BY BARRY LANK
Silver Lake — Rockaway Records started with Wayne Johnson and his brother going to the Capitol swap meet in Hollywood back in the 1970s, selling old records out of the trunk of a car. This eventually grew into a record business that helped changed the landscape of Silver Lake.
Johnson came to Silver Lake after buying out an existing record shop in what’s now the 365 by Whole Foods shopping center. A few years later, Rockaway Records moved a block away into a building at the corner of Glendale Boulevard and Brier Avenue only to expand into a much larger building across the street in the 1990s.
And in an era where most music stores have gone the way of the spiked mohawk, Rockaway has stayed in business in a manner befitting modern day Silver Lake – by becoming the landlord, renting space to other businesses in what is now called Rockaway Plaza.
We asked Johnson, who is 65 years old and lives in Eagle Rock, a few questions about the business:
How much of the space in your building is still devoted to music?
About 35%. It used to be 100%. We were the biggest record store in L.A. when we opened here. But we’ve since learned that quality is more important than quantity.
What kind of customers do you get now?
Used to be mostly older, but now it’s mixed. We’re getting lots of young people buying vinyl. Our collectibles used to be mainly classic rock, but now we are much more diversified, from punk, grunge and even newer artists like Katy Perry.
Which records are you still looking to buy?
High quality rock, soul, prog, psych, jazz.
Are collectables the main part of your business?
About 50/50. We still sell tons of CDs and used (like new) vinyl.
You said in an interview with Silver Lake History Collective that some collectables have actually gone down in value over the years. What’s the pattern?
Most of the ’50s and ’60s artists collectibles have gone down – even Elvis Presley and the Beatles, except for their really rare or perfectly mint items. Punk and grunge are going up.
What’s next for Rockaway Records?
No big changes planned. The changes we’ve made over the last couple of years are working very well. We plan to keep raising our standards for the quality of our inventory. Both for used merchandise and collectibles. We are thinking about having auctions in the future. Lately we have been getting in many museum-quality collectibles. Some of them are one-of-a-kinds, and very difficult to put a price on.
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