Ahead of contiguous sidewalks and usable public transportation, San Antonio is gaining another prerequisite of a first-world population center: a HiFi audio boutique. Sporting a striking, new, storefront-spanning mural, Dreamonoid’s HiFi occupies the lot at 1711 Guadalupe Street that was previously an arcade with the same name.
Though the store has technically been running since a soft opening three months ago, Saturday’s “Friends and Family Grand Opening” was undeniably more official, chiefly because there was cake. And just look at that cake.
The partnership of the proprietors, Joseph Lopez and Christian Rios, has an unlikely origin story: Lopez was Rios’ professor at University of the Incarnate Word, where he was pursuing a degree in convergent media.
“Ever since I first met Joey and we became friends, we would always toy around with this idea, but it always seemed like something that was never going to happen,” says Christian Rios of his mentor and partner. “But everything seemed to fall into place.”
“Aside from Bjorn’s, there really was no HiFi store in San Antonio,” says Lopez. “I’d always tell my students about these mythical HiFi stores, but everyone would have to go up to Austin to actually find one and experience it.”
Stepping inside that dream’s fulfillment is greeted with an open, lounge-style space. One might be forgiven for immediately questioning where the actual merchandise is. It’s all there, woven into the atmosphere of the sales floor. It’s the mini-theater space just past the entrance in the first room. It’s record-sampling station in the next.
With systems ranging between $500 and $50,000, Dreamonoid’s HiFi aims to have something for everyone, but they specialize in British equipment. Lopez and Rios were especially keen on becoming dealers of Rega Research, a manufacturer that caters to purists of the audiophile market. It is also a model brand for the consumer culture they’re aiming for. Rega prides itself on maintaining the vast majority of production and labor within the walls of its small facility, and sourcing everything else from surrounding England.
“We are consciously trying to carry a product that goes from research-and-development to manufacturing in a way that is conscious about what they’re doing,” elaborates Lopez.
If you’re a stranger to the genre, don’t worry about being shy. The owners expect potential customers to come in more than a couple times, give the plates a few spins, try a few different combinations of headphones, and ask as many questions as they need before ever making a decision. And Lopez and Rios seem more than willing to reinforce the easy atmosphere, vowing never to wear suits and never to work the sale. They know that the product sells itself.
Dreamonoid’s is much more than a stereo shop. Both Lopez and Rios have a diverse background in media. At the front of the store, they’ve built their own podcast studio with webcams and an open-broadcast system. On top of that, both have spent a fair bit of moonlighting as digital content creators and are more than available to discuss a pet project during downtime.
And then there’s the art. The previously mentioned grand facade is the recognizable work of Louie Chavez; inside, the presence of art blooms, where watercolors by Liza Ferneyhough and hand-painted furniture by Ernesto Cuervas Jr join additional works by Chavez. Both Lopez and Rios, graduates of Holmes and Harlandale respectively, have deep roots generations deep and an appreciation for the cultural significance of the area. Considering Dreamonoid’s position in the historic and cultural heart of the West Side, barely a stone’s throw from the Guadalupe Center, the integration nearly seems less a thoughtful affectation than a customary tribute satisfied.
In the back, the shop keeps a bookshelf stocked with volumes on Chicana theory and history, as well as classic philosophy. Many are from Corina Lopez’s personal collection, a doctor in Chicano studies and wife to Joseph. Together, they hope to create an inspiring space that encourages even non-HiFi enthusiasts to stop, stay, use the WiFi, and facilitate conversation and education. Lopez says we can look forward to an expanding line-up of community-inclusive events, such as listening and viewing events, and collaborations with local musicians.
All of these superlative aspirations lay the groundwork for an answer to a question that has been lingering since the second line of this article – why here? Why not the Pearl area, with it’s greatest concentration of expendable income?
Perhaps left unsaid is this: Dreamonoid’s is meant for San Antonio, meant to be a piece of our landscape and heritage, not merely to packaged the most expedient market. For now, Lopez and Rios appear confident that the quality of their product – along with their reputation in the community – will keep Dreamonoid’s on the lips of the audiophile community far into the future.