Last year, Utah’s very own Heavy Metal Shop celebrated its 35th anniversary.
It was a bittersweet celebration for the iconic Salt Lake City record shop, concert venue and music community hub — because its matriarch, Angie Kirk, wasn’t there to celebrate with her husband and owner Kevin Kirk and their two grandkids.
Angie Kirk died in March 2022 after a sudden leukemia diagnosis.
But now, after 22 years at 63 E. Exchange Place, the business that has connected music fans across the world is “being forced to move,” according to Kevin Kirk. (The Heavy Metal Shop started in Sandy and then moved to Sugar House after two years, before landing at The Exchange Place location just off State Street downtown.)
Atlaf Sial, the building’s landlord, began talking about remodeling the upstairs level and charging more for rent after Angie Kirk passed away, Kirk said. But Kirk felt caught by surprise, he said, when Sial set a specific deadline to begin the work.
Sial told The Salt Lake Tribune that the Kirks signed a one-year lease when The Heavy Metal Shop first moved in 22 years ago. Since then, they’ve been renting on a month-to-month basis, he said. The Kirks have never been late on their rent, Sial added, but he wants to utilize the upstairs space.
The upper floor is accessible only through The Heavy Metal shop, Sial said, and the planned renovation will cost an estimated $50,000 to $100,000. Sial said he is not unsympathetic to the building’s meaning and legacy, but said he didn’t believe Kirk would be able to afford expanding into the second floor and staying.
Kirk said he was never given the option. “If I had the choice, I’d want to stay,” he said.
The Kirk family is moving everything in the packed and unique store, where countless memories have been made for the Utah Heavy Metal family and fans extended across the globe. (When Angie Kirk died, a virtual benefit drew messages from more than 40 artists around the world.)
But their biggest concern is for the future of the murals on the side of the building — which have become sort of an anchoring presence in the face of the tragedies the Kirk family has seen in the past few years.
Before Angie’s passing, in 2017, the Kirks’ son Joey (nicknamed “Most” for his graffiti art) was killed after being struck by a Trax train in Murray. Joey was wearing headphones, according to police reports, and apparently didn’t hear or see the train approaching from behind.
A mural of Most (painted by one of his friends) is on the west wall outside the Heavy Metal Shop. It’s now accompanied by one to commemorate Angie — of a butterfly tattoo she had on her right bicep.
Kirk said they’re uncertain what will happen with the mural, but he feels sad about the prospect of losing it. If they do, they’ll try to recreate it at their new location through photos, he said.
Sial said he feels sorry about the potential loss of the mural, especially because he describes himself as very family oriented. He said he will “request for the new people to keep [the mural], but I don’t promise it,” he said. It depends on how new tenants feel, he said.
The Heavy Metal Shop does have a new location planned — across the street from Randy’s Records, which is at 157 E. 900 S. in Salt Lake City. The new venue will be the same size and the rent will be cheaper, Kirk said.
They’ve got a few last shows lined up: David Lowery on June 21 and Joe Buck Yourself on the June 28, but they’ll be out of the location by the end of the month. There are no goodbye parties planned yet, but Kirk said that last show will serve as one.
For now, traces of the Kirk family — and their lasting legacy — are everywhere in the shop. It is a small space, with a stage crammed behind the counter, barely enough room to wiggle past into the back office area — but it is filled with character and years of memories, along with records, T-shirts and paraphernalia that delights heavy metal and rock fans.
Photos of Angie playing with the grandchildren are behind the checkout counter. Toys and hand-drawn creations from the grandkids are stacked among items that have the shop’s iconic skull logo — which has been seen and worn around the world.
“Joey painted the logo at the top,” Kevin said, of the sign outside the shop. “For my birthday in 2017, that was the last birthday he had and I had together.”
Generations of the Kirk family grew up at the Exchange Place location.
“Joey was 10 when we moved down town here,” Kevin said. His grandson has been helping with the move, too. “He’s gone in our basement and cleaned it out and he made little labels of where stuff is gonna go.”
Kirk said he is sad about the move, and wishes it was avoidable, but hopes he can rebuild what exists at the new location.
“People go through a lot of stuff in life and I’ve been fortunate I’ve had this shop for all these years,” Kevin said. “It’s been such a wonderful thing.”
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