We’re goin’ down to South Park and we’re gonna have ourselves a time: The San Diego borough -- currently home to spots like Hamilton’s Tavern, Kindred, the Whistle Stop, Eclipse Chocolate Bar & Bistro, and Buona Forchetta (among many others) -- is all set to welcome its newest addition, the Vinyl Junkies Record Shack.
The newly announced, used-vinyl-focused shop arrives as a joint venture between Casbah owner Tim Mays and M-Theory Music founder Eric Howarth -- and hosts its grand opening on Nov. 24-25, at 2235 Fern St., directly across the street from the Whistle Stop.
Howarth, who for the last four years has organized and helmed the bi-monthly Vinyl Junkies swap meets (and mobile shop) usually held at the Casbah, told SoundDiego that the idea for the record store came up rather serendipitously between him and Mays.
“I mentioned to Tim that I was looking for a buyer for the [Vinyl Junkies] business to pass the torch on to. I was giving him more of a heads up than thinking Tim had the time or desire to get into another business! I was surprised to hear he was interested, but only if I stayed on as a partner to manage the actual business of buying and selling records, since he doesn’t have experience in that specifically.”
Turns out the partnership affords Howarth a certain amount of extra flexibility he just didn't have as the owner/operator of Vinyl Junkies, which is why he approached Mays about purchasing the operation in the first place.
"We decided that I'd get the store up and running, hire a manager, and then manage from a higher level, freeing up the time I need to pursue my other projects," Howarth explained. "It's essentially the best-case scenario that came out of it. I love records. I just needed more time. So now I'm able to get both. And Tim is excited to be part of a record store, too. I couldn't have picked a better partner."
For the unfamiliar, between 2001 and 2009, Howarth owned and operated M-Theory Music out of South Park before selling it to its current owners (who recently moved its Mission Hills locale a couple doors down to 827 W. Washington St.). Funnily enough, he seems just as amazed at his newest venture as anyone.
“Ironically, over the years, people have asked if I missed or wanted to open a new store and I would dramatically say for effect ‘Hell no!,’ followed with a laugh. Not because I didn’t like it, but because I had other interests and appreciated not having the responsibilities of running a store. But like Michael Corleone says in ‘Godfather: Part III’: ‘Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!’ I guess there’s a reason I named it Vinyl Junkies. It’s tough to give it up!”
Mays was quick to agree.
“I grew up in Barstow and my first record was ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand,’ which I bought the day after seeing [the Beatles] on Ed Sullivan,” he said. “Over my teen years in junior high and high school, I'd go to the record store at least once a week to buy 45s and bring them home to play on my Singer portable record player. To this day, whenever I go into a thrift store, I go straight to the record bins and flip through them, taking in that great musty smell of old record covers. Love that we are going to open this store together in a neighborhood that I, too, spent much time in -- I lived on 31st and Grape back in the early '80s for a few years. Great to come full circle, both for the store and Eric and I.”
Ultimately, skyrocketing rent was the main culprit in M-Theory's eventual South Park demise, even though it was a shop beloved by patrons. However, the neighborhood is a vastly different landscape now than it was then -- and it definitely helps that Sam Chammas (Whistle Stop/Station Tavern/Live Wire owner) is the Record Shack’s landlord.
“[Chammas] has always put a focus on the bigger picture of the neighborhood, keeping it indie, and doing what’s right for the community," Howarth said. "So we’ve got a great partnership there and Tim, Sam, and I have been friends for many years.”
The shop is scheduled to open up, appropriately, on Record Store Day -- even though they won’t be offering RSD titles…just yet.
“We’ll have our hands full pricing all the used records we’ve been buying and getting the shop ready. But it seemed like a great time to celebrate the new shop and we’ll have vinyl gems that people will be very excited about. For the next Record Store Day, we’ll bring in titles,” Howarth added.
Vinyl won’t be the only thing up for sale at the shop either. Guitar strings, turntables, vinyl cleaning supplies and other items will be offered -- along with tickets to Casbah shows. As the exclusive ticket retailer for the famed Kettner Boulevard club, the Record Shack will charge minimal service charges and act as the Casbah's home away from home -- which comes with a few other perks.
“If [Mays] is doing a show with a band at the Casbah and they’re pushing for an all-ages option as well, then we may do an in-store to support their younger fans,” Howarth said. “One of the cool things about the Record Shack is there’s a back patio. So we plan on inviting our record-collecting friends to throw parties with them DJing and people can BBQ, etc. Kind of like the vibe of the [Vinyl Junkies] record swaps. But at a house. With one vendor!”
When it comes to vinyl, Howarth more than knows his stuff, and his perspective on the culture seems to align perfectly with South Park’s tight-knit community vibe.
“Records are a great way to enhance our lives through developing new relationships and deepening friendships. Collecting for the sake of collecting … has its place. But to me, using records to foster community and a mutual appreciation for the music contained on the record, with the social, economic, political messages inherent in the artist’s work, is more important than how rare that first pressing UK LP is. And that’s the sort of attitude we want to have with the new shop. Not losing sight of the big picture of how music enriches our lives. And we plan on having fun doing that!”
The Vinyl Junkies Record Shack is currently buying as many record collections as they can: Contact them at 619-816-1830 or records [at] vinyljunkies.net. And be sure to join them for their Grand Opening party with DJs, food, bands, and more on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 24-25.