Barrio Logan’s Beat Box Records Re-Opens With Curbside Pickup

by on May 28, 2020 · 0 comments

in San Diego

By Roberto ‘Rob’ Camacho

After closing to the public nearly two months ago, Beat Box Records, located on Logan Avenue in the middle of Barrio Logan’s cultural district is re-opening its doors with modified hours for weekend curbside pickups – as the state loosens restrictions on businesses throughout California.

Since first opening its doors in 2015, Beat Box Records has served as one of San Diego’s premier record shops. Stocked with vintage Funk, Soul, Jazz, Hip-Hop, and Oldies records/cassettes, the shop has gained the reputation of carrying rare and obscure music difficult to find anywhere else in the city.

The shop’s catalog alone has made it a treasure trove regularly frequented by DJs, producers, and rare vinyl collectors alike; many in search of artists such as Sunny and the Sunliners, Brenton Wood, Ralfi Pagán and the highly coveted East Side Story lowrider oldies compilation series.

However, vinyl collectors and DJs lamented the loss of their safe havens, as Beat Box and the rest of San Diego’s independent record stores closed their doors back in March in light of the Coronavirus outbreak.

For store owner Bernie Fishman, the decision to close up the shop wasn’t easy. But, out of an abundance of caution and concern for neighborhood health and safety, Fishman closed the shop on March 16th, several days before Governor Gavin Newsom issued a statewide ‘stay at home’ order for all residents amid the outbreak. “I was already getting nervous a couple of days before the lockdown,” Fishman said, recalling the early days of the lockdown.

Since March, like the rest of the neighborhood’s non-essential business Beat Box Records has remained closed. However, the online sales of records via the internet have proved to be an invaluable lifeline for Fishman amid the lockdown.

“Around the start of the lockdown I started running weekly auctions on eBay, and prior to opening the shop I sold full time on eBay for three years,” Fishman explained.

Bernie Fishman the owner

Prior to the shop’s closure, Fishman had mainly used online auctions to move niche merchandise such as old posters, vintage magazines, and novelty items that he would have a difficult time selling in the shop. However, with the lockdowns effectively shutting down businesses, online auctions have been an invaluable lifeline to the outside world for the past several months.

While online auctions are a far cry from the warm, friendly atmosphere of the shop where music aficionados can congregate and discover new music, Fishman noted that there have been some silver linings to online sales.

“The nice thing about running auctions is that they end at a specific time and if it sells, you’re not just sitting there waiting for people to buy stuff,” Fishman said. “I’ve been hustling trying to dig up stuff to sell online, and I have past experience so I’ve been fine for the time being.”

Although online revenue through auctions has managed to keep Beat Box Records afloat, for now, Fishman noted that the current strategy of relying on online revenue cannot continue indefinitely. “I haven’t been able to buy new stuff since March and at the end of the day we have a finite amount of stuff to sell”, he lamented.

With a limited dwindling inventory, like many small business owners Fishman applied for a loan through the Small Business Relief Fund which the city has provided through grants and forgivable or low-to zero-interest-rate loans to eligible small businesses. Thus far, however, Fishman has yet to receive and update or feedback on the status of his application.

“I applied for the San Diego Small Business Relief fund and never heard back from them”, Fishman explained as he recalled the application process.

“They had a lot of issues when they launched it where everyone was trying to register at the same time and the website was crashing”.

While also waiting to hear back on the status of receiving a loan, Fishman also noted that he has yet to receive a stimulus check from the federal government, part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act which gives one-time cash payments of up to $1,200 for those who qualify.

Fishman noted that while his business has remained in place, meager measures enacted so far are still aren’t enough to meet the needs of many other small business owners. “A one-time $1,200 payment is not nearly enough, the rent for my one-bedroom apartment is $1,300 a month so that wouldn’t even cover my rent, let alone even begin to help cover for the shop”.

While Fishman has managed to stay in business in spite of these obstacles, sadly some of the neighborhood’s other local businesses haven’t been as lucky.

Barrio Logan and Logan Heights have been hit especially hard during the outbreak, where the jobless rate has reached a staggering 37.5 percent according to a recent study from the San Diego Association of Governments.

Not surprisingly, many neighborhood businesses that were already operating on thin margins are also starting to feel the effects of the fallout. Last month the Vista-based Iron Fist Brewing announced they would be permanently closing their tasting room that opened in Barrio Logan back in 2015.

Likewise, Nativo, an artesian boutique across the street from Beat Box Records that sells hand-woven crafts, jewelry, clothing also announced they would be permanently shutting their doors as a result of lost business. Needless to say Beat Box Records along with much of its neighbors have suffered a financial hit over the past several months.

Last month the shop missed Record Store Day and Chicano Park Day, the latter which takes place just down the street from the shop and both which annually bring heavy amounts of foot traffic to Beat Box and other businesses throughout the neighborhood.

In spite of this, Fishman is thankful that thus far his business has been able to remain afloat despite the economic slowdown. “These are definitely big business days in general and bring a lot of people that usually aren’t in the neighborhood to come to the shop, but we’re lucky as a record shop, with me having past experience selling online we’re resilient”, Fishman said. “We’re still able to generate some income and have other venues to sell our wares even without the storefront, but not everyone has that luxury.”

Even as state officials approved San Diego’s plan to expand Phase 2, Fishman plans to cautiously test-run curbside pick-up orders as Beat Box Records begins to partially re-open. Even as more businesses across the county open for in-store shopping, albeit with social-distancing restrictions Fishman has been cautious to fully re-open the shop. As a small business that was already a tight squeeze even prior to the state’s shelter in place order, social distancing has proven to be tricky for the communal nature of crate-digging and record stores.

Fishman is planning to roll out some innovative ideas to provide music collectors with a safe shopping experience. With altered hours, 12 PM to 6 PM on Saturdays, and Sundays Fishman hopes to offer a safe experience for vinyl aficionados looking to buy new music after months of quarantine.

“We’ll put a table in front of the door, and plexiglass on the front just to be safe so people can come to the door like a counter and ask what we have,” Fishman explained. “We might put a couple of boxes of records spaced in the front, we’ll be spinning music and we’ll also be posting a lot online and see how it goes. Hopefully, it works, but if it’s just not feasible and doesn’t make sense we’ll try and come up with something else.”

Above all, even as more businesses continue to re-open Fishman’s greatest concern is the health and safety of shop goers and the neighborhood. As new Coronavirus infections still persist throughout San Diego and other regions across the state Fishman expressed he’s in no rush to back to business as usual.

“We’ll fully re-open when it’s safe, but personally I’m not rushing to completely open my doors. It just seems really irresponsible to do that right now,” Fishman said. “It’s more important to me that people are safe, and that they support the shop by being safe and taking care of one another. We can all come together when it’s that time and when it’s safe to move about again we’ll exactly that”.

While record stores and other small businesses will undoubtedly continue to struggle for the foreseeable future as the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic continue to play out, Fishman still remains optimistic about the future. “Beat Box isn’t going anywhere, we’re making do and we’ll always try to figure out a way to go on.”

Beat Box Records is now open for modified curbside pickup Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 6 PM.



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