1977 San Diego guide to record stores

Chameleon, Swap-a-Tape, Monty Rockers, Blue Meanie, Arcade, Scratching the Surface, Flipside, Folk Arts

Arcade Music

Arcade Music

With record prices climbing higher and higher each year (many new releases now bear a list price of $7.98), it’s hardly surprising that the market for selling and buying used albums has rapidly expanded into a large-scale, full-time enterprise. In the past, one could always find dedicated record collectors in second-hand stores and at garage sales, diligently working their way through dusty bins of albums, singles and 78’s. However, it has only been in recent years that stores catering to both the collector and the average, everyday listener have appeared.

As far as the San Diego market goes, the first store specializing in used records was Arcade Music, which opened in 1958. Since then, the number of used record stores here has varied, with the largest growth in the field taking place over the last few years. (No less than four new stores dealing in used records have opened since the beginning of 1977). Still, the attrition rate for stores featuring used items has been high, and nearly half of the used record stores listed in the 1976/77 telephone directory no longer exist.

Chameleon Records, 3719 India Street, San Diego (295-3702). Nestled in the art colony on India Street, Chameleon Records has been in business for about one year. The store shares its floor space with “Wear It Again Sam,” a used dress shop, and also sells new records at about two dollars off list price. Owner Bobby Saito tries to offer potential customers “highly personalized, individual service,” with an emphasis on jazz. Besides jazz, the store also features disco, salsa and pop. Less importance is put on rock, blues, classical and reggae. Saito, who was promoting this year’s India Street Jazz Festival, stresses that he likes to establish a personal approach with his customers.

Used albums sell for $1.98, with a guaranteed return. Customers selling to Chameleon receive $1.00 per record, and any item bought by the store for resale must be in excellent condition. Although 8-track and cassette tapes are not presently carried, an expansion of stock is planned. Store hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

Swap-A-Tape, 3333 Rosecrans Boulevard, San Diego (224-1355); 2354 University Avenue, North Park (291-2650); 10251 Mast, Santee (449-5211); 1436 Highland Avenue, National City (477-0702); 4456 Douglas Avenue, El Cajon (447-2532); 631 East Valley Parkway, Escondido (741-9314).

There are six Swap-A-Tapes in the greater San Diego area, including stores in Santee and Escondido. As its name implies, tapes are the featured entity, although a good range of albums is available at all locations. A unique feature of Swap-A-Tape is that no money is given to customers in return for merchandise. Rather, the customer can trade in his or her tapes and records, receiving half a dollar in credit per album, and one dollar in credit per tape. Tapes retail at $2.49 each, while albums go for a dollar a piece. Thus, customers can take in two of their used albums, and obtain a “new” (figuratively speaking) album in return.

Records and tapes bought from the public must be in good, playable condition. If you are not satisfied with what you have purchased, you may trade it in for a similarly priced item. Although the quantity of material stocked varies from store to store, most locations have an average of about 5,000 8-track tapes, 4,000 albums and 1,000 cassettes. (According to its owner and founder, Swap-A-Tape has a large enough turnover to open a new store every three months). Free tape repair service is done while you wait, but this is performed only as a special service to customers, and you may not leave tapes for repair overnight. While none of the six stores specializes in a particular type of music, rock appears to be the predominant seller. All locations also carry new tapes and records, and are open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Monty Rockers, 5704 El Cajon Boulevard, San Diego (286-4970). Monty Rockers is one of San Diego’s newest used record shops, having only opened five months ago. Owner Dan McLain has tried to make Monty Rockers distinct from its competitors by striving for what is best described as a living room atmosphere. Free coffee and bottled water is available, and for those inclined towards gambling, there are pinball machines on the premises. Record prices vary from 50 cents up to $2.00. Double albums sell for around $3.50, and all records over a dollar are guaranteed. The amount that customers are given for their albums varies, with $1.20 being the going price for a recent release in excellent condition. Monty’s also stocks new records, which may be rented for $1.50 unopened, and $1.25 opened (which means that technically, the record no longer is “new”). Before renting an album, you will be required to make a deposit comparable to said record’s value.

While it remains to be seen just how successful this “rent a record” policy will be, the concept should find favor with those music buffs who like to record LP’s for their tape collection., Monty Rockers offers records in several categories, including jazz, rock, comedy, classical, folk and soul. There is a difference, though. “I don’t take just any albums, like some stores do,” explains owner McLain. “This is all handpicked stuff, and I won’t take stuff by people that never went anywhere, like Three Dog Night or The Monkees.” Store hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and noon till six Sundays.

Blue Meanie Records, 1207 North Second Avenue, El Cajon (442-2212). In case you didn’t guess, Blue Meanie Records specializes in Beatles-related items. In addition to such rarities as German editions of early Beatles albums. Blue Meanie also has an Apple Records section, which includes releases by Jackie Lomax, Bad-finger and Mary Hopkins. Elsewhere one finds a used copy of the MC5’s perennial punk classic. Back in the USA, sitting right next to Glad All Over by the Dave Clark Five. According to manager Garry Shrum, “a lot of 16-year-olds are really getting into the Beaties; kids who are much too young to have been into them originally.” Used albums, of which there are many, and which are common and in print, retail for between $1.00 and $2.00. Out of print or deleted records vary in price, but Blue Meanie will pay its customers as much as $40.00 for extremely rare albums. Most records bought by the store fetch a price of $1.00 or $1.25, though, and the condition of any record bought from the public must be “good to excellent.”

In business for over a year now, Blue Meanie offers an extensive collection of used rock magazines, most notably issues of Rolling Stone, as far back as 1969. The store also carries punk rock and import items, as well as posters, buttons and similar merchandise, all at widely varying prices. Albums costing between $2.00 and $2.50 are guaranteed, and customers may listen to any collectable record prior to purchase. Open from noon to 7 p.m., Monday and Tuesday, noon to 9 p.m., Wednesday through Friday, and Saturday and Sunday till 6 p.m.

8 Track Thrift Shop, 3945 5th Avenue, San Diego (299-0088). One of the lesser known, and certainly one of the more interesting used stores in town, 8 Track Thrift Shop is located in Hillcrest, between Washington and University. Like Swap-A-Tape, 8 Track offers repair work on the premises at no extra charge to its customers. What makes the store particularly unique is that owner Charles Cobern manufactures his own cassette tapes. Cobern, whose brother founded the Swap-A-Tape chain, sells his self-made Universal brand blank cassettes. Another feature of the store is that customers may listen to any record or tape prior to purchase. All LP’s sell for $1.00 each, while pre-recorded 8-tracks and cassettes go for $2.49.

The Thrift Shop has approximately 5,800 albums in stock, along with 4,600 8-track tapes and 2,000 cassettes. Merchandise bought from the public must be factory recorded, with a “good” label (no bootlegs are accepted). For those willing to spend an hour or two browsing, 8 Track Thrift Shop has a number of hard-to-find items. A Sam & Dave album in good condition, copies of the first three Blue Cheer records, and Dave Brubeck’s Time Out LP were among my discoveries, and heavy metal and rhythm ’n’ blues fans would be well advised to check out the goods. Store hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

Scratching the Surface, 3957 Goldfinch, San Diego (295-1267). Of all the record stores dealing in used merchandise in the San Diego area. Scratching the Surface epitomizes the true alternative store. Opened six months ago by Lance Anderson and Frank Gutch, Surface is, in the words of its owners, “into off-the-wall, but excellent music.” What this means is that vinyl addicts can expect to find records at Scratching the Surface that aren’t readily available elsewhere. “Clapton, Beck, and Page; none of them has played new licks in years," opines co-owner Gutch. “It makes me nauseous.” So instead, Gutch pushes records by equally talented, if somewhat lesser known guitarists, such as Allan Holdsworth, Phil Keaggy and Steve Hillage. Used albums cost between $2.00 and $3.96, with some records costing as little as 25c a copy. Persons selling to the store are paid up to $ 1.25 per disc, depending on the condition of the record in question.

Owners Anderson and Gutch say that they are willing to turn people on to what they deem exceptional. Accordingly, a small sign is taped above the record racks, recommending such groups and records as Legs Diamond, Scorpions, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers and Magma. “Fifty to seventy-five percent of the people in the retail record business in San Diego aren’t into music; it's just a job to them,” claims Gutch, who has gone to considerable trouble to obtain punk rock and new wave 45’s and EP’s. Records bought at Scratching the Surface are guaranteed, and the store is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and from noon til 5 p.m. on Sundays.

Flipside Record & Tape Co., 4641 College Avenue, San Diego (287-8018). Flipside Records initially appeared as a Swap-A-Tape, until one year ago, when owner Jack McWilliams decided to strike out on his own with a revamped format. While Flipside likes to emphasize its extremely low prices on new LP’s, it is used records which take up the bulk of the store’s floor space. The total number of records and tapes available is around 20,000 with most records costing between $1.00 and $1.98. Used double-albums go for $3.96, with tapes costing $1.89 and higher. McWilliams states that he would like to present “a better grade of used merchandise,” and explains that the large volume of sales on used items enables him to discount new records, in a manner of one hand feeding the other.

All tapes are guaranteed for a month, and defective records may be returned for up to one week after the date of purchase. Tapes or records bought by the store must be in good condition, and the average price paid to customers selling used items is a “rule of thumb” $1.00. Although rock is the heavily „ featured genre, Flipside also has a small, but very well-stocked supply of contemporary jazz records. Store hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Thursday through Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. on Sundays.

Arcade Music Co. Record and Tape Exchange, 650 F Street, San Diego (239-8856); 378 Third Avenue, Chula Vista (429-9131); 4904 Voltaire, Ocean Beach (225-8856). Founded in 1958, Arcade is both San Diego’s oldest and largest retailer of used records and tapes. Certainly, Arcade has the greatest turnover of stock of any used record store in the area, selling as many as 20,000 records and tapes in a single month. New customers are often amazed to find a large number of brand-new releases being offered at used prices. “A lot of people like to tape new records and then sell them to us right away,” explains general manager David Hakola, who also points to radio stations and journalists as a source for new items. In any case, one can literally spend hours browsing through the merchandise, as Arcade’s downtown store alone holds over 150,000 records and tapes. The store’s comprehensive offerings of rock, jazz, classical, country, soul, folk, soundtracks, et al, make it a favorite.

Albums cost $1.98 each, as do cassette and 8-track tapes. Singles go for either 35e or 49c, and all merchandise carries a five-day guarantee. Customers selling to the store receive either $1.00 or $1.25 per album or tape. Damaged items will be bought at a lesser price, if at all. As for collector’s items general manager Hakola is quick to point out that any such items are sold for the normal $1.98 fee, and describes the store’s back-room as a “goldmine.” Unlike other stores. Arcade will buy any record, regardless of how obscure, so long as it is in good condition. In fact, it has happened that owners of competing used record stores have purchased records at Arcade, which have then been resold at a higher price. (When radio station KFSD halted its jazz programing earlier this year, its entire record library was bought by Arcade, giving local jazz fans a real field day). Yet, while many used record stores view themselves as “alternative stores,” Arcade does not place itself in that category, at least not according to Hakola. “A lot of people just come here to buy their records before they go anywhere else,” explains the 21-year-old general manager. “The other places are the alternatives.” Store hours at the Chula Vista and Ocean Beach locations are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday. The downtown branch is open from 10 a.m to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday, and from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday. All three locations are open Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. UPDATE: Arcade has just opened a new branch at 4593 El Cajon Boulevard. The new store (which was formerly Encore Records, yet another store that specialized in used records), is open Monday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Folk Arts Rare Records, 3611 Adams Avenue, San Diego (282-7833). Situated near Kensington and Normal Heights, Folk Arts has been in existence for ten years, although its move to Adams Avenue was quite recent. The store specializes in music of the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s, with a particular emphasis on bluegrass, jazz and blues. Records can cost anywhere between 50e and $50, and Folk Arts probably carries more collector’s items than any other store in San Diego. Among the items most recently in stock were The New Orleans Wanderers — an early Louis Armstrong group, retailing for $20.00; an extremely rare blues album by Little Harvey Hall on Black Patti Records; and Songs Our Daddy Thought Us, by The Everly Brothers, which listed for $40.00. Prices given to customers selling to the store vary from day to day, but owner Lou Curtiss will accept rare records in less than mint condition, simply because of their rarity. “If a rare record comes in that I haven’t seen a copy of in several years. I’ll probably buy it,” says Curtiss, who has sponsored both the Balboa Park Banjo & Fiddle Contests and the annual San Diego State Folk Festivals since their inception.

A big feature of Folk Arts is its tape service, which allows customers to have tape recordings made from a catalogue of music totaling over 50,000 hours. Prices vary, but for $75 you can obtain the complete recordings of Roy Acuff on six reel-to-reel tapes. One hour cassette recordings cost as little as $7.00, and the selections that can be made are almost endless, including everything from The Boswell Sisters and Bill Monroe, to Leadbelly and Eddie Laingand Joe Venuti. (For the past three years. Folk Arts has operated partially under a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, doing record research and compiling discographies). Customers may hear records prior to purchase, and guarantees are possible in most cases. In the unlikely event that Folk Arts does not have the item you are seeking on either record or tape, chances are that they can probably help you locate what you’re looking for. Store hours are from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday, with the store staying open till 9 p.m. on Wednesdays.

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