Manuel Barba opened Traffic Records in downtown Atascadero in March of this year with his partner Dawn Neill because of his love of music.
“I didn’t think I’d be opening a record store at all,” Barba said. “I just knew I’d do something with music. When the location in the downtown Colony District opened up, Barba said when he did the math, it was clear that Atascadero was the place to open a record store. “It didn’t take me long to figure it out,” Barba said.” I feel people are excited that we’re here. New people find out [about the store] every day. People are starting to learn that we are here.” And that was how Traffic Records on Traffic Way was born.
The walls of the 400-square-foot space are lined with wooden boxes filled with vinyl records, many of which Barba buys from people who have either inherited the records or are looking to downsize what they’d collected over the years. He encourages people looking to offload the records to bring them down to the store. When he gets a collection, he checks the condition of each dust jacket, the condition of each record and evaluates the records based on whether they are something that would appeal to his customers. He doesn’t accept every record that comes through the door, though.
“We get a lot of junk too,” Barba said. “It doesn’t feel good to turn people away.” He won’t accept a record, which is in bad condition or is it not something his customers would be interested in. However, as much as possible, he does try to do what he can to keep records out of the landfill. “I’ve shifted my mindset [when looking for records],” Barba said. “It’s about getting them out into the community. I’m not necessarily looking for records in the same way I was before.”
Now, he said, he gets excited when he finds a pristine record that he knows his customers will want.
Barba started with reselling vinyl by organizing record swaps in San Luis Obispo, where he lives with Neill, a Cal Poly anthropology professor, and their three children, Joaquin, Mateo and McCartney, ages 12, 10 and 3.5 respectively. The Record Days still continue two to three times a year at the Guild Hall on Broad Street in San Luis Obispo. “I’m addicted to music, not vinyl,” Barba said. “Vinyl is just how I prefer to listen to it.”
He added that vinyl conveys the music in the way that the musicians intended. In addition to running record swaps and his store, Barba also is a disc jockey, spinning records. Being a D.J. is something he has done since he was in high school. He D.J.s events and weddings with records. At his store he plays the full album of records in the collection he carefully curates for his customers. The full album is put together and is meant to be listened to in full, not just listening to the hits.
He spins records every Sunday at Libertine during vinyl brunch, which is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
In addition to selling vinyl records, Traffic Records also sells cassettes and 45s. Barba is in the process of getting a machine that will enable him to sell tickets from EventBright.
Got some vinyl collecting dust in your closet? Take your collection to Traffic Records. Barba will sort through them to pick out what he will resale. He pays cash or gives store credit to sellers. After he buys the records, he takes out every record to inspect and clean it before putting it out for sale. He has boxes upon boxes of records in his back room, just waiting for him to go through them and get them on the store’s floor.
Before he moved to the Central Coast 20 years ago, he grew up in East Los Angeles and then moved to Santa Cruz right before he turned 18. When he moved to the San Luis Obispo area, he worked for Parks and Recreation, which propelled him into a career working with families and children. Working with children led him to get a master’s degree in psychology. Now, he imparts his wisdom to his customers.
Some things he’s planning for the future is to be a ticket box office for various shows and venues in the area and he would like to host his own shows in the community.
“I’d like to get involved in city growth and planning,” Barba said, adding that Atascadero is in need of a venue. “People are waking up to the importance of having live music.”
Heather Young is a freelance writer specializing in travel, wine, food and feel-good stories about people doing good in their communities and world. Find her on Instagram @travelswithheatheryoung