Vinyl Destinations: Record Stores Keep Spinning in the North Bay

When the Covid-19 pandemic closed most of the North Bay’s retail shops in March 2020, many music aficionados feared they would lose their connection to the region’s array of locally-owned record stores.

Thankfully, the past year has proven profitable for vinyl purveyors, as many shops like Red Devil Records and The Last Record Store reported strong sales amid the pandemic. Now, several new shops are throwing their racks into the ring and opening in Sonoma and Marin counties.

To the best of Bolinas resident Brian Ojalvo’s memory, there’s never been a record store in West Marin, until now. Last month, Ojalvo and business partner Dylan Squires opened Loose Joints Records in Point Reyes Station, selling a highly curated collection of classic albums suited for eclectic musical tastes.

“People in West Marin are excited,” Ojalvo says. “The young folks in town just can’t believe we’re there.”

Physically connected to the Old Western Saloon at 11205 Highway One, Loose Joints Records is already connecting musically to the local community Fridays to Sundays, 11am to 6pm, and on select Thursday evenings. The store also connects to customers online at instagram.com/loosejointsrecords.

A winemaker and co-owner at West of Temperance Winery by day, Ojalvo is also a self-described audiofile and the owner of some 8,000–10,000 records. Squires, who works for Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company, is best known in the North Bay as a member of several popular bands like the Haggards.

Last year, as evacuation warnings spread through West Marin during wildfires, Ojalvo and Squires trucked thousands of their personal records back and forth to each other’s houses to save them from potential flames.

“We were making light of that situation by saying, ‘It would be easier if we just had a place to sell records instead of moving them all around,’” Ojalvo says. “The store was hatched a bit like that.”

Decked out with seafoam-colored walls, checkered floors and custom-made wooden racks, Loose Joints Records is establishing itself as a comfortable, inviting and popular spot for locals and visitors alike.

“There’s a daytime tourist walk-in crowd, but there’s also a local atmosphere where we have lots of our friends and musicians who are stoked to have us there,” Ojalvo says. “We offer a section just for them, where their records can be sold. We’ve had some major success here in the last five weeks. Records are at a high and people are excited.”

When Kirk Heydt, proprietor of Petaluma-based Spin Records, decided to relocate to Idaho last year, local record lovers James Florence, Jon Del Buono and Gabriel Hernandez jumped at the chance to take over the space.

Now, the trio keeps Petaluma rich in vinyl at Rain Dog Records, featuring hand-picked classic albums covering many genres. The store is a lifelong dream job for the three band members-turned-business partners.

“It was always a fantasy,” Florence says. “And then, all of a sudden, we’re record store owners.”

When Covid hit last year, the trio originally came up with the idea of selling records out of the back of a pickup truck in pop-up shop fashion.

In December 2020, Florence, Del Buono and Hernandez realized their brick-and-mortar dream when they picked up the keys to Heydt’s retail location. They quickly revamped the space and opened Rain Dog Records in February. 

“We spend our evenings with a price gun and a pile of records,” Florence says. “And we love it. We strive to be everything for everybody. We really want to have all different kinds of music. It’s very rewarding to be able to provide this place and this positive experience.”

Rain Dog Records is open at 1060 Petaluma Blvd. N. in Petaluma, 11am to 6pm on weekends and noon to 6pm on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays. On June 19, the store will host an all-ages grand opening party from noon to 5pm. The party kicks off with DJs—including store co-owner Hernandez—and features local vendors including the new Star Light Hot Dogs, the Bus Shoppe mobile fashion boutique and retro video game store Nostalgia Alley. Additionally, a silent auction will benefit KPCA Radio, which will broadcast live from the party. See more at instagram.com/rain_dog_records.

In Santa Rosa, record collectors are discovering vintage vinyl at the recently opened Radio Thrift record store and vintage clothing shop. Open most weekends at 1005 Cleveland Ave., Radio Thrift recreates the thrill of finding beloved albums at thrift stores, and customers can get details on hours and records at instagram.com/radiothrift.

Also in Santa Rosa, The Next Record Store opens its doors this month at 1899 Mendocino Ave., as the new iteration of The Last Record Store.

Doug Jayne and Hoyt Wilhelm originally opened The Last Record Store in 1983. Earlier this year, Wilhelm announced his retirement from the business, and the store re-established itself as The Next Record Store, now owned and operated by Jayne, his wife Barrett, son Ethan and longtime store employee Gerry Stumbaugh, who has worked the counter at the Last Record Store for more than two decades.

The store will be opening for limited capacity during the upcoming Record Store Day Drops event on Saturday, June 12, by appointment in the morning and for walk-up business in the afternoon. Get details at instagram.com/thenextrecordstore.

Other locally-owned and operated North Bay record stores participating in this first of two Record Store Day drops events on June 12 include Mill Valley Music in Mill Valley, Watts Music in Novato and San Rafael stores Red Devil Records and Bedrock Music & Video. 

Launched in 2007, Record Store Day and the recent Record Store Day Drops events annually support independent record stores throughout the U.S. and around the world with special shopping events featuring limited-release records and collectible re-issues of classic albums. Get full details on Record Store Day deals and Record Store Day Drops at recordstoreday.com.

Charlie Swanson
Charlie Swanson is a North Bay native and an arts and music writer and editor who has covered the local scene since 2014.
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