Music may be easier to find and listen to than ever before in human history, but San Francisco is lucky to be a city where there are still some great record shops left. These are retail stores preserving the time-honored traditions of flipping through bins and casually discovering artists whose work you can actually touch and put on a turntable — or in a CD player, if you still have one. As local DJs and vinyl fanatics know well, our surviving record shops have, by and large, become niche outlets that cater to specific types of fans — because long gone are the days of huge record emporia like Tower and HMV. (But we've still got Amoeba!) In honor of Record Store Day, which is today, here's a list of shops you should seek out, most of which are running deals and sales today.
1-2-3-4 Go! Records
This shop began a tiny storefront in Oakland's Temescal neighborhood, and now has outposts on both sides of the Bay, with one in the Mission. The selection includes a significant amount of punk and indie rock, as well as plenty of new and used rock records, blues, reggae and other world music. They even clean every used record they sell, which is a welcome bonus. For Record Store Day, both shops are selling copies of the soundtrack to the Wax Trax! documentary, which each come with tickets to a VIP screening of the film.
1038 Valencia Street, SF
420 40th Street #5, Oakland
Founded in Berkeley by former employees of nearby Rasputin Records back in 1990, the enormous Upper Haight location (open since 1997) is as big as it is because it used to be a bowling alley. This sprawling store has managed to survive the record mega-store apocalypse of the last decade, maybe partly because of loyal clientele and a big selection of Blu-Ray discs — and because they do a brisk mail-order business with free shipping. But record junkies know well that this is a great place to lose a few hours hunting for buried, bargain-bin treasure.
1855 Haight Street
2455 Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley
This Castro-adjacent record shop (on the Octavia side of Mint Hill) is a true SF treasure, though it may not be the best organized record store in town. Late owner and founder Ray Anderson, who passed away in 2016, was a well known 1960's counterculture figure in the city, as head of the Holy See Light Show, and the curation of the store remains his work. "People like the idea of being able to find something serendipitously," he told the Chron back in 2007, when at that point his cluttered shop was ringing in its tenth anniversary on Market Street. The fate of this place, without Anderson, seems kind of up in the air, so if you're on the hunt for that rare rock concert album or lounge-era oddity, head in while you can.
This four-year-old business from brothers Matt and Dom Siracusa moved to this sweet corner spot near Alamo Square on Fillmore Street (at Hayes) in late 2016. Specializing in hip-hop, old-school soul, and jazz, Originals Vinyl is a well curated neighborhood shop with a terrific staff. They also offer record cleaning for your vintage vinyl, using a state-of-the-art, ultra-sonic machine, for $2.50 per record. They also offer de-warping services ($10 per disc), and there's a bargain bin with plenty of treasures to find for $1 to $5.
701 Haight Street at Hayes
This family-owned Richmond record shop that doubles as a gallery and small jazz venue is run by Sara Johnson and her son Daniel A.J. Brown. When it opened in 2015, the place was showered with praise by the Chronicle as being a light in San Francisco's jazz and music scene (Brown plays the tenor sax in addition to running the store). Noise stocks a wide range of LPs and hosts a (no cover) jazz show every Sunday from 2 p.m to 6 p.m. So grab some records, chat up the owners, and hear some live music.
3427 Balboa Street between 35th and 36th Avenues
You may have walked into Rooky Ricardo's after a few pints at Toronado and thought you stumbled into the 1960s. There are vintage posters, toys, rotary phones and — of course — lots of cool, old 45s lining the walls. But if you stick around and talk to owner Dick Vivian, who has run the place for over 30 years, you'll likely leave with a few records. The store stocks soul, oldies, and R&B vinyl, focusing on the 60s, 70s, and 80s, and Vivian can tell you about each and every one. Even though it's a small place, it's easy to spend hours there as you can listen to records on turntables with headphones, and the vibe is warm and welcoming.
419 Haight Street
The former Aquarius Records changed owners and changed its name three years ago, with SF-based archival label Superior Viaduct taking the reins from longtime owners Andee Connors and Allan Horrocks. The Vinyl Factory later named Stranded to its list of the World's Best Record Shops, and much of the character of the place remains the same. They still sell new and used records, with a heavy emphasis on jazz and offbeat electronica, and customers always expected a weird and well curated selection.
1055 Valencia Street
You know what's punk as hell? A not-for-profit, volunteer-run, DIY record store that, in addition to boasting a vast punk library, carries selections of jazz, classical, and more. Thrillhouse Records is mostly vinyl, tapes, zines, and such, but you can find a few CDs here, too. And, if you happen to be in a cool band (good for you!) their basement workshop has a full screen-printing set up and can make some tees for your next gig. Come in for the free arcade machine, and as they encourage you to do, buy some beers for the volunteer clerks. Free beer is punk, too.—Caleb Pershan
3422 Mission Street at 30th Street
Tunnel Records & Beach Goods
One of the newest record shops in town is this charming Sunset outpost at 46th and Taraval selling new and used vinyl along with jewelry (new and vintage), cards, books, ceramics and more. The place was founded in 2017 by the husband-and-wife team of Andrea de Francisco and Ben Wintroub, who also live in the neighborhood, and it has the unmistakable vibe of a homegrown labor of love.
3614A Taraval Sreet
This teeny, low-ceilinged, Lower Haight shop is as curated as they come, with owner Mike Battaglia (a.k.a. Mike B) serving up the best in electronic, house, disco, and dub records to a dedicated clientele. The place occupies the storied former location of Black Pancake Records and Tweekin Records, so it's been a destination for vinyl heads for a couple decades. And, for Record Store Day, the shop is hosting some live music all day long, and offering some special record releases.
593 Haight Street