Oakland record store expands to SF


Sam Benavidez,
Arts & Life Editor

Prior to 2008, walking down 40th Street between Webster Street and Shafter Avenue in Oakland would have been just another stroll in the Temescal District passing small, unmarked businesses without many retail options. When 1-2-3-4 Go! Records opened, things started to change.

Originally a block with not much to show for it, the 40th street location is now area for local, more hip businesses because of its proximity to MacArthur BART station, Broadway Street, and a neighborhood with a median age almost three years younger than the rest of the city, at 34 according to City-Data.

Since 2008, 1-2-3-4 Go!, Subrosa Coffee, Manifesto Bicycles, and Homeroom, a popular macaroni and cheese specialty restaurant, have opened for business along 40th Street, contributing to its emergence as a commercial hub on the once-vacant block.

“There was nothing [before 1-2-3-4 Go!]” said owner Steve Stevenson. “There were no retail businesses besides Moran [plumbing] Supply and the car wash.”

Nearly their entire inventory is 12-inch, 10-inch and 7-inch vinyl, with some CDs and cassettes. They carry pop, rock, hip hop, punk, indie, and metal albums that range from Taylor Swift’s “1989” to local band Synthetic ID’s “Apertures” record, released on 1-2-3-4 Go!’s own small record label.

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The back room of the Oakland store has also been converted into a small venue with a stage where local and touring acts perform a few times a week. The room was built and equipped for live shows with the help of Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong and his former Pinhead Gunpowder band mate Bill Schneider, who on May 4 will open Broken Guitars, a mid range guitar shop across the street from the Oakland 1-2-3-4 Go! Records.

But at a time when it’s common for record stores to close in response to typically downward trends in album sales, the Oakland shop is expanding. After a series of tease posts on their social media accounts, the indie record store announced three weeks ago that they would be opening a San Francisco location on May 1, their first attempt at expansion, in seven years of business.

“It’s something I always wanted to do,” said Stevenson. “I’ve been wanting a San Francisco record store for the past six years.”

The store will be at 1034 Valencia Street in the Mission District, sharing space with Lost Weekend Video, a rare film store owned by former Jawbreaker drummer Adam Pfahler. With rising rent costs in San Francisco, the small business needed to fill half of their space and split the rent.

“It’s really expensive to rent your own space there, and I’m confident that its going to work,” said Stevenson. “This is the perfect way for us to get into SF with the least amount of risk.”
The Mission is already home to Aquarius Records, San Francisco’s oldest independent record store, which is located 100 feet from the new 1-2-3-4 Go! location. Stevenson does not see Aquarius as competition, however, but more of another piece to a larger puzzle that is Bay Area independent record store scene. Aquarius is known for carrying a large selection of world music, as well as a psychedelic, and metal.

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“There’s a very small fraction of people that think we’ll be competition,” said Stevenson. “They’re a highly specialized shop in genres that I don’t really touch. Nobody goes to one record store on the block and goes ‘That’s enough!’ We’re in the same game but playing it differently.”

1-2-3-4 Go! Records have asked customers to help build their inventory for the San Francisco location. The new San Francisco store, like the Oakland location, will buy used vinyl for resale, but they have placed orders for a new selection as well. Thos shipments began arriving las week.

The San Francisco 1-2-3-4 Go! Records will open in time for the eighth annual Record Store Day, on April 18. The international event originated at Rasputin Music in Mountain View with the help of Bay Area metal group Metallica.

Limited edition, special releases are planned for the day, which will serve as a grand opening of sorts for the Mission location. Both shops will have food trucks, and free coffee and doughnuts.