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SLO record store keeps turntables spinning amid coronavirus pandemic with online transition

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It's no secret many people and local business are struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic. Boo Boo Records owner Mike White realizes that as he navigates the uncertain climate.

"Everyone's hurting," White told New Times. "I don't expect anything from anybody, but it's nice when we get it and it's super gratifying. We're thankful."

QUARAN-TUNES Boo Boo Records owner Mike White is keeping his record store running by going entirely digital during the COVID-19 pandemic. - FILE PHOTO COURTESY OF BOO BOO RECORDS
  • File Photo Courtesy Of Boo Boo Records
  • QUARAN-TUNES Boo Boo Records owner Mike White is keeping his record store running by going entirely digital during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As businesses in San Luis Obispo and across the state shut their doors for the foreseeable future as a result of Gov. Gavin Newsom's shelter-at-home directive, creativity became the name of the game. Local establishments are coming up with ways to continue serving their customers while staying home.

At Boo Boo Records, this means turning to online sales to keep selling records for music heads. While the store has maintained an online selling presence for the last 15 years, White said he and his employees have put more energy toward the website as a result of the pandemic. They've also offered bonus credit on gift cards and discounts on store merchandise bought online as well.

"The doors are closed, but our online business has really been giving us a heartbeat," White said, adding that online business is "giving us a lot of optimism as far as making it through however long it takes."

In addition to its website, Boo Boo's is uploading photos, videos, and stories to its Instagram account to keep community engagement up. Followers have been responding positively to the page's content, White said.

The store is also listing many of its vinyl records for sale on its Discogs page. Discogs is a user-sourced music database that also functions as a digital marketplace for physical releases. More than 14.5 million items were sold on Discogs in 2019 alone, according to a March 9 press release.

The increased energy going into maintaining an online storefront, White said, is keeping some employees working to maintain it.

"Obviously it's a much reduced staff, but I'm keeping people working four days a week—all day," he said, "which is really gratifying. We've got some guys that can keep earning."

But just like many other businesses in town, Boo Boo Records is still being hit financially because of the pandemic's economic impact.

White said the store's biggest challenge is trying to make do with less income pouring in to pay rent, utilities, taxes, and other bills, but he also added that another challenge for the store currently is keeping up with online orders.

The transaction speed in a person-to-person interaction versus an online interaction is much different, White said. He added that the difference results from communication with their customers taking place through phone, text, and emails.

But customers have chipped in their support for the record store beyond buying records, as White said several customers have bought gift certificates in the hundreds of dollars to support store. And for that, he's appreciative.

"Music is a real oasis," White said. "Obviously there's many ways of getting your music delivered these days. They don't need to buy a record from us to do that. I'm just thankful to the people that are and have been."

Fast facts

ARTS Obispo, the county's art council, has listed various resources for artists and art organizations affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Resources include preparedness tips during the pandemic, along with financial support for musicians, visual artists, writers, and multidisciplinary artists. For an expanded list, visit artsobispo.org/coronavirus.

The Yoga Standard and Tolosa Winery are partnering up to bring free online yoga classes for two more weeks. "WOGA Wednesdays," which combine both practicing yoga and drinking wine, continue April 29 at 4 p.m. You can join the class by visiting tolosawinery.com/events/woga-wednesday.

The Sock Drawer donated 200 pairs of novelty socks to health care workers at Dignity Health and Sierra Vista hospitals. The socks were given as a thank you gift for their efforts in caring for COVID-19 patients. "Our products are about bringing people joy, and if there's anyone who deserves that right now, it's all the nurses, doctors, and other essential medical workers out there," Sock Drawer owner and founder Brooke English said in a press release. "We hope this puts a smile on their faces." Δ

Editorial intern Francisco Martinez wrote this week's Strokes and Plugs. Send tidbits to strokes@newtimesslo.com.

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