Records and community in South Park, San Diego
Tim Mays (@mrmazee) has been a stalwart in the San Diego music scene for decades. His club, The Casbah, provided a launch pad for local bands like Rocket from the Crypt and Fluf in the early 90s, and continues to be a favored SoCal stop for nationally touring acts. In 2017, Tim’s support of local music and community expanded to Vinyl Junkies, a gathering space for record shopping and music listening.
Vinyl Junkies’ Tim Mays (right), at The Casbah
The inspiration to open a record shop was sparked by some heavy lifting… literally. Tim hosted a bi-monthly record swap at The Casbah for several years. His future partner Eric Howarth ran the event, organizing multiple vendors with hundreds of used records. Tim says, “Setting up a swap like that and carrying crates of records is a lot of work. The struggle is real. Eric got tired of doing it and asked me if I wanted to partner up.”
Tim wanted to continue to sell vinyl; and Eric had previously owned a store in South Park called M-Theory, so he knew the business. The path was clear. They decided to open a record shop. Tim says, “We found a craftsman house available for rent, demoed the walls and set up the store Thanksgiving weekend of 2017.”
Local shopper Alyana in front of the store
With the goal to be a community resource as well as a shop that supports the local music scene, Vinyl Junkies is more than just a place to buy records. It’s a place for families to bring their kids, teenagers to discover vinyl and record collectors to find rare gems. Tim explains, “We got lucky with the space we have and that’s allowed us to take our record store concept beyond the shopping experience. You can sit out on the back tiki patio for a while and relax, or in the seating area at the front of the store. We could use space for more product, but we want to keep those spaces for people to gather and hang out.”
Vinyl Junkies’ patio in action
In-store programming with DJs and live performances that can draw upwards of 400 people keeps the atmosphere lively and brings people in, not only to shop at Vinyl Junkies, but also to visit the bars and restaurants, retail stores and coffee shops in the neighborhood. The synergy between Tim’s multiple businesses and the local community is tangible. Bands play The Casbah. Vinyl Junkies stocks their record and promotes with ticket giveaways. In-store performances fuel the traffic at the store and the businesses around it. “A rising tide lifts all boats” has never been a more apropos reference.
The shop carries all types of music. Employees curate specific genres that span best sellers to deep cuts for regular customers looking for rare vinyl. Some customers even travel in from out of town to record hunt in Vinyl Junkies’ bins. The shop’s broad vinyl selection, from Taylor Swift and Pink Floyd, to MF Doom, has something for everyone.
A selection of vinyl restocks
With both ends of the music listening spectrum covered in his businesses, Tim has a deep understanding of the subtleties of listening to a vinyl record vs music performed live. There isn’t necessarily a “better” way. “They’re just two very different experiences,” Tim says. “The studio record is always going to be the ‘master’ of what that song sounds like. Some people don’t want to hear an exact version of the record when seeing a band. Others want to hear the studio version live.”
Although Tim prefers studio LPs to live recordings, there are a few that stand out: The Who Live at Leeds, The Rolling Stones Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out, any MC5 live album, and, of course, “Nothing beats seeing the music performed live,” he says.
The Who Live at Leeds; The Rolling Stones Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out
Speaking for himself and his partner Erick Howeth, Tim says, “We like to provide a way to share our life experiences with friends, new and old. We hope that when you visit, you feel at home and find some amazing music you were looking for…or better yet, your new favorite record you didn’t even know you needed!"
2235 Fern St
San Diego, CA