Oak Cliff’s Top Ten Records is often recognized as the last place Dallas police Officer J.D. Tippett was seen, making a phone call, before Lee Harvey Oswald shot him at an intersection just a few blocks away.
This historical connection to President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963 undoubtedly put the record store on the map. But today, dozens of loyal locals are flocking to the shop for a few unexpected items. Mike Polk, the store’s former owner, says sales from Locs brand sunglasses paid the bills during slower months.
"I think it started with the Cheech and Chong movies and then the low-rider movies and videos, which came after,” says Polk, who operated the store starting in 1978. “Due to customer request and demand, Top Ten has always been a Loc[s] reseller and one of the only places in Dallas to sell Loc[s] sunglasses for years, and at good prices. Many people just come in to grab their Locs and that’s it.”
In September, Top Ten Records reopened as a nonprofit music library with the help of Barak Epstein, president of neighboring Texas Theatre's operating company, Aviation Cinemas. Preservation of the iconic shop remains a top priority for new leadership.
"When we converted the shop to a community-run nonprofit earlier this year, one of the focuses was that we wanted to retain things like sunglasses and soda pop, which have been staples at Top Ten Records, just like local music, for years and years," says Epstein, who now serves as chair of the store's board of directors.
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According to the company's website, Locs are described as “hardcore” or “official gangster” shades and are known for their “unique cholo style.” Among the brand’s best-selling items are frames inscribed with the words “Vatos Locos,” a well-known street gang that originated in East Los Angeles. Additional Locs items associated with Southern California culture include the Easy E and Compton styles of shades.
Epstein says he was unaware of Locs' association with gang-related activity and that Top Ten Records does not promote any type of violence.
“We only carry [sunglasses] that say ‘Dallas,’ ‘Houston’ and ‘San Antonio,’” he says. “It’s more about local pride and style.”
Polk says that people love how reliable Top Ten Records has been with its selection of sunglasses over the years, but that the “Vatos Locos” style has not been, and never will be, sold in the store.