Ventura County's Support-Local Program

There’s No Place Like Home

For four decades, Salzer’s Records has been Ventura’s home for music — and community.

In a world of countless individuals, culture is the great connector, building bridges between us in a way that we can share and commune, reminding us that we are more alike than different, more connected than solitary.  While culture manifests in many forms, perhaps the greatest connector of all is music, its rhythm and rhyme, melody and meter connecting with a place within that is altogether primal, a place of pure soul that was born in prehistory. We are hardwired to be musical; it carries the language of the soul like nothing else.

Salzer's first opened in 1972.

Thus, one way community has always been expressed and edified has been through music — and a central hub of the community has always been the music store. Not only does the music proprietor offer copies of much loved music, he provides a dissemination point for community goings-on; from concerts to meetings and events, any savvy promoter has long known that if one wanted to get the word out, the first place to do it was the record store.

Jim Saltzer

Jim Salzer knows this too well.

For some five decades Salzer has lived a life of music; selling records, promoting concerts, and, more to the point, promoting community in his inimitable style. Anchoring a prominent spot just off the 101 at Victoria since 1972, Salzer’s Records has long been among the most iconic businesses in Ventura, and Salzer himself an archetype of the committed community advocate. “The interesting thing about record stores,” he notes, “is that people like to go visit record stores when they visit a town. People that are into music like to go check out the record store first thing, to see what’s going on. Typically.” he continues, “that’s where you can get the pulse of a town — whether or not it’s a fun place, or boring, or staid; at the record store you find out real quick.”

In nearly forty years at the same location, Salzer has seen countless trends come and go, and has survived not only those trends, but the last decade’s record industry bloodletting that saw the disappearance of countless major record outlets, from the monolithic Tower Records to the ubiquitous boutiques like the Wherehouse- once everywhere, now extinct.

“I think we’ll continue to operate the record store for years to come, because we’re not just a destination store, but a lifestyle store,” he explains. ” The most common refrain that I get from people who buy music is that they can get music here that they can’t find anyplace else. That’s important,” he affirms. “You’re not going to find it at WaloMart, or Target, or Best Buy; all they’re trying to do is attract what they call “footprints” — traffic — so they throw music out there just like toothpaste.

There is no danger of mistaking Salzer’s for Best Buy, or any other chain. Where the big box retailers might carry stock in a hundred or so of the nation’s most popular titles, at any given time Salzer carries upwards of thirty thousand titles on hand- a number that balloons to some fifty thousand in peak seasons — and a great deal of that stock is in vinyl.

Clearly, to not only survive in this electronic age, but to thrive, he must be doing something right.  “It’s always been about the little touches,” he explains. “The clerks who know their music, the funkiness, the feeling that a visit is an experience of its own — and the word-of-mouth that you can always find it here.” With annual sales holding steady at $5 million, it’s a tried-and-true recipe for success, to which he credits his commitment to community.

“A lot of people were on me over the years to keep growing, to build more stores,” he recounts. “But I just wanted the one. I wanted to know my customers, and I wanted them to know me- same with my employees.” Salzer’s staff of about sixty are known for their knowledge and dedication to music, something they have in common with their boss.

Salzer’s life has been a tribute to the power of music, and he’s done a bit of it all- from managing bands to promoting concerts: in the late sixties and early seventies, he booked and promoted some 350 rock ‘n’ roll shows, featuring such legendary acts as the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. The vintage posters from that era are regularly knocked off and bootlegged on Amazon.com and countless other web commerce sites; annoying, but a tribute to the long reach of one of Ventura’s — and our community’s — most loyal and iconic advocates.

In an age when big box sameness is dominating the market across countless trades, as mom and pops are driven out of business from one corner of the nation to the other, Salzer’s records shows us that local commerce and community are lifelong mates — thriving, or languishing together, to the degree that each supports that union.

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2 Comments

  1. Great article great business.

  2. love the photos; thing about Salzer’s is the stimulation beyond music. At times, it’s been a date event for me.

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