[Oakland] store in 2008 and that’s when Oakland and San Francisco were very different than they are now. It’s kind of interesting to start with this impression of, Oh, I’m far away from where I would think a lot of people would like the store
, and to have it turn out [that], well, now, most of these people are now in Oakland and San Francisco is more of the risk. Before Oakland was the risk and San Francisco made way more sense, and now it’s the opposite.
TBB: Yeah, but out of all neighborhoods to move into, the Mission was smart.
SS: Totally, that’s the other thing. Finding a space with decent rent in that area was very, very fortunate. I’m very thankful that came into place and they took a chance on me and I took a chance on them. It definitely worked out. The great coincidence was that DEMA decided to switch over. She’s going to still do designing, but won’t have a retail store front. That just happened to coincide with, “Well, we’ve got to figure out where we’re going.” And every move I’ve ever made in Oakland has been on the same block or in the same neighborhood.
TBB: Records are heavy, so that really helps out.
SS: Yeah, it’s very convenient. The owner of the building, Tom, is fantastic, so I think we’ll be good there for quite a while.
TBB: I haven’t actually been inside of DEMA before, but I know you host shows in the Oakland space. Do you think there would be any chance of you putting on shows in San Francisco?
SS: No. If we did, then it would be a free one-off. There are apartments right above there, and those and shows don’t go together that well. The thing about Oakland is that there’s a dedicated room for it. We have a nice PA. We got very lucky with this Oakland space. The owner of this building – he was the guy who really pushed for the shows. I think if you suggested that you wanted to open a club in most buildings the owners would shy away from that. The owner here was very instrumental in making that happen.
TBB: Do you think that throwing shows will become any more of a focus now that you’ll have a presence in San Francisco? I know that Vacation throws shows in their basement. Do you have any thoughts of collaborations in the future?
SS: Earlier on. It’s been a few years now, but we used to do more booking for that side of the [Oakland] store. For three years I ran a music festival thing in like a weekend of shows I would do annually. Once both shops settle down I would actually have time to get into that. It’s definitely something I’m open to, it’s just that running two shows and then having to move it again takes up a lot of brain space.
TBB: Are there any differences between the Oakland and San Francisco shops that you are expecting as far as clientele or how the stores are arranged?
SS: The way I’ve always approached the stores is the core is stuff I like and that’s where we start from. Then I listen to the neighborhood after that. I bring what I feel is good and sells. Like I brought over all this stuff from Oakland because that’s what works in Oakland, but I’ve learned well, more of this style of music sells in San Francisco than it does in Oakland. You listen to what people want and start bringing that in. It’s going to have a different feel because we’re listening. If people tell us they want more EDM stuff in San Francisco, we’ll bring over more of that. It’s never going to be like a full change-over. It’s always going to have the same heart. But there are certain titles that sell way more in San Francisco than here and vice versa. It’s kind of strange because you wouldn’t think it would be all that different, but there can be some wild differences. Stuff that we can sell 20 copies of in Oakland won’t sell two copies in San Francisco, with no rhyme or reason.
TBB: Do you have any recent examples off the top of your head?
SS: Like the new Ty Segall. You would figure in San Francisco that would be a no-brainer. We’ve sold three copies there and we’ve sold 10 in Oakland. I can’t explain that, and I feel like a lot of the same thing goes for what used to be San Francisco staples like Thee Oh Sees or, this is a little old now, but Girls with that guy who just came out with a solo record – that solo record didn’t do anything in San Francisco. Like, I can’t explain that. I don’t know what that is.
TBB: Maybe they all moved over to Oakland.
SS: I think there’s a lot to that. With that said, for a store that has not even been open a year, it’s already doing really well. It doesn’t make as much money as the Oakland store, but it’s getting up there. And that’s for year one. The amount of money we made in our first month opened in Oakland we make in a good Saturday now. It’s a pretty big difference. It does well and I think it will do better now that we’re able to control our own destiny a little bit.
TBB: Cool, that’s so great to hear. One of the reasons we wanted to interview you was because the expansion does feel like a success story, and the San Francisco “bands are moving to L.A.” articles get a little tiring.
SS: A lot of it is hard to argue with, but also I try to pay as little attention to it as possible, because I think if you get into that feedback loop of negativity that’s all you’re going to see and that’s going to affect what you do. If I was to just read blogs all day long about how San Francisco sucks now, I would come in with an attitude that wasn’t going to be positive. It would even taint positive events. Instead of saying, ‘Oh, we had a kickass weekend. This is awesome,’ I might be lamenting like, ‘Oh, I bet five years ago would have been better.’ I know a bunch of people who live over there, and I feel like sometimes they’ll be some place that’s crowded, and they’ll say, “look at all these tech assholes.” And it’s like: You don’t know who these people are! You don’t even know them. You have no idea what industry they work in or what their deal is. So I try to keep it positive. I like being a positive thing in San Francisco, because there are a lot of bummer stories. There is a lot of cool stuff going away. And it’s great to be like, ‘Oh there’s a cool thing that came here. That’s still possible.’
TBB: So my last question is: Are there any up-and-coming Bay Area bands you’re impressed by at the moment?
SS: It’s kind of hard to say. I feel like things are so rapidly changing.
Running a label, too, when I first opened the store, it was a really exciting time because two blocks away Shannon from Shannon and the Clams lived there and I did the Nobunnny record and two Shannon and the Clams records and the Personal and the Pizzas. I even get credit for the Hunx and His Punx record even though I didn’t do it. There was a really big, burgeoning scene. And Castle Face had a lockdown on everything in San Francisco. I like Cold Beat, and I don’t say that just because Hannah works here. And I still really like No Static and Replica. I think we’re in a weird downtime, but I’m sure we’ll come back to life.