In our ongoing series about record shops coping with this global pandemic called Records In The Time Of Corona, we got to sit down with the OG of the record game on the West Coast. Cool Chris Veltri from Groove Merchant. Everyone’s favorite San Francisco record store owner and purveyor of top notch vinyl and print media broke it down on how COVID-19 has affected this storied institution and how the game is changing right before our eyes.
How has the global pandemic affected your day to day record store?
As of March 15 the gates closed at the shop. Sales and income diminished quickly. The following two weeks were stressful and uncertain. I got pretty close to flat broke. San Francisco is a city that simply doesn’t allow error, so I had to get moving pretty quick. I ordered an Endicia home postage system and got busy.What are you doing differently to get sales?
I Basically moved everything to Instagram. A little bit of Discogs listings, but almost everything has been done through IG.You always have a huge presence online (IG specifically), can you explain if you’re doing anything different, and how selling online mostly has helped or hurt you now?
To be pretty honest with you: IG has been the first online outlet for me that I’ve felt comfortable with. Never was a fan of Ebay, Discogs is good, website just ok. Instagram for me personally was the first time I found something that seemed creative- that and was symbiotic with my show and tell nature. It’s simple and easy, as everything can be done from your phone. It’s instant access and that’s key. It took a while to build up the followers – maybe 8 years. Also, I set up a second account that is more art and photography based that runs tandem. I’m just about 50 years old, and for me personally, it’s been a healthy discipline to keep things moving. I ain’t exactly a hoarder, but I’ve been buying hard for a long long time. I am a true product of flea market culture. I would go every day if I could.
A good record store is certainly as important socially as your local bar, coffee shop, and public library combined.
Are people still getting rid of collections at this time? Yeah, for sure.
It’s just too dicey right now. I’ve turned everybody down until the dust settles, and things are better in Place for both parties to be safe. It’s fucking torture though. I miss these people, some of which I’ve had a connection with for over 25 years. Way beyond simple commerce. It’s just basic coffee conversation and shooting the shit. Talking about scores and things on the horizon. Hopefully, that will be a reality soon come.Is this downtime at the physical shop forcing you to dig through your own collection more?
Yeah, 100%. I’ve been doing that for a long time though. My Rappcats sales down in LA is basically me raping my collection. I still collect pretty hard, but my grip isn’t as firm so to speak as it once was.What gems have you revisited in your own collection? Played the Wee LP front to back about 10 times. Revisiting a lot of straight-ahead Jazz and traditional Indian music. Basically, anything that is mellow as fuck.Are you doing anything else non-record related during this time?
Been editing 5-6 book projects which I will be talking about on IG from time to time when they are near completion.What has this global pandemic shown you about the record game?
People Need music in their life now more than ever. When things are rough like they are now, we go directly to the simple things that bring us pleasure. Music, whether it’s making it or listening to it is essential. Music, Sex, and maybe you know…food.Any tips for record heads that are going nuts by not being able to go to a record store?
Dig in your own shit. You might be surprised by what you overlooked. Takes those things you’re not feeling and put them in a box for trade. Start a trade circle of friendsLast comments, whatever you want.
Support your local record stores now and when they reopen. Even if it’s just to say hello, you miss them and let them know how important they are to the local community. A good record store is certainly as important socially as your local bar, coffee shop, and public library combined.