As the name would suggest, the tiny record shop sits in an alley near Glenferrie station, sandwiched between Cheers nightclub and a book shop. And this is a record shop. Alley Tunes appears to have more vinyl per square inch than it does CDs, making Eddie Vedder a very happy man (reference 'Spin the Black Circle' for more information).
Alley Tunes is very well themed with a DJ's turntable in one corner and the walls adorned with all sorts of retro chic posters and memorabilia. Paying the bills I would suspect is the espresso machine at front of house. Identifying itself as a Record Store Café one gets the feeling that with thousands of commuters passing daily to and from Swinburne University and the Glenferrie Road shopping precinct it's the café part of the business that allows the record store component to survive.
Opening a record shop next to a University would have been a no-brainer 10 years ago. With all those 17-22 year-olds in close proximity, CDs would have flown out the door. These days most passers-by will enjoy a coffee (which by the way is of a very good standard) while listening to the songs they downloaded from iTunes.
Along with the bullseye Alley Tunes hits with its theme is the barrista/owner that clearly benefits from his morning espresso. With sleepy eyed commuters passing by I was brought wide awake not so much by the short black I was served but by the conversation I shared with him. He certainly knows his coffee but he also knows life and is doing what he loves. In fact, we were so involved in our conversation (in which I ascertained that he sources his coffee from an Italian friend rather than any mass-producers) that I wandered off without paying, having to jog back when I realised 10 minutes later.
With outside tables in finer weather Alley Tunes would be the ideal place to kill time if you caught the early train, are waiting for a delayed train or just want to enjoy a ripping coffee while listening to some funky instrumental music. Although the digital age has sounded the death knell for many peddling hard copies of music I certainly hope that Melbourne's love of freshly roasted espresso can keep Alley Tunes in business.