If things go the way Lou Curtiss hopes, by the end of summer, he will have handed the keys to his Folk Arts Rare Records shop over to its new owner, whoever that may be. He made a soft for-sale announcement on Facebook in recent weeks but admits he has not yet set a price or even consulted a business broker to determine what that may be. “I got several reactions on Facebook, everything from people saying ‘Don’t close’ to people offering to buy the shop.” So far, no real cash offers. “I’d like to see someone come in who would keep it going,” he says. “But I’m not gonna rush it.”
2881 Adams Avenue, University Heights
(Has gone out of business since this article was published.)
A winner in the Lifetime Achievement category at the 2000 San Diego Music Awards, Curtiss began selling records in San Diego almost a year before the British Invasion. He first opened up in the building that Gelato Vero now occupies on Washington and India streets in July of 1963. “We were there for five years. Then we moved up to Hillcrest for another five years. We did store concerts there. We had Tom Waits play for us.” Is Waits still in touch? Curtiss nods. “I hear from him once a year.”
Folk Arts moved again up to Adams Avenue. After 27 years went by, a Curves Women’s Fitness came along and offered Curtiss’s landlord more money. It will have been almost a decade since he lugged everything to the opposite end of Adams Avenue and set up shop in a similar street-facing bungalow. “I will never try to move that many records again.” He counts 15,000 of them at present, with thousands more tapes, cassettes, and CDs in the musty crate digger’s paradise. Why the sale?
“The basic thing is my wife wants to retire. She’s a microbiologist. She’s got her doctorate. And we both have to work to make the rent on this place.”
In the download age, is Folk Arts still a viable enterprise?
“Yeah, if the buyer lives frugally in the beginning. But you’ve got to learn the business.”
For example, he says, “If someone comes in and they’ve got all of the 101 Strings albums, and they want to sell them to you, you’ve got to act depressed.”
What will Curtiss do in his retirement?
“I figure I’ve got a book in me after 48 years in the record business.”
He’ll continue to host his Sunday-night radio show on Jazz 88, and he won’t be a stranger to the shop.
“I’m happy to train the next owner and shop-sit the place,” he says, “if they want me to.”