SLO County’s Record Shops Ranked
With nostalgia over vintage cameras and clothes, the music technology from the past has also been making a comeback too. While Spotify music and Bluetooth exist, there is a rise in people who would rather listen to their favorite songs on records, cassettes and CDs.
Outdated technology can tend to conflict with convenience and availability; however, the record stores in San Luis Obispo County have made it possible for those to reminisce and experience the music in the ways of the past. There are four record stores within a 13-mile radius. They may be close in distance, but each one of them is different in the variety and selection, which allows the experience of vintage music technology to appeal to those of all tastes.
Boo Boo Records – San Luis Obispo, CA
Boo Boo Records is well known to Cal Poly students, as I have heard from several people to check out the shop. It sits between a coffee shop and bookstore in an optimal area of downtown. The span of the front entrance of the record store mistook me for how great it was in size.
When you first walk in, there are rows of CDs categorized in size and alphabetical order. As I started to walk between CD aisles, I noticed a concave towards another part of the store which held all the records. I was not expecting an entirely separate part of the store and was impressed by the abundance of records and CDs they had to offer.
From Billy Joel to Tyler the Creator, it is almost guaranteed one will find the records or CDs from their favorite artists. I was surprised at how up-to-date and recent the music in some of the records was. The store had Lana Del Ray’s album “Chemtrails over the Country Club,” which was just released in March 2021. Overall, the store exceeded my expectations as a modern-day music technology user, and I can see why people recommended it.
Cheap Thrills – San Luis Obispo, CA
Just a couple of streets over, in a much more deserted part of downtown, sits the music store Cheap Thrills. I never heard of Cheap Thrills before, but I found out it sold records, so I was curious about what to expect. I was greatly overwhelmed by the music selection the store had to offer.
The size of this store also surprised me – it has two floors. The ground floor is filled with CDs and other merchandise. It felt like I was walking through a maze when I was going through the aisles. Each turn I made, there was more stuff to look through.
Upstairs was slightly smaller but equally overwhelming and was where all the records were held. I couldn’t find as much recent music as I could in Boo Boo records, but I was able to find some, such as Billie Ellish’s “Don’t Smile at Me” album. The store also did have music artists I was not expecting, such as Kanye West and Rae Sremmurd.
Overall, the store felt kind of chaotic, which can be a good and bad thing. The chaos appeals to the variety in music selection, as well as shows the store is more about the music it offers rather than just giving the typical modern-day record store aesthetic. However, it may be difficult to navigate for those who don’t typically shop at record stores and don’t have the patience to look through everything.
Vinyl Isle – Morro Bay, CA
The aesthetic of Vinyl Isle is what drew my attention. The heavily decorated store makes it hard to miss, even though it is a couple of blocks away from downtown Morro Bay. Vinyl Isle resembles a small cottage, with the front of the building decorated with displays of records and plants. The beauty and aura of the store’s entrance immediately attract you to want to go inside.
The interior is even more appealing with records and vintage light fixtures hanging from the ceiling, not to mention, every inch of the store is covered in posters and antiques. Even though Vinyl Isle is very small in size, you don’t know where to start looking. The records are neatly categorized by genre. There are also small sections of the store that hold CDs and cassettes.
The overall selection is nowhere near modern, which makes the store feel less commercialized and mainstream; however, it limits the options for today’s listeners. The record choices are mainly focused on folk, classical, rock, and jazz. They do have a lot of classic familiar artists such as David Bowie, Michael Jackson and Louis Armstrong. My favor of the store revolves a lot more around its appearance rather than its music selection, however, Vinyl Isle is perfect for those who prefer listening to the classics.
Central Coast Music
Further down the street from Vinyl Isle is Central Coast Music. Central Coast Music sits in a good area of downtown Morro Bay. The store sells equipment and other merchandise related to music, so the records selection is quite small compared to the other stores.
When you first walk into the store, all the records and CDs sit to your left in the corners. The selection is not made up of any recent music and is mostly focused on the classics. I saw a lot of records revolving around previous decades, with artists such as Madonna and Elvis Presley.
The CD selection had a few more recognizable mainstream artists. What was special about this store was they had a whole category for CDS with female artists, some of which included popular artists like Rihanna and Dolly Parton.
Besides the music itself, the customer service was nice as well. The workers were very attentive and helpful. Overall, the music selection was quite small but reasonable for a store that ventures in sales of other products.