High fidelity again

The last couple years have been dire ones for sound hounds throughout the Sacramento area, with no less than five record stores closing their doors. So, when Dan and Heather Sostrom, the husband-and-wife team who started Clairecords and Tonevendor Distribution, moved to Sacramento from Gainesville, Fla., a couple years back, one of their top priorities was to open a retail storefront to complement their mail-order business.

Lo and behold, their perseverance paid off. On March 29, a red door on J Street opened wide. And inside it looked like someone’s very cool living room that just happened to house almost 7,000 different titles. Off in the corner, a pair of turntables was being manned by Leon Levy (from that swell combo the Frenchmen), spinning an array of pure pop confections while a full house perused the stacks of vinyl, CDs and ’zines. Several KDVS DJs wore wide grins, and the clattering of people combing through CD cases was music to these ears. Members of Gusto, Electrogroup, Carquinez Straits and the Lookyloos were seen hoarding treasures, while the Sostroms were behind the glass cases full of boxed sets and rarities, looking like the content owners, busy clerks and gracious hosts they are.

Wes Steed from Park Avenue Music took over the Technics and offered up easy-listening versions of Bacharach and other exotica, while my peepers tried to find a focal point. The new Deerhoof. Stereolab’s BBC sessions. A Savage Republic boxed set. Psych reissues from the 1960s. A lot of titles from the Blackbean and Placenta label. Morr Music compilations. A Piano Magic 7-inch. My eyes were welling up, partly out of joy and partly out of my newfound poverty.

The Sostroms say they want to maintain the store’s “indie-ness” and not cater to the Top-40, while expanding the stock to include some u-ground hip-hop, jazz and punk and much more electronica. A lot of that will come after the Sostroms outgrow their new home, which they’re already planning to do. And given the enthusiastic opening-day reception, it shouldn’t take long.

A couple of us walked outside, where a table of food was offered up for kids to nosh on, and conversations ranged from idle gossip to full-on record critiques. A scratchy Martin Denny spun in the background. Dan Sostrom ambled outside for a breather. He looked tired but happy. Heather came out to relay a question from a customer, and he ducked back inside to help out.

A new mom and pop record store is always a cause to celebrate here in Sacramento. Especially when mom and pop are grooving to the Aislers Set. Tonevendor is located at 1812 J Street, Suite 1, its phone number is (916) 551-1597, and its Web site is located at www.tonevendor.com.