To say that vinyl has made a major comeback would be extremely cliche’ to say especially for those of us that have surrounded ourselves with it either as DJ’s, store owners or good music lovers in general. But with the influx of independent labels and artists releasing more product on vinyl, and more collectors buying, there needs to be enough outlets, both national and international to fulfill the demand and get product into hands. Starting a business is never easy and that goes especially for opening a record shop but with the drive, determination and the love of music it’s very possible which is the case with our next special guest who holds down multiple duties as a teacher, family man, DJ and now shop owner of the new establishment, The Stacks Records Shop who will surely be filling a void of stocking and supplying releases from across the globe to become a premier online retailer here in the states. DJ Delrokz put his best foot forward, spent time learning the ropes while working at Rooky Ricardo’s Records and created a brand and name that you should really get to know.
Skeme: We’ve known each for what seems to be going close to 20 years I’d say and you’ve always been a dedicated DJ and music lover in general, what is it that keeps you wanting to be surrounded by records and enjoying music?
The Stacks Records Shop: I was thinking about my draw towards music the other day while listening to a few records. Random records, I knew nothing about, mostly Latin spanning all genres from a collection I picked up. Then boom. “Te Vas Me Dejas” by Los Chichos began with this Guitar riff and the drums in the backdrop and I kept bringing the needle back to hear the riff over and over again, I was excited, smiling, and feeling a natural high. At that moment, I thought to myself this is it, this is why I love music. It’s a feeling. Like most joyful feelings, you seek more of it; you crave it. Which is why digital formats don’t give me the same feeling of holding a Record in my hand. The tangible act of digging through a stack of used or new records, taking it home, pulling it out of the sleeve, holding it up to light to look at the grooves and symmetrical shape, placing it on a platter, blowing or wiping off any dust, lifting the needle, carefully placing it on the outer groove, pressing play, and listening while you enjoy the art and wordsmith of the album cover and liner notes. It’s a ritual. You can never obtain that kind of enjoyment from digital music. It’s not a complete experience. Being around records and the music pressed into each groove is something magical.
Skeme: Not too long ago, you were working at Rooky Ricardo’s Records, which looked like it was a lot of fun but then I started seeing hints and then promo that you were starting your own online shop called The Stacks Records Shop. What made you want to start your own business, especially during the pandemic?
The Stacks Records Shop: I spent two summers working for store credit and records at Rooky Ricardo’s during my time off as a full-time teacher. During those two summers I was there actually year round anytime I could, weekends, day-offs, and holidays. I just wanted to be around the energy of the store. I would spend hours organizing thousands of 45’s learning about different artists and labels. The best part about Rooky’s was the community and culture that was built. Dick Vivian has operated and owned Rooky Ricardo’s for over 30 years. He is a pillar of the neighborhood and people would walk in and say Hi, he knew the grandkids that were now adults. It felt like a barbershop and with that came the barbershop talk but the topics were mainly about music and records. I loved it. I learned so much about owning a record store in those 2 years. I had and still have keys to the shop. Some days I opened and closed and worked the entire shop alone. It’s an incredible feeling, opening the gate of a store, turning on the lights, sweeping yesterday’s dust, putting out new arrivals, organizing the day’s playlist, and welcoming customers looking for a piece of music to enjoy. Sadly, if you want to start a family and buy a home, San Francisco ain’t the place to be. Moved across the Bay to Hayward, Ca aka The Stack. Great place to live. No record store. On my visits to see Dick at Rooky’s he would ask “So when are you going to open up your own shop, you’ be a natural at it?”. I took it semi-seriously. It was an idea I have been teasing to people close to me for some time tho but never fully committed to the idea. It was great to hear that someone who has 30 years in the business was pushing me in that direction. Here is where the pandemic plays a role in the story. I’m a full time high school teacher, and have been working with young people for over 10 years. Now all of a sudden I have to do this job through a computer screen. It was sucking the life out of me. It is sucking the life out of me. I hate it. I’m an analog dude, I teach with activities and going outside. I needed something that was going to give me something to get excited about something that gives me joy. So, I started taking Dick’s question more seriously. On one of my lowest days during the pandemic, I asked myself “What would make me happy?” The answer didn’t come right away but finally while driving down Downtown Hayward, I saw for lease signs on all these small shops due to the pandemic. A record store would be perfect in this area. Every town needs a record store. That’s when my heart said “Open that record store, why wait for one.” In my head I could see myself in a post-pandemic world welcoming people to my shop, and going back to feelings, it felt right. No longer did I fight the idea of opening a shop, I had some money saved up, why not test an online store since I can physically have a store anyways, and see where it goes. What do I have to lose? I can still keep my full-time job which I was working from home and run a website. If it works out BOOM let’s push for a Brick and Mortar. Everything after that just fell into place. Came up with the name “The Stacks Record Shop” for two reasons. One my shop was operating in Hayward aka The Stack and secondly, what record or music lover doesn’t like a stack of good music. Created a website, linked with distributors who I had a connection to from Rooky’s, reached out to homies like Dr. Diggns in Australia who has an online shop, created a logo on my phone, started an IG page, printed some shirts, filled out some government forms, and wah lah, I was a small business owner.
Skeme: When starting a business, you’re sure to run into bumps in the road. What were some of (if any) hurtles that you had to jump over, things you had to learn or difficulties you ran into when getting things going?
The Stacks Records Shop: There have been so many hurdles in getting the Stacks Record Shop up and running. One of the main hurdles has been trying to build relationships with international labels and making items affordable for consumers here in the U.S. at the same time turning a profit. I wanna make sure i’m not over charging but at the same time I am running a business. Some of the imports and even domestic titles aint cheap to stock. One record sale sometimes only profits $3-5. Being that I’m an online store I have to constantly push and build a consumer base Which can be a blessing cause my reach is further but the work behind it ain’t easy. I’m figuring out what is selling and what isn’t. Still blown away about how some records are not selling but are really dope! It’s hard to find the time to create content to advertise and keep up with social media. I’m always in front of a screen emailing, posting on IG, and updating the site. The online consumer wants less clicks so working on ways to meet the consumer where they are at has been a learning curve. One of the greatest challenges right now is getting products up on the site. In a physical shop I could easily put a price tag on it and place it on the shelves. Having an online store means that I need to take a photo, enter the product information, how much is in stock, a short description and so on. It gets tedious after awhile. Not having a physical store also means that my home office is my stock room. It isn’t too big, so right now i’m sitting around boxes of merch, shipping supplies, boxes of records from a collection I bought and the stack of records are growing. Not a bad problem but a challenge. A hurtle I am about to encounter is Taxes. Just found out that small businesses have to report taxes quarterly, so i need to learn and develop a system for all that. Been trying to watch videos and read articles about deductions and how to organize my returns.
Skeme: Is there anything that the shop specializes in and what type of product (labels, artists etc.) will you be carrying?
The Stacks Records Shop: Right now the focus is on funk, soul, and hip hop from international labels, domestic indie labels and independent artists. Might be a bad business move but I only carry what I like really. Maybe as I grow I can expand what I supply but right now I’m gonna stick to what I know and what I would play. I’m a big fan of Colemine Records, Funk Night, Mr. Bongo, and Dynamite Cuts. I’ve been building with some smaller indie labels and distributors in Europe like Soul Dynamite, Dink, Kudos, and directly with artists. Trying to carry records you wouldn’t normally see in a shop. There is so much good music out there I want to help expose people too. I have some items mostly reissues that are a must have but mainly trying to specialize in more deeper cuts. I want to also support local Bay Area artists who are putting out physical music. When I have the opportunity to have a Brick and Mortar what I can supply will definitely grow and I look forward to it.
Skeme: As a business owner, what does the day to day process look like since you are pretty much a one man operation?
The Stacks Records Shop: I’m trying to develop a system, as of now Monday and Wednesday are shipping and pick up days. Tuesday and Friday are New Arrival days. Thursday is kinda open to whatever needs to be done. I’m doing all of this while being a full-time teacher on Zoom, a husband, and a parent to an 8-month old. Each morning starts with checking social media and emails. If it is shipping day i’m checking orders, printing labels and scheduling curb side pick ups. New Arrival days are pricing records, getting them on the site, taking photos, and creating content for social media. Everyday the goal is to get people to go on the site, so trying to think of creative and also authentic ways to build with people who may be interested in supporting the shop. I’m also constantly building with artists, labels, and distributors to stock the site, so i’m doing all the buying also. Damn, I’m also designing most of the clothing merch and researching places to print. Still haven’t found the best spot but I think I’m getting closer.
Skeme: With there already being quite a few online shops open, what makes The Stacks Records Shop different from others and why should people shop with you?
The Stacks Records Shop: What I stock at The Stacks Record Shop I don’t see on every online shop in the U.S. Some of the imports I’m carrying such as Soul Dynamite and even from labels here in the U.S like Funk Night and Mango Hill mostly European sites are carrying their titles. I’m trying to provide those same products but save people here in the U.S. on the shipping costs. What I took away from my trip to Japan was the attention to customer service and detail. I want to bring that to my shop. No used record is shipped out without being cleaned first and then placed in a new inner sleeve and in protective plastic sleeve. I don’t know too many Filipino owner record store owners either. I got some merch on the way that bridges my love for vinyl culture and honoring my Filipino culture as well.
Skeme: I really love how you came out of the gate running with your promo and branding in place and making sure you were advertising properly which really caught my attention. How important was it for you to make your branding known early?
The Stacks Records Shop: I think it was necessary to get my branding done early to get the word out. I was also really excited and impulsive. I couldn’t wait to get a logo on a sticker or a shirt. I wanted to spread the word that The Stacks Record Shop is here and it’s legit. Mostly excited. So I hit social media quickly. I was proud of what I was about to build. I’m trying to create, foster, and grow a culture built around vinyl and music. You can buy a record from anywhere else, but when you buy a record from The Stacks Record Shop I want it to feel different. I want someone to feel like they are buying from someone who is just like them, a DJ, a record collector, or just another lover of music. Some of these online shops I don’t know who are all behind the screen. I want people to be able to put a face to the brand. The Stacks Record Shop is here to push a culture not a product. I was trying to push this from the start.
Skeme: Where do you see The Stacks Records Shop in 5 years?
The Stacks Records Shop: In 5 years I see The Stacks Record Shop in Downtown Hayward, on B street pushing music and vinyl culture physically in the shop and worldwide on the web. I see The Stacks Record Shop as a pillar of the Downtown Hayward community that provides a space for music and vinyl lovers. Also looking to put out some releases on 7” with local artists and reissuing Bay Area music but that’s a whole other learning curve I’m looking forward to learning.