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San Diego's vinyl records surge, but why?

A talk with owners of Re-animated, Folk Arts, Lou's, Beat Box

Re-animated Records is focused on used vinyl — as well as posters, DVDs, and random paraphernalia from horror movies, Friesen’s other big love.
Re-animated Records is focused on used vinyl — as well as posters, DVDs, and random paraphernalia from horror movies, Friesen’s other big love.

Nicholas Friesen is a 38-year-old native San Diegan – he grew up in Southeast – who has been working in used record stores all his life. “I’ve got this 10,000-hour thing going for me,” he says. “I started working at Music Trader in downtown when I was a senior in high school, and I’ve been loving it ever since. It’s about the only thing I’m good at.”

For years, the CD was the lifeblood of San Diego’s independent record stores, but as digital downloading and then streaming caught on, CD sales shrank, as did the number of local record stores.

But then, about a decade ago, a funny thing happened. The 12-inch vinyl LP, snuffed out by the CD back in the middle 1980s, began a dramatic comeback. It was spurred by nostalgic Boomers who started collecting the albums they had discarded decades earlier, and by a new generation of music lovers who saw the vinyl LP as something cool.

“The first time I heard a record on a turntable, at a friend’s house, I was hooked,” says Jacob Lange, a 19-year-old Carlsbad local who received his first record player this past Christmas as a gift. “I was so used to hearing songs through my phone using Spotify that I could instantly hear the difference in sound quality and just the feel of the music.”

Place

Re-Animated Records

8320 La Mesa Boulevard, La Mesa

Lange, who graduated last June from Carlsbad High and is now a freshman at Chico State, is now building his own collection of vinyl records, focusing on new reissues of classic rock albums such as the Eagles’ Greatest Hits, Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd, Abbey Road by the Beatles and Master of Puppets by Metallica.

“I’ve been around it so much that I never really saw it go away,” Nicholas Friesen says. “It’s been a constant force in my life that people buy records. But I guess within the last five or ten years it seems as though it’s become more than a weird old hobby, and now everybody’s into it.”

With the downturn in CDs, Friesen turned to online sales, buying and selling albums he picked up at swap meets and estate sales. He took a side job as a surgical assistant at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla. But as the vinyl resurgence grew and his online sales shifted more and more toward the vinyl LP, he hung up his scrubs and in June 2017 took out a lease on a La Mesa Boulevard storefront in the heart of La Mesa Village and opened Re-animated Records.

The store is focused on used vinyl — and posters, DVDs, and random paraphernalia from horror movies, Friesen’s other big love. And from the start, the store has been doing well enough to support Friesen, his wife and two sons, the youngest named Henry Lee after the Nick Cave ballad.

Even during the pan­demic, when Friesen cut back store hours to focus on Internet sales again, he’s been bringing in enough money to cover his bills.

“I’ve been around it so much that I never really saw it go away,” he says. “It’s been a constant force in my life that people buy records. But I guess within the last five or ten years, it seems as though it’s become more than a weird old hobby, and now everybody’s into it.”

The vinyl resurgence of the last few years is well documented. The Recording Industry Association of America says consumers bought more vinyl records in 2020 than CDs for first time since the 1980s. And that’s just for new records. Discogs, the big online marketplace for used records, says it facilitated sales of nearly 12 million records in 2020, up more than 40 percent from 2019.

Place

Folk Arts Rare Records

3072 El Cajon Boulevard, San Diego

Re-animated Records is one of more than a dozen independent record stores that have sprung up in San Diego County over the last several years. It joins a handful of hardy survivors such as Spin Records up in Carlsbad, which has been open since 1993; Lou’s in Encinitas, established in 1980; and the granddaddy of them all, Folk Arts Records, which was initially opened in Little Italy way back in 1967 by the late Lou Curtiss, who produced live music events ranging from free banjo and fiddle contests in Balboa Park to the San Diego Folk Festival.

“The first time I heard a record on a turntable, at a friend’s house, I was hooked,” says Jacob Lange, a 19-year-old Carlsbad resident who received his first record player this past Christmas as a gift.

Curtiss sold Folk Arts in July 2014 after years of keeping the store alive through the income of his wife, Virginia, a biochemist. He moved the store several times, and by the time present owner Brendan Boyle acquired the business, “the property was in serious disrepair and the landlord didn’t want to make any improvements.” So Boyle moved the inventory to a new location on El Cajon Boulevard, and opened for business in September 2020.

Boyle, now 39, studied at the University of California, Davis from 2002 to 2009. He deejayed for the school radio station, KVDS, which is known for its large record and CD collection. “Technically, my major was history, but my real degree is records,” he says.

What’s behind the LP’s comeback? “Everyone has their own theories,” Brendan Boyle says. “Probably, if I had to take a guess, it’s the omnipresence of our Internet culture, which is so dominant and so extreme that people are actively seeking alternatives to clear their heads.”

After college, Boyle married a teacher and moved several times around the Midwest as his wife took teaching gigs. He worked in community radio and sold records and CDs over the Internet. After his wife found steady work in San Diego as a high school teacher, Boyle says he started frequenting local record stores with the goal of learning as much as he could about the business. A record collector himself, he became a regular customer at Folk Arts and struck up a friendship with Curtiss that led to him buying the business. “Lou was a big part of my education,” Boyle says.

Since buying Folk Arts, Boyle has moved two more times, settling into his store’s present location at 36th and University in 2020. He expanded the store’s inventory from its core folk and blues focus, and now has tens of thousands of vinyl LPs in stock, including a big selection of classic rock, jazz and even classical.

“We’ve still got the largest selection of American roots music you’re going to find in Southern California — that’s always been a given,” Boyle says. “And then as we’ve grown over the last six years, we have a lot of rock, soul, jazz, electronic, and goth.”

Folk Arts Records initially opened in Little Italy way back in 1967 by the late Lou Curtiss, who also produced live music events ranging from free banjo and fiddle contests in Balboa Park to the San Diego Folk Festival.

Folk Arts has mostly used records, but carries new vinyl, both reissues and new music. “The new stuff we order tends to be in the underground spectrum, not in the mainstream,” he says. As for reissues, “as you get your feet wet in the business, you kind of learn what labels do reissues well and what labels don’t, so you tend to order reissues from labels that have high quality audio, that do a good job on mastering and using original tapes.”

Business, Boyle says, has been good: he opened the store at the right time, as vinyl was beginning its resurgence.

What’s behind the LP’s comeback? “Everyone has their own theories,” Boyle says. “Probably, if I had to take a guess, it’s the omnipresence of our Internet culture, which is so dominant and so extreme that people are actively seeking alternatives to clear their heads.”

His clientele, he says, is equal parts older record collectors and younger people discovering vinyl LPs for the first time. “There’s a huge interest among young people,” he says. “They’re gravitating toward records these days.”

30,000 LPs

Both Boyle and Friesen, the owner of Re-animated Records in La Mesa, spend a good chunk of their time buying used records. Swap meets, estate sales, and even thrift shops are good sources. They buy records from people who bring their old albums into their stores to sell. And they’re always open to buying collections.

“I buy collections and pride myself on paying very good prices and very fair prices,” Boyle says. “A big part of my business is buying large collections, 1000 LPs on up, as large as 30,000.”

Bernie Fishman, owner of Beat Box Records in Barrio Logan, makes lots of house calls, buying collections he learns of “just by being out and about and talking to different people. I also get people bringing in stuff to the shop. I’m always open to buying records that people bring in.”

Boyle buys primarily local, often from people who have inherited big record libraries. “If they hang on to those records out of love and passion for the music, that’s a good thing,” he says. “But oftentimes people don’t know what they’re sitting on, and that’s where someone like myself comes in. First and foremost, I provide the service of consulting people, especially if there’s been a recent death, just to be sincere and sensitive to the situation. I let them know what they have and what it’s worth, and then if they want to do business with me, we go from there.”

Friesen bought a huge record collection, consisting of more than 10,000 LPs, in Alabama in 2017, just after he opened his store. “A friend of mine had a distant cousin who passed, and he was the next of kin,” Friesen recalls. “A shop out there was giving him a real lowball offer, so he hired me to fly out there and appraise it. It was just kind of serendipitous. In the meantime, I had signed the lease and opened the store, so I ended up buying the collection instead of appraising it. It was in this huge four-bedroom house overflowing with rad things. I rented a moving truck and drove it all the way back here.”

Since then, Friesen said, he’s “cooled it on going out and seeking product,” because “now, with the store, people bring it to us.” He’s had his share of disappointments, driving up to a house, “expecting this amazing collection, only to find a bunch of soggy cardboard with mold on it in the garage.”

But every so often, he says, there’s a real find – like the time two years ago he drove up to Buena Park, in Orange County, for an estate sale and found himself buying records and classic horror movie posters from none other than Merle Allin, the older brother of the late punk icon GG Allin. The two had played together in the Murder Junkies before GG Allin’s 1993 death of a heroin overdose.

“Those two big Texas Chainsaw Massacre posters hanging in the store, they came from him,” Friesen says. “He tried to sell me a painting his brother made out of his own shit. I passed on that one.”

Place

Beat Box Records

2148 Logan Avenue, San Diego

Bernie Fishman, who opened Beat Box Records in Barrio Logan in late 2014, might be even more passionate than Boyle or Friesen when it comes to buying records. That’s because Beat Box’s inventory consists almost entirely of used records. “It’s 95 percent old stuff, because that’s what I love.”

Lou Russell is a bit of an outlier. Lou’s Records, the record store he opened in Cardiff in February 1980, is celebrating its thirtieth year in its present location on the old Coast Highway in Leucadia. But unlike his fellow record store owners, Russell, 68, has no aversion to new vinyl reissues of classic rock albums.

“When I started collecting records as a teenager in the late 1990s, the people who schooled me on records back then were like, ‘No, you want the original pressing – you don’t want these reissues,” Fishman says. This was before companies like Sundaze made reissuing vintage LPs a big business, he notes, and before the Internet made buying new vinyl as simple as clicking a button on Amazon. At the time, he said, the few reissues that came out “might be crappy pressings, or would be remastered differently. I learned to put the time into the hunt and go out and find the originals. And just as a side note, today, reissues often cost $30 at retail, whereas the original pressing might only be $15.”

Fishman makes lots of house calls, buying collections he learns of “just by being out and about and talking to different people. I get people bringing in stuff to the shop. I’m always open to buying records that people bring in.”

Fishman, 38, is a native of Columbus, Ohio. He moved to San Diego in 2010. He’s worked in a pizza restaurant, deejayed and sold music lessons over the phone. All the while, he’s supplemented his income by selling records on eBay, “doing OK, but not great.”

Seven years ago, he attended an art show at a collective on Logan Avenue. “I started talking to one of the organizers and he told me they had a room they weren’t using much, and if I wanted to open a record store, I could,” Fishman recalls. “He offered me the room for free for eight months, and I accepted – at the time, I didn’t have a lot of money and I was paying about $80 a month for storage. So I moved my records into the shop and did so well that eight months later, when I had to leave that space, I moved into a storefront across the street, where I am now.”

How’s business? “We’ve been here for six and a half years and business is great,” Fishman says. “The great thing about records is that no matter what you are into, there’s something for you.”

Like the other record store owners, Fishman says his customers range from older collectors to young adults and even teens. “No matter what you’re into, if you’re really into music as more than just background, there’s something for you on vinyl, from the older music you remember from when you were a kid to new music that’s also coming out on vinyl again. We get a lot of younger kids who are starting their own collections and want classic rock, as well as older folks who are rediscovering vinyl as well as serious collectors who are past the mainstream stuff and looking for more specific things.”

Fishman says playing vinyl LPs “is just a different way of listening to music. Records have certainly been romanticized in modern culture, and if you read interviews with a lot of these young musicians you find a lot of them listen to records and love records. It’s more personal; it reminds us of how life used to be. And for the young kids, records are just cooler than CDs and downloading stuff.”

Another plus to vinyl LPs, particularly the older ones, is that in the days before downloading and CDs, crafting an album was an art. LPs hold only about 35 to 40 minutes of music, and the selection of songs, and the order of those songs, was carefully curated by the musicians. So when you play those old original albums, Fishman says, “you’re hearing what the artist intended to put out.”

Lou Russell says his store attracts a wide range of customers. “It’s everybody,” he says. “A lot of kids, a lot of Boomers, and a lot of people in between. Kids are discovering their parents’ vinyl in the garage and pulling it out and getting excited. They’re buying Pink Floyd and Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles, plus new stuff like Mac DeMarco.”

Many of these classic albums have been reissued on CD, generally with alternate tracks or bonus songs added in. “Artists are getting older, and labels are looking to cash in, so they keep repackaging the same stuff and they have to give you a reason to buy it again, so they add new stuff,” Fishman says. “But these are classic albums they’re tampering with, and they’re classics for a reason – so leave them alone.”

It’s soulful

Lou Russell is a bit of an outlier. Lou’s Records, the record store he opened in Cardiff in February 1980, is celebrating its thirtieth year in its present location on the old Coast Highway in Leucadia. But unlike his fellow record store owners, Russell, 68, has no aversion to new vinyl reissues of classic rock albums.

Place

Lou's Records

434 North Coast Highway 101, Encinitas

“We’re actually mostly new vinyl now, and that’s because I just don’t have time to process used vinyl,” he says. “It’s very labor intensive – you’ve got to clean them, check them, make sure they play OK, grade them, and price them. And, besides, people are buying so much classic rock that we just don’t have the used inventory. People want Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours and you don’t get that many traded in, so you don’t always have a used one. So you’ve got to have the new ones in stock – and people keep buying them. It’s the same with Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and all those other classic albums.”

Russell has seen the ups and downs of the business. When he started in 1980, he was selling new and used vinyl LPs, cassettes, and even VHS music videos. Then came the CD explosion. In those pre-Internet days, Lou’s was known for its broad selection that went beyond the limited inventory of chain stores like Licorice Pizza – where Russell briefly worked before opening his own store – and The Wherehouse.

“We were very com­petitive with Tower,” he says, referring to the network of record superstores whose San Diego flagship was located across from the San Diego Sports Arena in what is now a thrift store.

When Lou’s moved to its present location in 1991, Russell initially leased two buildings, one for new LPs, CDs and cassettes and the other for used merchandise. A few years later, with the launch of DVD, he opened a third store in the same little roadside complex, which he dubbed “Lou Land.”

But in the 2000s, CD sales began to wind down, as downloading songs over the Internet, and then streaming, became popular. Then came the recession. And then came Netflix, drawing in movie fans with a $10 all-you-can watch option.

“In 2010 we consoli­dated all the retail into the one store we have, and the video store is now our office and mini-warehouse,” Russell says. “The other store, where we used to sell new CDs, is now an animal hospital.

“It was rough, but we cut staff and tried to make it work. And now we are bouncing back, thanks to the resurgence of vinyl.”

Like the other record store owners, Russell says his store attracts a wide range of customers. “It’s everybody,” he says. “A lot of kids, a lot of Boomers, and a lot of people in between. Kids are discovering their parents’ vinyl in the garage and pulling it out and getting excited. They’re buying Pink Floyd and Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles, plus new stuff like Mac DeMarco. Classic rock, though, does particularly well on vinyl.

“Part of it is nostalgia, part of it is people think it sounds better, and part of it is just, it’s comfortable to hold a record in the hand and look at the artwork, the liner notes...compared to a much-smaller CD, or a download, which you can’t hold at all – it’s just a piece of air.”

Ironically, when CDs first came out, the little five-inch discs sold for about $12, twice as much as LPs. Now, it’s the other way around. “For example, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours is $24 on vinyl and $12 on CD,” Russell says. “Vinyl has always been very strong for us, even in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when the record companies weren’t making much. Now, we’re not only selling more vinyl units, but vinyl is more expensive.”

Will it last? “Hopefully, vinyl will sustain,” Russell says. “And by selling so much new vinyl, we’re creating a supply of used vinyl, down the road.”

He pauses, then adds, “I think records are going to be the last one standing, because they have undefined quality about them that nothing else does. It’s just the vibe of a record and the act of putting a record on a turntable and putting the needle in the groove. It’s very basic, it’s very old-school, and I just think it’s endearing. It’s soulful.”

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Re-animated Records is focused on used vinyl — as well as posters, DVDs, and random paraphernalia from horror movies, Friesen’s other big love.
Re-animated Records is focused on used vinyl — as well as posters, DVDs, and random paraphernalia from horror movies, Friesen’s other big love.

Nicholas Friesen is a 38-year-old native San Diegan – he grew up in Southeast – who has been working in used record stores all his life. “I’ve got this 10,000-hour thing going for me,” he says. “I started working at Music Trader in downtown when I was a senior in high school, and I’ve been loving it ever since. It’s about the only thing I’m good at.”

For years, the CD was the lifeblood of San Diego’s independent record stores, but as digital downloading and then streaming caught on, CD sales shrank, as did the number of local record stores.

But then, about a decade ago, a funny thing happened. The 12-inch vinyl LP, snuffed out by the CD back in the middle 1980s, began a dramatic comeback. It was spurred by nostalgic Boomers who started collecting the albums they had discarded decades earlier, and by a new generation of music lovers who saw the vinyl LP as something cool.

“The first time I heard a record on a turntable, at a friend’s house, I was hooked,” says Jacob Lange, a 19-year-old Carlsbad local who received his first record player this past Christmas as a gift. “I was so used to hearing songs through my phone using Spotify that I could instantly hear the difference in sound quality and just the feel of the music.”

Place

Re-Animated Records

8320 La Mesa Boulevard, La Mesa

Lange, who graduated last June from Carlsbad High and is now a freshman at Chico State, is now building his own collection of vinyl records, focusing on new reissues of classic rock albums such as the Eagles’ Greatest Hits, Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd, Abbey Road by the Beatles and Master of Puppets by Metallica.

“I’ve been around it so much that I never really saw it go away,” Nicholas Friesen says. “It’s been a constant force in my life that people buy records. But I guess within the last five or ten years it seems as though it’s become more than a weird old hobby, and now everybody’s into it.”

With the downturn in CDs, Friesen turned to online sales, buying and selling albums he picked up at swap meets and estate sales. He took a side job as a surgical assistant at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla. But as the vinyl resurgence grew and his online sales shifted more and more toward the vinyl LP, he hung up his scrubs and in June 2017 took out a lease on a La Mesa Boulevard storefront in the heart of La Mesa Village and opened Re-animated Records.

The store is focused on used vinyl — and posters, DVDs, and random paraphernalia from horror movies, Friesen’s other big love. And from the start, the store has been doing well enough to support Friesen, his wife and two sons, the youngest named Henry Lee after the Nick Cave ballad.

Even during the pan­demic, when Friesen cut back store hours to focus on Internet sales again, he’s been bringing in enough money to cover his bills.

“I’ve been around it so much that I never really saw it go away,” he says. “It’s been a constant force in my life that people buy records. But I guess within the last five or ten years, it seems as though it’s become more than a weird old hobby, and now everybody’s into it.”

The vinyl resurgence of the last few years is well documented. The Recording Industry Association of America says consumers bought more vinyl records in 2020 than CDs for first time since the 1980s. And that’s just for new records. Discogs, the big online marketplace for used records, says it facilitated sales of nearly 12 million records in 2020, up more than 40 percent from 2019.

Place

Folk Arts Rare Records

3072 El Cajon Boulevard, San Diego

Re-animated Records is one of more than a dozen independent record stores that have sprung up in San Diego County over the last several years. It joins a handful of hardy survivors such as Spin Records up in Carlsbad, which has been open since 1993; Lou’s in Encinitas, established in 1980; and the granddaddy of them all, Folk Arts Records, which was initially opened in Little Italy way back in 1967 by the late Lou Curtiss, who produced live music events ranging from free banjo and fiddle contests in Balboa Park to the San Diego Folk Festival.

“The first time I heard a record on a turntable, at a friend’s house, I was hooked,” says Jacob Lange, a 19-year-old Carlsbad resident who received his first record player this past Christmas as a gift.

Curtiss sold Folk Arts in July 2014 after years of keeping the store alive through the income of his wife, Virginia, a biochemist. He moved the store several times, and by the time present owner Brendan Boyle acquired the business, “the property was in serious disrepair and the landlord didn’t want to make any improvements.” So Boyle moved the inventory to a new location on El Cajon Boulevard, and opened for business in September 2020.

Boyle, now 39, studied at the University of California, Davis from 2002 to 2009. He deejayed for the school radio station, KVDS, which is known for its large record and CD collection. “Technically, my major was history, but my real degree is records,” he says.

What’s behind the LP’s comeback? “Everyone has their own theories,” Brendan Boyle says. “Probably, if I had to take a guess, it’s the omnipresence of our Internet culture, which is so dominant and so extreme that people are actively seeking alternatives to clear their heads.”

After college, Boyle married a teacher and moved several times around the Midwest as his wife took teaching gigs. He worked in community radio and sold records and CDs over the Internet. After his wife found steady work in San Diego as a high school teacher, Boyle says he started frequenting local record stores with the goal of learning as much as he could about the business. A record collector himself, he became a regular customer at Folk Arts and struck up a friendship with Curtiss that led to him buying the business. “Lou was a big part of my education,” Boyle says.

Since buying Folk Arts, Boyle has moved two more times, settling into his store’s present location at 36th and University in 2020. He expanded the store’s inventory from its core folk and blues focus, and now has tens of thousands of vinyl LPs in stock, including a big selection of classic rock, jazz and even classical.

“We’ve still got the largest selection of American roots music you’re going to find in Southern California — that’s always been a given,” Boyle says. “And then as we’ve grown over the last six years, we have a lot of rock, soul, jazz, electronic, and goth.”

Folk Arts Records initially opened in Little Italy way back in 1967 by the late Lou Curtiss, who also produced live music events ranging from free banjo and fiddle contests in Balboa Park to the San Diego Folk Festival.

Folk Arts has mostly used records, but carries new vinyl, both reissues and new music. “The new stuff we order tends to be in the underground spectrum, not in the mainstream,” he says. As for reissues, “as you get your feet wet in the business, you kind of learn what labels do reissues well and what labels don’t, so you tend to order reissues from labels that have high quality audio, that do a good job on mastering and using original tapes.”

Business, Boyle says, has been good: he opened the store at the right time, as vinyl was beginning its resurgence.

What’s behind the LP’s comeback? “Everyone has their own theories,” Boyle says. “Probably, if I had to take a guess, it’s the omnipresence of our Internet culture, which is so dominant and so extreme that people are actively seeking alternatives to clear their heads.”

His clientele, he says, is equal parts older record collectors and younger people discovering vinyl LPs for the first time. “There’s a huge interest among young people,” he says. “They’re gravitating toward records these days.”

30,000 LPs

Both Boyle and Friesen, the owner of Re-animated Records in La Mesa, spend a good chunk of their time buying used records. Swap meets, estate sales, and even thrift shops are good sources. They buy records from people who bring their old albums into their stores to sell. And they’re always open to buying collections.

“I buy collections and pride myself on paying very good prices and very fair prices,” Boyle says. “A big part of my business is buying large collections, 1000 LPs on up, as large as 30,000.”

Bernie Fishman, owner of Beat Box Records in Barrio Logan, makes lots of house calls, buying collections he learns of “just by being out and about and talking to different people. I also get people bringing in stuff to the shop. I’m always open to buying records that people bring in.”

Boyle buys primarily local, often from people who have inherited big record libraries. “If they hang on to those records out of love and passion for the music, that’s a good thing,” he says. “But oftentimes people don’t know what they’re sitting on, and that’s where someone like myself comes in. First and foremost, I provide the service of consulting people, especially if there’s been a recent death, just to be sincere and sensitive to the situation. I let them know what they have and what it’s worth, and then if they want to do business with me, we go from there.”

Friesen bought a huge record collection, consisting of more than 10,000 LPs, in Alabama in 2017, just after he opened his store. “A friend of mine had a distant cousin who passed, and he was the next of kin,” Friesen recalls. “A shop out there was giving him a real lowball offer, so he hired me to fly out there and appraise it. It was just kind of serendipitous. In the meantime, I had signed the lease and opened the store, so I ended up buying the collection instead of appraising it. It was in this huge four-bedroom house overflowing with rad things. I rented a moving truck and drove it all the way back here.”

Since then, Friesen said, he’s “cooled it on going out and seeking product,” because “now, with the store, people bring it to us.” He’s had his share of disappointments, driving up to a house, “expecting this amazing collection, only to find a bunch of soggy cardboard with mold on it in the garage.”

But every so often, he says, there’s a real find – like the time two years ago he drove up to Buena Park, in Orange County, for an estate sale and found himself buying records and classic horror movie posters from none other than Merle Allin, the older brother of the late punk icon GG Allin. The two had played together in the Murder Junkies before GG Allin’s 1993 death of a heroin overdose.

“Those two big Texas Chainsaw Massacre posters hanging in the store, they came from him,” Friesen says. “He tried to sell me a painting his brother made out of his own shit. I passed on that one.”

Place

Beat Box Records

2148 Logan Avenue, San Diego

Bernie Fishman, who opened Beat Box Records in Barrio Logan in late 2014, might be even more passionate than Boyle or Friesen when it comes to buying records. That’s because Beat Box’s inventory consists almost entirely of used records. “It’s 95 percent old stuff, because that’s what I love.”

Lou Russell is a bit of an outlier. Lou’s Records, the record store he opened in Cardiff in February 1980, is celebrating its thirtieth year in its present location on the old Coast Highway in Leucadia. But unlike his fellow record store owners, Russell, 68, has no aversion to new vinyl reissues of classic rock albums.

“When I started collecting records as a teenager in the late 1990s, the people who schooled me on records back then were like, ‘No, you want the original pressing – you don’t want these reissues,” Fishman says. This was before companies like Sundaze made reissuing vintage LPs a big business, he notes, and before the Internet made buying new vinyl as simple as clicking a button on Amazon. At the time, he said, the few reissues that came out “might be crappy pressings, or would be remastered differently. I learned to put the time into the hunt and go out and find the originals. And just as a side note, today, reissues often cost $30 at retail, whereas the original pressing might only be $15.”

Fishman makes lots of house calls, buying collections he learns of “just by being out and about and talking to different people. I get people bringing in stuff to the shop. I’m always open to buying records that people bring in.”

Fishman, 38, is a native of Columbus, Ohio. He moved to San Diego in 2010. He’s worked in a pizza restaurant, deejayed and sold music lessons over the phone. All the while, he’s supplemented his income by selling records on eBay, “doing OK, but not great.”

Seven years ago, he attended an art show at a collective on Logan Avenue. “I started talking to one of the organizers and he told me they had a room they weren’t using much, and if I wanted to open a record store, I could,” Fishman recalls. “He offered me the room for free for eight months, and I accepted – at the time, I didn’t have a lot of money and I was paying about $80 a month for storage. So I moved my records into the shop and did so well that eight months later, when I had to leave that space, I moved into a storefront across the street, where I am now.”

How’s business? “We’ve been here for six and a half years and business is great,” Fishman says. “The great thing about records is that no matter what you are into, there’s something for you.”

Like the other record store owners, Fishman says his customers range from older collectors to young adults and even teens. “No matter what you’re into, if you’re really into music as more than just background, there’s something for you on vinyl, from the older music you remember from when you were a kid to new music that’s also coming out on vinyl again. We get a lot of younger kids who are starting their own collections and want classic rock, as well as older folks who are rediscovering vinyl as well as serious collectors who are past the mainstream stuff and looking for more specific things.”

Fishman says playing vinyl LPs “is just a different way of listening to music. Records have certainly been romanticized in modern culture, and if you read interviews with a lot of these young musicians you find a lot of them listen to records and love records. It’s more personal; it reminds us of how life used to be. And for the young kids, records are just cooler than CDs and downloading stuff.”

Another plus to vinyl LPs, particularly the older ones, is that in the days before downloading and CDs, crafting an album was an art. LPs hold only about 35 to 40 minutes of music, and the selection of songs, and the order of those songs, was carefully curated by the musicians. So when you play those old original albums, Fishman says, “you’re hearing what the artist intended to put out.”

Lou Russell says his store attracts a wide range of customers. “It’s everybody,” he says. “A lot of kids, a lot of Boomers, and a lot of people in between. Kids are discovering their parents’ vinyl in the garage and pulling it out and getting excited. They’re buying Pink Floyd and Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles, plus new stuff like Mac DeMarco.”

Many of these classic albums have been reissued on CD, generally with alternate tracks or bonus songs added in. “Artists are getting older, and labels are looking to cash in, so they keep repackaging the same stuff and they have to give you a reason to buy it again, so they add new stuff,” Fishman says. “But these are classic albums they’re tampering with, and they’re classics for a reason – so leave them alone.”

It’s soulful

Lou Russell is a bit of an outlier. Lou’s Records, the record store he opened in Cardiff in February 1980, is celebrating its thirtieth year in its present location on the old Coast Highway in Leucadia. But unlike his fellow record store owners, Russell, 68, has no aversion to new vinyl reissues of classic rock albums.

Place

Lou's Records

434 North Coast Highway 101, Encinitas

“We’re actually mostly new vinyl now, and that’s because I just don’t have time to process used vinyl,” he says. “It’s very labor intensive – you’ve got to clean them, check them, make sure they play OK, grade them, and price them. And, besides, people are buying so much classic rock that we just don’t have the used inventory. People want Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours and you don’t get that many traded in, so you don’t always have a used one. So you’ve got to have the new ones in stock – and people keep buying them. It’s the same with Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and all those other classic albums.”

Russell has seen the ups and downs of the business. When he started in 1980, he was selling new and used vinyl LPs, cassettes, and even VHS music videos. Then came the CD explosion. In those pre-Internet days, Lou’s was known for its broad selection that went beyond the limited inventory of chain stores like Licorice Pizza – where Russell briefly worked before opening his own store – and The Wherehouse.

“We were very com­petitive with Tower,” he says, referring to the network of record superstores whose San Diego flagship was located across from the San Diego Sports Arena in what is now a thrift store.

When Lou’s moved to its present location in 1991, Russell initially leased two buildings, one for new LPs, CDs and cassettes and the other for used merchandise. A few years later, with the launch of DVD, he opened a third store in the same little roadside complex, which he dubbed “Lou Land.”

But in the 2000s, CD sales began to wind down, as downloading songs over the Internet, and then streaming, became popular. Then came the recession. And then came Netflix, drawing in movie fans with a $10 all-you-can watch option.

“In 2010 we consoli­dated all the retail into the one store we have, and the video store is now our office and mini-warehouse,” Russell says. “The other store, where we used to sell new CDs, is now an animal hospital.

“It was rough, but we cut staff and tried to make it work. And now we are bouncing back, thanks to the resurgence of vinyl.”

Like the other record store owners, Russell says his store attracts a wide range of customers. “It’s everybody,” he says. “A lot of kids, a lot of Boomers, and a lot of people in between. Kids are discovering their parents’ vinyl in the garage and pulling it out and getting excited. They’re buying Pink Floyd and Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles, plus new stuff like Mac DeMarco. Classic rock, though, does particularly well on vinyl.

“Part of it is nostalgia, part of it is people think it sounds better, and part of it is just, it’s comfortable to hold a record in the hand and look at the artwork, the liner notes...compared to a much-smaller CD, or a download, which you can’t hold at all – it’s just a piece of air.”

Ironically, when CDs first came out, the little five-inch discs sold for about $12, twice as much as LPs. Now, it’s the other way around. “For example, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours is $24 on vinyl and $12 on CD,” Russell says. “Vinyl has always been very strong for us, even in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when the record companies weren’t making much. Now, we’re not only selling more vinyl units, but vinyl is more expensive.”

Will it last? “Hopefully, vinyl will sustain,” Russell says. “And by selling so much new vinyl, we’re creating a supply of used vinyl, down the road.”

He pauses, then adds, “I think records are going to be the last one standing, because they have undefined quality about them that nothing else does. It’s just the vibe of a record and the act of putting a record on a turntable and putting the needle in the groove. It’s very basic, it’s very old-school, and I just think it’s endearing. It’s soulful.”

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