In early 2016 AD it was to be decided there can only be one hip block for the entire length of Alcatraz, the major thoroughfare separating Berkeley and Oakland. There was already an established base with Easy Creole, Empress Vintage, and Alchemy Cafe. A bike co-op then sprang up. Then, within months of each other, came Hercules Records and a Beats Antique storefront decked out in a full speakeasy style.

The small record store is well stocked with vinyl with a few crates of CDs and tapes hiding about each. The new arrivals seem to be constantly restocked so although you could knock out browsing in an afternoon there’s good reason to keep popping in. Though smaller sections like hip-hop and electronica have slowly been growing, if you’re on the hunt for some country, Americana, blues, or soul, you should find a scattering of gems to take home.

Hercules is owned by Chris Ford who you may have heard on the KPOO airwaves hosting Mr. Ford’s Soul Explosion on Monday afternoons. Before the Alcatraz location the store existed farther down the road on Ashby for a short time and has easily found more people wandering in at the new address. The music guru behind the counter is someone worth asking for a suggestion or throwing out the names of a few bands you are obsessed with in order for him to open up some new music to you. Plus, this is a great reason to introduce yourself.

Photo Jul 28, 17 47 53Right around the opening of Beats Antique’s “Shadowbox” there has been a noticeable uptick in foot traffic. The first Tuesday of the month now results in a block party involving the majority of the corners businesses. Each spot stays open later, throws out some sales, and lures everyone in with music. The usual happening at Hercules during the monthly event features a performance from local acts and has since ranged from country to more pop friendly songwriters. The shop will be skipping this August’s event but will return in September with dual bassists.

Before then, August 4 will mark the first edition of a Literary Mix tape at Hercules. Select poets and writers will come with a new work off a predetermined prompt. Next week’s theme is “Feels Like The First Time.” Find Hercules Records at 1734 Alcatraz in Berkeley.