Our Kind of Place

An Alabama Record Store Finds Its Groove 

Locals drop the needle at a cozy hangout in Florence

A white brick exterior of a record shop with two people sitting outside at a table

Photo: Katie D’Arienzo

Owners Ben Tanner and Kristy Bevis.

In New York City, they’re known as bodegas, the corner stores where you can buy a bagel and a cup of coffee or Kleenex and cigarettes, probably dodging a house cat or two as they scurry through aisles and plop down on the candy bars. In Japan, they’re known as kissa bars, a riff on the 1950s teahouses where jazz fans would gather and listen to their favorite—and often extremely rare—records.

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In Florence, Alabama, however, it’s known as All the Best, a coffee shop–snack bar–record store combo that is the brainchild of a local couple, Kristy Bevis and Ben Tanner, and has become a fixture of the downtown scene. At the corner of Tennessee and Seminary Streets, the sliver of a shop is tiny but inviting, and it’s easy to while away hours here. Tanner, one of the co-owners of Florence’s Single Lock Records, visited Tokyo as the touring keyboardist for Alabama Shakes and fell in love with kissa bars such as JBS (Jazz, Blues, Soul) in Shibuya, where the staff picks from more than eleven thousand vinyl albums to play on super high-end audio equipment. “It was one of the most incredible sonic experiences I’ve ever had,” he says. “And I started to daydream about doing something similar here.” Tanner has curated a tight selection of vinyl in the shop, with an emphasis on Florence and Muscle Shoals artists like Dylan Le-Blanc and the late, great Donnie Fritts. Ask him to put on a particular album and he’ll gladly oblige, pumping the sound through a pair of JBL Lancer 77 speakers, which, while bookshelf size, fill the space with crystal clear sound.

For her part, Bevis—who has extensive experience in the hospitality industry—has helped All the Best carve out a niche that focuses on grab-and-go food. Breakfast burritos are a hit, as are the Hump Day Sandwich special—the grilled pimento cheese and bacon is divine—and insanely tasty homemade crunchy wraps on Fridays that make Taco Bell’s similar offering seem like cardboard. The shop carries coffee from Birmingham’s Domestique roasters but serves only a drip version and cold brew, leaving the caffè mochas to places like the nearby Rivertown Coffee Co. “We wanted to perfect that diner-style cup of coffee,” she says. “One that was fast to pour but also high-quality.”

photo: Katie D’Arienzo
Vinyl selections.

Bevis and Tanner grew up around here and attended Muscle Shoals High School together, where they were both on the math team. They went their separate ways after graduation before reconnecting at a Jayhawks show in Memphis, both eventually moving back to Florence. The couple has a four-year-old daughter, Louise, a.k.a. “Lou,” who has become the shop’s unofficial mascot. She walks with her parents from her school down the street to the shop many afternoons, helps herself to a Capri Sun from the refrigerator, and takes a seat on the small couch. “I’m like, ‘Who is this person?’” Bevis says with a laugh. “Everyone knows that the world revolves around her.”

In addition to the coffee and records, All the Best carries issues of hard-to-find-in-Alabama magazines such as the music-focused Maggot Brain, gifts like crisp stationery, specialized candy, and bags of Golden Flake potato chips, a Birmingham brand. “The snack field trips are always the best part of the job,” Bevis says. She also makes sure to point out one of the shop’s biggest sellers, Oreo balls her mother makes. “We wanted to do boxes of macaroons, but it was too much work,” she says. “So, we have Miss Prissy’s Oreo balls instead.”

photo: Katie D’Arienzo
A turntable at All the Best.

With a genial vibe and laid-back charm, All the Best has become a gathering place for Florence’s bustling music scene. At any point, you can run into members of Southern bands like Penny & Sparrow, musicians in town for a few weeks while recording at Fame Studios across the river in Muscle Shoals, and permanent fixtures such as Austin Motlow, a producer and engineer at the local Sun Drop Sound Studio who also happens to make those delicious crunchy wraps. Like any startup, All the Best has had some tenuous moments in the post-peak-pandemic era, but Florence is now thriving with new residents and travelers taking in music tourism sights. All the Best recently held its second annual Block Party, with events like morning flow yoga on the street and a kids’ dance party, plus food vendors and bands playing into the night.

Bevis and Tanner are thinking about expanding or moving to a larger location, one that would allow for in-store music performances as well as serving alcohol, once they jump through the usual zoning and permitting hoops. But no matter where it’s located, the ethos of All the Best will remain the same. “We wanted it to be a place where college kids from the University of North Alabama could hang out, or workers from downtown could come in to grab lunch,” Tanner says. “The goal all along was to cultivate a sense of community.”