Get To Know Your Local Independent Retailer Vol. 22 – Streetlight

The Bay Area has always been known as a hub of musical awesomeness so surely you could count on the landscape being home to myriad awesome record stores. Surely, you could count on that. In fact, you can count on that. Especially if you’re visiting one of the three Streetlight Records locations. They’re a no frills, all awesome record store that harks back to a time that was very, very kind to record stores. These guys rule. I know it, you should know it too. I spoke with my homie Paige Brodsky about some things. Read those things now.

1. Tell us briefly about your store.
We have three stores in the Bay Area—Santa Cruz, San Jose and San Francisco. We carry new and used CDs, Blu-rays, DVDs, vinyl and video games, along with accessories (headphones, vinyl supplies, turntables, etc.) and a smattering of lifestyle products. We’ve been in business as a record store since 1975.

2. What got you into the independent record store business?
The owner originally had a used stereo component shop that morphed into a used record store in the mid-70s and grew from there.

3. Who are some of your favorite contemporary stores?
Some personal faves are Record Archive in Rochester, Twist & Shout in Denver, Salzer’s in Ventura, On the Corner in Campbell, CA.

4. How have things been going from a business perspective?
It’s definitely been tough these last few years, but things have really been looking up in 2012. We’ve seen an increase in sales thus far this year, which is very encouraging. The growing success of Record Store Day and Black Friday has certainly helped. We feel like people are really beginning to get it that physical products are where it’s at and that shopping local is the way to go.

5. What do you think spells the survival for an independent record store today?
Like an investment portfolio, the key is probably in diversification. In-store performances, cross-promotions with other local businesses and event-based promotions seem to be working well for us, in terms of augmenting the traditional sales model. For instance, our Santa Cruz store is now participating in First Friday events and our San Jose location is about to host its second Record Swap.

6. What are some of the coolest thing labels have done with you? Instores? Promotions? Sales?
The number one thing for us that labels have done is high-profile in-store performances and signings. Nothing says “cool, fun place to be” like an in-store with one of your favorite bands! In addition, we’ve had success in the past with catalog promotions that involve a combination of deep discounts and co-op dollars to support the program.

7. Why do we need record stores?
In addition to serving its primary function of music/movie/game commerce, the record store can serve as something of a cultural gathering spot for the community. Like music and movies? Want to talk to other people who like music and movies? Go to your local record store! The things you can learn and share with others who are like-minded are truly incredible.

8. What kind of taco is your favorite?
The kind that looks like a burrito.

9. Who are your top 3 favorite bands right now?
This question is always so hard. I’ll go with the last three things I listened to: Trampled By Turtles, Black Joe Lewis and Paul Thorn. That will change by tomorrow, though.

10. What is your favorite thing about your store? And you can’t say the customers. That’s like saying Einstein or Ghandi when asked “If you could meet one person, living or dead…”
I have two favorite things (besides our amazing customers). The first would be my co-workers, who are smart, witty, warm, compassionate people. I love it that I get to spend every day with them. The other is the vast number of LPs, CDs and DVDs we have. It makes this journey of learning and listening a never-ending one, which I cherish.

11. What are your goals for the future of your store? Long term and short.
The short term goal is always to keep the doors open. The long term goal is to reach the point where the rest of our community feels the same way we do about the record store being a cultural community center. When we’ve achieved that, we will be happy campers.