“Right here? This is the shop’s fifth location.” Earlier this summer, Brendan Boyle bought out Folk Arts Rare Records, founded nearly half a century ago by Lou Curtiss. Inside the new location on El Cajon Boulevard in North Park, the only thing missing is the man himself and the funky old-house clutter that most shoppers and friends found part of the charm. Otherwise, the new store is part crate-digger nirvana, part Folk Arts museum.
3072 El Cajon Boulevard, North Park
“Sam Chatmon” — Boyle points to one of the many vintage photos transplanted from the old house that garnish the new walls — “that one was taken in the Folk Arts shop in Hillcrest. It was open from 1972 to 1977. Here’s Tom Waits at the same store. Here’s one of Smokey Rogers from the Bostonia Ballroom. Lou used to watch Smokey’s TV show. Later, they became friends.” The tradition continues: a visitor recalls having similar talks with Curtiss over the years at his different locations, inspired by these same old photos and show posters. So far, Boyle thinks he has less than half of the memorabilia displayed, all of which he points out is still owned by Curtiss. “It reduced the asking price of the store to let him keep the memorabilia.” Besides, it was the substantial record inventory that drove the sale and required the most attention.
“I started going through the stuff on July 7. It was a big job, and it was kind of complicated. I looked through every single record in the store.” Boyle says he worked days and nights, culling out duplicates and records he deemed in un-sellable condition. “I rented a storage unit, and I filled it to the brim with crates of records from the store. I’ll be bringing in 200 newly priced records every day. That’s my goal.”
Boyle is 32. He lives in North Park. “I worked at a community radio station in Davis [California] for seven years. They had a huge album library there. That’s where a lot of my education came from. I also have a lot of experience selling records.” But, why move the entire store? Boyle says there were problems with the old house. “There was no wheelchair ramp, and, there was no air conditioning.” Any haters? “No. The exact opposite. A lot of people have stopped by and said how happy they are that I’m keeping it alive. Lou and Virginia are both onboard. He’ll probably be running the store from time to time.” Curtiss, 75, closed the deal with Boyle at the end of June. “My goal is to keep the store alive and make a modest living. If I can’t do that, then it won’t work out.”