Top Record Stores in San Diego

Record Racks

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Given San Diego’s rich music scene, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a vibrant vinyl culture flourishes here. Looking at the city throughout the decades, you can find countless musical expressions – including folk, jazz, R&B, and rock . . . a lot of rock. San Diego played, for example, an important role in Frank Zappa’s early affinity for instrumentation and composition. As is the case with many artists, the local record store was the source of significant inspiration.

In this way, record stores depend on the local music scene – but also help create it. Some record stores in San Diego have had their doors open since the ‘60s and ‘80s, while others have opened within the past few years, thanks in part to the fertile environment that the vinyl revival has created. One thing remains true – record stores are an integral part of San Diego’s music scene and cultural identity. Swinging by a record on any given day, you might learn about artists old and new, upcoming music events, and even discover a special-edition pressing.

Table of Contents

The Vinyl Resurgence in San Diego
Best Record Stores in San Diego
Navigating the Vinyl Scene

The Vinyl Resurgence in San Diego

Browsing record crates

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Many music aficionados maintained interest in vinyl as new technologies emerged, but it took other music lovers longer to realize that analog listening still offered something special. Dozens of great record stores now boast impressive collections in San Diego, not to mention around the entire county.

While shops like Folk Arts Rare Records (established 1963) and Lou’s Records (established 1980) kept record collectors stocked even when vinyl popularity fell, the vinyl revival in 2007 led to the opening of other San Diego staples like FeeLit (established 2008) and Normal Records (established 2016).

Nostalgia and the Vinyl Experience

There is something about the vinyl music experience that really encourages us to slow down and explore. Coming across John Coltrane’s Blue Train album, for example, provokes one to indulge a little longer in its monochrome portrait. What’s Coltrane looking at? What was he thinking at the time? Flip to the cover’s backside and you’ll find a detailed write-up on Coltrane. Once you actually drop the needle on the record, the iconic opening phrase mixed with the warm crackles of vinyl really transport you to a 1957 Philadelphia jazz club.

San Diego's Unique Music Scene

San Diego’s burgeoning local music scene definitely helps the local vinyl culture. World famous jazz artists, such as Arthur Blythe, have paid their dues here. In the ‘60s you had rock groups like Iron Butterfly and folk artists like Tom Waits. The ‘70s gave rise to Heart’s Ann Wilson. The ‘90s saw a boom of post-punk and alternative groups like blink-182, Switchfoot, Slightly Stoopid, and Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder. Contemporary acts like Wavves, Thee Sacred Souls, and Andra Day continue to enrich San Diego’s music scene. A few more of our personal favorites would be No Knife, Ariel Levine, and The Donkeys. Be sure to see your favorite San Diego bands live, and take home their vinyl records when available.

San Diego’s deeply rooted music scene, in return, influences the record stores that promote the cherished artform. Many shops tend to have a genre that they gravitate towards, however every shop will still have a broad genre selection. Check out a few of the best record stores in San Diego below.

Best Record Stores in San Diego

Vinyl Junkies Record Shack

Photo by Andrew Morales

Vinyl Haven: Vinyl Junkies Record Shack

Address: 2235 Fern St, San Diego, CA 92104

Vinyl Junkies holds a curated record collection in a mid-century style house, replete with a Digger’s Den in the back for hidden gems. Previously a swap meet at the iconic Casbah music venue, Vinyl Junkies was established in 2012 by Eric Howarth, former owner of the record label Hi-Speed Soul, and Tim Mays, co-founder of The Casbah. The brick-and-mortar shop is now located in San Diego’s charming South Park neighborhood. Cruise down and you’ll find friendly staff, live events hosted on the tiki patio, and – importantly – great records.

Beat Box Records

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Hidden Gem: Beat Box Records

Address: 2148 Logan Ave, San Diego, CA 92113

Perhaps not the most widely known shop in San Diego, Beat Box Records nevertheless packs a flavorful collection. The record store is a landmark in Barrio Logan, an artsy neighborhood with deep Chicano roots and myriad murals (actually, not far from Wrensilva’s work]shop where we hand-build our consoles). Swing by the store to find collection essentials, vintage records, a rich selection of soul and R&B, and gems across many genres. Between the shop’s vintage decor, the owner Bernie Fishman’s musical index, and the vibrant neighborhood, Beat Box Records is a must-visit.

Folk Arts Rare Records

Photo courtesy of Folk Arts Rare Records

The Collector's Paradise: Folk Arts Rare Records

Address: 3610 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92104

The oldest record store in San Diego, Folk Arts Rare Records keeps the community coming back for a reason. As its name implies, you’ll find rare records here. Not only that, but you can spend hours perusing their impressive genre selections – which include a vast array of world music and subgenres. You can find sections for Greece, South America, Ireland, and free jazz, to name a few. That being the case, both serious vinyl aficionados and new vinyl collectors can find their desired records here. Want to sip a craft cocktail while listening to HiFi vinyl music? Check out their partner listening bar Part Time Lover only a mile away. The refined sensations of rich woods and warm lighting – mixed with exceptional music – will put you in the right state of mind.

Navigating the Vinyl Scene

With so many great record stores around, you can’t go wrong visiting any one of them. Looking for a specific record? Call ahead to see if a shop has it. Most shops will order a special copy for you if they don’t. However, the experience really comes from being there in person. Maybe a record that you didn’t already have in mind will become your new favorite. Being open to discovery is part of the game. The new arrivals bin is a good place to start rekindling your connection with forgotten artists, as it usually contains a broad range of great finds.

Several San Diego neighborhoods have clusters of record stores. Swing by a few shops in a single swoop, or spend more time digging at one location. A good time to visit is typically during the weekday when record stores are mellow. You can also stay updated on new arrivals and special events by following your local record store on social media.

Record Store Day Celebrations

Inaugurated in 2007 to promote independent record stores, Record Store Day has generated all-time high vinyl sales. It’s not uncommon for record stores in San Diego to partner with artists and record labels to facilitate the event. Artists may do special performances or signings, while labels will press limited-edition records solely for partnering shops. Be sure to get there plenty early if you’re looking for a specific record, as lines frequently form before stores open – and stores get packed.

Although the list of special releases for Record Store Day 2024 is long, several releases stand out to us. Be on the lookout for Pearl Jam Dark Matters, Grateful Dead Nightfall of Diamonds, The Doors Live at Konserthuset, Stockholm, September 20, 1968, Niel Young with Crazy Horse Fu##in’ Up, and David Bryne & Paramore Hard Times / Burning Down the House – in which they cover each other’s song.

Community Engagement and Events

Record stores in San Diego are more than just commercial spaces – they’re cultural hubs that are integral to their communities. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on your record store’s event calendar and social media feed. Many San Diego record stores host live performances of local artists. Listen to new music and check out the artist’s latest release. Record stores also do special collaborations with bigger artists by hosting intimate performances, special releases, and signings.

Future of Vinyl in San Diego

Vinyl sales continue growing, even outpacing previous predictions. Records are now the leading physical music format, while LPs promote overall album sales. That being the case, especially as more record stores pop up over the years – it appears the vinyl format, and culture, are here to stay.

Elevate your listening experience

Stacks of vinyl records

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Visiting your local record store and diving into the ritual of vinyl music is a longstanding San Diego tradition, on par with surfing, visiting Balboa Park, or watching a Padres game. Stop by a record store in San Diego for some epic crate digging, then bring your vinyl finds to the Wrensilva workshop in Barrio Logan to listen on our flagship record console the M1.