Brendan Boyle (blue shirt) has been pushing vinyl for a quarter century.
Brendan Boyle began his vinyl education while working at a record shop in Sacramento. Following that, he went solo and spent about ten years selling vinyl online. The combined experiences gave him a 20-year education when it came to buying and selling records, but he claims that it wasn’t until he purchased Lou Curtiss’s Folk Arts Rare Records that he entered the uppermost realms of vinyl expertise.
3072 El Cajon Boulevard, San Diego
“When you own your own store it’s the real education,” he explained. “What you’re learning is on a whole other level than anything else. So, the biggest education I’ve had is the last six years.”
Boyle’s El Cajon Boulevard Folk Arts location had been chugging along fine since it opened in 2014, but about four years into that run he decided to open Jupiter, a second record shop. It wasn’t so much a stab at increased profits as his inner soothsayer predicting bad days on the horizon.
3610 University Avenue, San Diego
“I built Jupiter in 2018 partially as a fallback plan,” he explained. “It was a fallback plan for a potential Great American Shitshow. I was worried about Donald Trump not being the greatest president and some kind of shitshow happening — and I ended up being right.”
According to Boyle, Jupiter served as Folk Arts’ “vinyl outlet store.” He also described it as a “conceptual business” since everything in the shop was priced at five dollars. “You just put it out. It saves you a ton of time and labor,” he said. Jupiter also differed from Folk Arts in that it carried various forms of media outside the specific vinyl spectrum that Folks Arts specialized in.
Post-lockdown, both stores re-opened to customers on June 1. The days of Folk Arts on El Cajon Boulevard are coming to an end, though. Boyle is in the process of merging the stores at the larger, City Heights Jupiter location. Longtime customers should not be too surprised as Folk Arts has changed residences numerous times since Curtiss founded the enterprise in 1967. Boyle and his employees, who collectively make decisions as to how the store will operate, are in the midst of transitioning the Jupiter location into the new Folk Arts store. They are hoping that it will be open by the end of the month.
“I’m very emotionally attached to Folk Arts,” he said. “Then you throw Lou Curtiss’s passing [summer 2018] on top of that. I set-up Jupiter, we opened for business, and shortly there-after Lou Curtiss passed away. I kind of considered this record store [Folk Arts] to be my baby — and just like a mother I’m willing to do anything for my baby.”
Even though the five-dollar pricing will be phased out at the new Folk Arts location, the store will retain the Jupiter format of stocking diverse media products. One of the most unique of these was a small section dedicated (DEADicated?) to hand-labeled, live Grateful Dead bootleg cassette recordings from the pre-CDR days.
“We’re not gonna be selling cassette bootlegs at the new Folk Arts, I’ll tell you that much,” Boyle said with a laugh. When asked about his favorite oddball items in the store though, he was quick to mention vintage records that were used for radio broadcasts in the 1930s and 40s.
“Lou, himself, was always kind of famous for having around either 16 or 20-inch radio transcription discs — a very enormous radio record,” Boyle explained. “If you were running a radio station you would have a radio show on the disc. You could throw on this Carter Family radio program that was sort of syndicated and it would be on these discs. There were many occasions when I visited Lou that he would break these enormous things out and just chuckle and talk about them. He ended up doing a lot of releases of obscure, country radio performances that he found on these things.”
Even though many are operating with reduced hours, most of the local record shops seem to be surviving the pandemic. People are still buying vinyl and physical media. Boyle thinks limitations in musical entertainment may be driving the sales.
“The community, in general, has fewer economic options,” he said. “You can’t go to a concert, etc. You’re limited with your options to spend your money, but it’s also about how you spend your time and entertain yourself and unwind — because there aren’t that many options. We’re one of those good options, because it’s still pretty enjoyable in here. We’re still jamming great music, and you can still have a conversation with a friend or a stranger. You get that experience still that you would always get at the store, you just have to be mindful of the COVID protocols.”