A matter of record
The brick-and-mortar record store was reported dead a decade ago, right alongside the newspaper, demolished in the dread path of Hurricane Internet. But those reports have been greatly exaggerated. Newspapers—some of us, anyway—have found ways to adapt, and likewise record stores have proved quietly resilient. They’re not the “megastores” they once were, but record stores have survived as ma-and-pop specialty shops. They’re not places that mall rats go to buy the newest blockbuster releases, they’re weird little stores with unique characters behind the counters, where devoted music nerds go to browse, hunting for sounds and songs overlooked by their parents and grandparents.
One such local shop is Spectre Records, which opened up in a tiny 150-square foot building on Center Street this February. The owners, Gabriel Torres and his wife, Michelle Haas-Torres, recently announced that the store was moving to a new location, a storefront on Wells Avenue. The new location will be about 1,100-square feet, nearly 10 times the size of the previous spot. The shop carries an eclectic variety of music, with a slight specialization in garage rock and post-punk. According to Torres, the store sells more used vinyl LPs than anything else, followed by new LPs and used cassette tapes. Many of their customers are young people who weren’t even born the last time those formats were in vogue.
“People gave up on records a long time ago,” said Torres. “Most people gave up on records 20 years ago. You’ve got a generation in between that has no idea—so to kids, it’s something new. And that’s who we’re selling to mostly—late teens, early 20s—a lot of kids who are looking for a new way to discover music. … People come in and they want to find something new.”
He says customers often come in looking to discover new music, rather than trying to track down music they’re already familiar with. “They might not recognize everything that we’re carrying, but I think that’s what’s exciting, rather than going into a place and saying, oh, I saw that at Goodwill.”
The larger new location will allow the store to carry more music, as well as movies in various formats, music magazines and zines, including the inventory of the defunct zine shop Mixed Message. They carry music by local bands and artists, and Haas-Torres herself runs a small record label, Noise Loves Audio, which recently released a compilation cassette featuring bands from Sacramento and Reno, which is of course available at the store.
The new location is 1336 S. Wells Ave., near the intersection of Wells and Vassar, less than a block from the former locations of 1990s era punk rock record stores Insurrection and Resurrection record stores. It’s also near the Holland Project, an important local hub for the young music fans that Spectre caters toward.
The grand opening for the new location begins on Dec. 11, at noon. The bands Flores and Current Joys will play in the store that evening starting at 7 p.m.
Haas-Torres came up with the store’s catchy, spooky name, and her husband thinks it’s a fitting description of the current state of the music industry.
“You can apply the metaphor of ghosts to records as ghosts are something that used to exist but doesn’t exist, but kind of still exists,” she said. “Some people still believe wholeheartedly, but not everyone does. It applies to vinyl records as well. It used to be the only way to deliver music and then everybody gave up on them and some people still don’t believe that anybody listens to records anymore, but they’re still around and to some people, they’re big and important.”