A View With Vinyl: Lower Haight
Lower Haight is a district in central San Francisco that’s about 1/4 square miles in size. The neighborhood stretches out blocks from Haight Street; running from the east end of Golden Gate Park to just north of Market Street (San Francisco’s main drag: the parade route). Most San Franciscan’s may identify this district as “between-other-districts,” but it does have its own colors: graffiti art, old Irish pubs, and record shops.
Along the Haight-Axis, there is another neighborhood, uphill from “the panhandle” of Golden Gate Park, called Haight-Ashbury or the Upper Haight. Centered around the intersection of Haight Street and Ashbury Street, this area was once the hippie vortex and it symbolizes the ‘60s counterculture movements to this day.
Despite being located merely several blocks apart, the Lower and Upper Haight neighborhoods present different atmospheres. After dodging tourists in the Upper Haight, who pour in and out of pipe shops and renowned destinations like Amoeba Music store, the Lower Haight can feel like a nicer stroll.
The Lower Haight is a quainter residential district; local shop owners complain that decades of crime prevention reinforcement and earthquake retrofitting constructions have pretty much killed the everyday foot traffic and the bustling small business scene. Many of the 8,000 current residents of the Lower Haight are living in Victorian or Edwardian style houses and the remaining retail businesses are humbly supporting the needs of local patrons.
Maybe Lower Haight has more vinyl than people? It is rather surreal to think that this place is also a known vinyl destination; there are three world-renowned record shops huddled in this tiny area.
Believe it or not, these shops have been in business for decades, regardless of ownership change, name change, or retrofitting of the building its housed in — these vinyl shops have been here longer than most people residing here.
The facade of Rooky Ricardo’s Records can’t be missed as you stroll on. Store hours on the door display their opening and closing time as -ish to -ish. Once inside, no sales clerk jumps at you to ask: “What are you looking for today?” The sign on the wall, though, clearly states: “No Hippies Allowed.” — I guess there’s a reason why they aren’t located in the Upper Height.
>Stay tuned for more Bay Area record shop interviews!
Photographs by Rieko Fujii