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Vinyl fans, SLO County is about to get a new record store

Traffic Records prepares to open in Atascadero

Vinyl records are back. Manuel Barba and Dawn Neil talk about why listening to vinyl records is different than other music experiences at their new record store under construction Traffic Records, 5870 Traffic Way in Atascadero.
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Vinyl records are back. Manuel Barba and Dawn Neil talk about why listening to vinyl records is different than other music experiences at their new record store under construction Traffic Records, 5870 Traffic Way in Atascadero.

Manuel Barba thinks records can change the world — or at least the North County.

The therapist-turned entrepreneur is preparing to open Traffic Records, a new record shop on Traffic Way in Atascadero.

The store will be one of the only vinyl purveyors in the county north of San Luis Obispo (alongside Vinyl Isle in Morro Bay). Barba thinks North County residents are ready to set aside their digital music and embrace a richer analog sound.

“I think people are getting kind of bored of the ‘I’m gonna stream it, I’m gonna download it,’” he said.

Barba and his business parter, Dawn Neill, plan to make their 400-square-foot space a community gathering spot, both for record-lovers and those looking to dip their toes into the world of vinyl.

“I kind of think it’s going to make a mark,” Barba said.

A lifelong music and record lover, Barba has spent most of his career working as a marriage and family therapist for San Luis Obispo County.

Barba cut his teeth trading vinyl at the SLO Record Swap, a quarterly pop-up record sale he created.

But opening a record store has been a dream of his for some time.

“I just decided I needed a little bit of a shift,” he said.

Now, he’s almost ready for prime time. He and Neill rented their space in an up-and-coming space in downtown Atascadero in February.

By the time they open, Barba estimates they’ll spend $8,000 to $10,000 to get the shop going. The store will likely employ one manager and one employee, he said: “I think we’re going to be small but mighty.”

The store will almost exclusively feature records — no CDs — and high-end sound equipment. It will also display art from local artists instead of the traditional posters.

Barba’s planning to hold a soft opening sometime in mid-March, followed by a grand opening in April.

Although he lives in San Luis Obispo, he said the North County, with concert venues like Vina Robles and the California Mid-State Fair, is the perfect place for a record store.

“It doesn’t make sense anywhere else,” Barba said.

Correction: An earlier version of this story named Traffic Records as the only record store north of SLO. It's been updated to include Vinyl Isle in Morro Bay.

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