Remembering Oak Park Record Store Owner Val Camilletti

Val Camilletti, the legendary record store owner whose Oak Park shop is poised to celebrate 46 years in business this weekend, died Monday in hospice care in Brookfield after a two-year battle with breast cancer. She was 78 years old.

At a time when record stores are increasingly rare, Camilletti’s store, Val’s halla, retained a loyal customer base that wanted more than a digital download or a big-box experience.

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“When you’ve tired of shopping for music in refrigerator stores, come pay us a visit in person,” Camilletti quipped on the store’s website. She opened Val’s halla on July 26, 1972, “following the demise of a small record chain I had managed from the same location since 1968.” She bragged about the wide range of formats and genres she sold.

“The store brims over with 45s, LPs, cassettes and CDs in every conceivable musical category, from big bands to bauhaus, from rockabilly to rap,” Camilletti wrote.

Stopping by Val’s was more than a shopping experience.

“For almost 50 years people have been making the trip to Oak Park to spend quality times in those bins of records to see what they could find. But the real draw was Val herself,” longtime WXRT radio host and friend Terri Hemmert wrote Tuesday morning on Facebook. “She supported musicians, venues and kids that were crazy enough to want to work at a record store.”

Before getting into the record store business, Camilletti, who lived in Cicero, worked in promotions for Capitol Records.

In 2005, Bob Sirott profiled Camilletti and her store for “Chicago Tonight.” Join us Tuesday for another look at that story, produced by Marc Vitali.

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