Rare Finds

Image: Rare Finds:Pug?z, above, has a wide selection of merchandise, ranging from old vinyl and videos to CDs and ?zines.:

Image: Rare Finds:Pug?z, above, has a wide selection of merchandise, ranging from old vinyl and videos to CDs and ?zines.:

Daniel Barnes

Times are tough for the little guy.

With Blockbuster and Hollywood Video methodically chewing up their competition inside city limits and capitalist cathedrals like Barnes and Noble and Borders Books setting up shop on the outskirts, Sacramento’s independent book/video/record stores are feeling the squeeze, a crisis that has been magnified by a spate of recent closings in the area (Manic Music being the latest).

So is it the end of the line for video stores that don’t censor their content, bookstores that have never been sued for anti-trust violations or record stores that don’t charge twenty bucks for a Strokes CD?

Not bloody likely.

In fact, the Midtown area is host to a number of used records and bookstores that serve as acceptable substitutes for a ninety-minute drive to the Bay Area.

Most prominent among these is The Beat (1700 J Street, 446-4402), a Best-of-Sacramento perennial that has earned its rep with its near warehouse-sized inventory, a decent crop of indie albums and huge stacks of hard-to-find (albeit overpriced) vinyl.

Esoteric Records has two Sacramento locations (1427 L Street, 442-4858; 3413 El Camino, 488-8966), and as long as you can tolerate the execrable fusion jazz glop favored by the stores’ clerks, it’s the best place in town to load up on cheap vinyl. Esoteric is stacked to the rafters with CDS, tapes, videos and records, but it’s the 25-cent vinyl bins that’ll put meat on your collection’s bones. Want to buy the entire Night Ranger catalog for two bucks? Sold!

Records (710 K Street, 446-3973) is a Sacramento institution that was immortalized on the cover of DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing album. There’s plenty of rare, cool merchandise available, although you’ll have to work your way through piles and piles of worthless, unsorted crap in order to find it.

One of the best bets for local bookworms is Time Tested Books (1114 21st Street, 447-5696), a messy but well-stocked rare- and used-book dealer that also sells records and has a section devoted entirely to anarchist writers.

Just down the street from Time Tested is The Open Book (910 21st Street, 498-1004), a relatively quaint bookstore/coffee shop/video store that specializes in gay and lesbian literature (they deal only in new books), films and activism.

Beers Books (1431 L Street, 442-9475), which sits next door to Esoteric Records’ Midtown location, is another frequent resident on Best-of-Sacramento lists, and for good reason. The store has a wealth of classics and pulp paperbacks for sale, is well-stocked in every genre and sells cheap used videos.

The Book Collector (1008 24th Street, 442-9295) is a classy, buy-sell-and-trade nook located next to the Corner Stone Restaurant on J Street. Their selection of used books is fantastic and easy on the wallet, and the staff is friendly and knowledgeable.

Stockton Blvd. features a host of low-priced indie video rental outfits that Blockbuster and Hollywood never bothered to muscle out of business, and Video Studio 6 has the best selection of them all, with towering racks of videotapes and 99-cent rentals. And is that a Street Fighter: Champion Edition machine sitting over there? I call E. Honda!

Awesome Video (5000 Freeport Blvd., 731-4720) has survived Blockbuster’s customer-siphoning tendencies by offering generous rental prices, clever genre categorizations and a voluminous selection of harder-to-find films. They also have a limited but growing selection of DVDs for rent.

Across the street from Awesome Video is J. Crawford’s Books, a used book emporium that, while a bit skimpy on the literary classics, is a haven for romance, mystery and sci-fi genre fanatics who love to tear through cheap, dog-eared paperbacks.

Pug’z (3200 Folsom Blvd., 737-7849) may be a corporate subsidiary of the flailing major Tower Records, but the store’s excellent selection of new and used CDs, rare vinyl, used videocassettes and DVDs, zines, and other rock-related miscellanea, as well as their frequent in-store performances by local acts, all conspire to demand its inclusion here.

That’s 11 entertainment-content dealers located somewhere off Sacramento”s beaten path, and the indie chain outfit Dimple Records, which has locations in Roseville, Folsom and Sacramento (2433 Arden Way, 925-2600), makes it an even dozen. All three locations have an admirable selection of new and used music.

And what do major chain stores such as Borders and Blockbuster offer up in return, besides censorship, anti-trust lawsuits, the threat of cultural homogeny and monolithic control over the disbursement of information?

Plenty of good, well-lit parking.