store. He said it took between 32 and 36 hours to paint the mural, which shows a smiling Camilletti, the Val’s Halla logo and the phrase “Thanks for sharing your joy of music!.”
In these last few weeks in business, Blakeley said he will attempt to sell as much inventory as he can, ponder his future and say goodbye to the job he’s had for nearly two decades.
“I’m trying to figure out what’s the next move for me,” Blakeley said. “We had a lot of fun times here. Those memories aren’t going anywhere. I’ve had some wonderful times here.”
Thanks to Steve Schering Pioneer Press.