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Phantasmagoria will debut a unique record store/nightclub format on Independence Day at its new Wheaton location. According to co-owner Ruthann Rencher, the used-record chain’s most immense link (6,600 square feet) will follow a mostly local booking policy meant to please everybody some of the time. “We’re not going to just have folk or just have blues or just have jazz,” says Rencher. “We’ll have them all. Besides, we like to say here that there are only two kinds of music, good and bad. We’re only going to have good music.”
Along with live and recorded tunes, Phantasmagoria will retail dozens of microbrews, as well as the ingredients and equipment necessary for customers to start their own homebreweries. Rencher says the club will be a non-smoking venue, and puffers will be directed to a court outside the front door. “That’s for insurance purposes as much as anything else,” she said. “But we figured the state legislature is going to ban smoking in places like ours if we don’t, anyway.” Opening night will feature two sets by the Frankie Condon Big Band, with the local township providing the entertainment during intermission via a fireworks display.
Sadly, not all the bangs at the space have been of an amusing nature: Phantasmagoria takes over a room once occupied by Tornado Alley. That club’s demise, according to former owner Marc Gretschel, was in the cards ever since the September 1994 shooting of a couple visiting Tornado Alley by young carjackers. “The phone just stopped ringing for us after the murder,” shrugs Gretschel, who now operates Twist and Shout. “To tell you the truth, we’re just happy to be out of Wheaton, to leave the tragedy behind.” Rencher prefers to put a positive spin on the episode: “There’s no question that a lot of people will think about that murder,” she says. “But, hey, the people who did it were caught right away! I think that’s what should be talked about.”