Jack's Record Cellar – San Francisco, California - Atlas Obscura

San Francisco, California

Jack's Record Cellar

This surreptitious shop is only open five hours per week. 

While record collectors flock to Haight-Ashbury—the neighborhood that famously hosted the Summer of Love and was home to Janice Joplin, the Grateful Dead, and Jimi Hendrix—Jack’s Record Cellar is almost unknown. That’s because 163 hours a week, it looks like an abandoned property, its measly “RECORDS” sign small and faded. The store opens only on Saturday from 2 to 7 p.m., and even those hours aren’t guaranteed.

Most locals don’t even realize it’s a storefront, and its always-closed status endows it with both a touch of magic and an aura of exclusivity. But once you’re inside, Jack’s is a welcoming place.

It feels like a cross between an organized shop and a chaotic attic, with broken records piled in a basket, an old Eames chair hoisted atop shelves, scraps of yellowed newspaper taped to the walls, and a proprietor commenting that the music playing is “dusty.” He’s referring to the sound of aged records, but the dust in the corners of Jack’s has had time to accumulate, as its history dates back to a 1950s location on Haight Street.

The shop specializes in 78s, a type of heavy but brittle record that plays a single song, and it’s easy to walk away with an armful of treasures. Plenty of records cost just a few dollars, and owner Wade Wright is happy to talk with enthusiastic novices and serious collectors. The store’s main business comes from eBay, but Wright opens once a week to interact with people and be part of the neighborhood. Even if you’ve never bought a record, after an hour of listening to Wright chat about the store’s early days, you might find yourself picking up the habit.

Know Before You Go

The store is generally open on Saturday from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. Check carefully: Even when it's open, it looks closed. If it is closed, don't despair. The Haight is home to many other record stores, including an Amoeba Records located in a former bowling alley where Haight Street meets Golden Gate Park, and the Haight Street Art Center, a museum devoted wholly to rock-concert posters, is nearby at 215 Haight Street. 

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