Long Beach's Soulific Records isn't your typical record store. Inside the second-floor, 12-foot-by-12-foot converted office the 5-month-old store calls home, a few wooden racks hold impeccably maintained vinyl copies of funk, jazz, soul and Latin albums so obscure that most of the producers, collectors and DJs who care about them would only find them after years of digging through the proverbial crates.
Among the selection is an original pressing of Roy Ayers' 1976 album, Vibrations; a private pressing of Bobby Guajardo y su Orquesta's La Marranita; and a pristine specimen of Larry Young's jazz fusion album, Fuel--all rarities that would be more commonly found overpriced on eBay or specialty websites such as collectorsfrenzy.com.
But here at Soulific, the crates have been dug for you, and each item on display has been personally selected, cleaned and reasonably priced by owner Rodi Delgadillo, a local record collector and veteran all-vinyl DJ who co-founded the seminal Long Beach funk-and-soul club the Good Foot.
"With my shop, you don't have to go through a lot of records you don't really want to find the ones you do," Delgadillo says from his semi-permanent perch behind the store's cash register. "I picked these, and I thought about these records, so when you come in here, you're going to find something you really like. That's the idea behind the store being so cozy--it's a well-curated shop where you're guaranteed to find something really cool."
Read more: The Good Foot Returns to Long Beach
Soulific's small inventory and hidden location (only a sandwich board pulled outside each day proclaims its existence in this office building) cater to a hyper-specific crowd of music appreciators. While other record stores might load up their so-called "rock" section with familiar names to appeal to the masses, Delgadillo has created a boutique that specializes in old funk, soul, jazz, reggae, Latin and any genre fusion therein.
That's not to say you have to be an expert about any of these genres to enter. Without any hint of snobbery or pretentiousness, Soulific, in its short time open, has become a place both where newcomers can come to learn and where record junkies can go to find choice titles. Neil Young and Stones records might get dropped behind the "miscellaneous" tag, but they are still there, and on the weekends, everyone from casual listeners to the region's top beatmakers can be found flipping through the shop's lovingly hand-picked stacks.
"A goal I have for this store is to introduce this music to people who haven't heard of it and to get them interested in it," Delgadillo says. "Maybe they're just coming in here to browse, or they know what they want and maybe I don't have it. But I can still turn them onto something else they haven't heard that's all new to them."
More than the rarity of the records sold there, at the core of the Soulific experience is Delgadillo himself, a soft-spoken man with an overflowing passion for the music he stocks. He started buying records more than 20 years ago, easing in with two-tone and ska albums from Lou's in Oceanside (where he lived in his early teens), and then at Bagatelle's, which still exists as a vinyl-hoarder's paradise on Atlantic Avenue in Long Beach. Thrift stores were also an easy place to load up on new discoveries. "That was back when people weren't looking for records," he says.
Before Delgadillo knew it, his vinyl collection had grown into a lifestyle; he and fellow ska-lover Dennis Owens were dressing as rude boys and hanging out at the mod nights held inside long-gone Long Beach venue Grand Central Station.
Owens and Delgadillo then played in several important ska- and reggae-inspired groups during that time--just Google "Suburban Rhythm"--but soon decided they weren't interested in doing the band thing. Their mutual love of funk and soul and dueling vinyl collections led them, in 1998, to launch the Good Foot, a monthly all-vinyl club night that still lives on at Alex's Bar.
Even when Delgadillo moved to Japan in 2005, his love of vinyl never waned. He flew out with a few hundred 45s, and as a birthday present one year, his mom sent him hundreds of LPs, with which he started his own reggae-and-dub night in an Osaka vinyl bar.
In Japan, the vinyl culture was already in full swing, and many of his friends would travel all the way to the Caribbean for the chance to buy from a newly discovered cache of old reggae records. During his time abroad, Delgadillo learned to appreciate not only how precious certain titles can be, but also how sometimes, the best record shops don't always live in obvious street-level retail.
"Maybe part of my influence with getting this space was being in Japan," he says of his hard-to-find shop. "A lot of stores there can be on a fifth story or something, but they'll have their little sign out front, and people there are so nerdy they want to research it and find these cool hidden spots. It's a different mentality."
After returning to Long Beach in 2012, Delgadillo began selling off pieces of his massive collection, most of which had remained in storage while he was away. It only took a few rounds of sales at Beat Swapmeet and on eBay, though, for him to start searching for a brick-and-mortar space.
In June, Soulific Records opened with an inventory that featured more than half of Delgadillo's personal stash. The rest were pieces he'd purchased with the intention of selling, not just because they were good albums, but because they were the best-condition record of that album that he could find.
"I only put out records that have covers in good condition and vinyl in good condition," he says. "That's definitely something I take pride in with the shop."
Today, out of the more than 3,000 records he once owned, Delgadillo says he has only about 500 now, most of which are his deejaying essentials. He still goes to thrift stores and record stores and Beat Swapmeet, but this time, he's hunting for the best of the best to sell at Soulific. With "quality over quantity" a motto all but embedded in the operation, and with the resident music geek also the owner, appraiser, social media maven and full-time clerk, Long Beach's newest record store is also its most personal.
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"Sometimes, I'm almost like a counselor or therapist," Delgadillo says. "People come in and talk about their day, and the conversation goes from records to their shitty week. But then we can turn it around and make it positive by putting on a good track. That's the best feeling."
Soulific Records, 1409 E. Fourth St., Ste. B, Long Beach, (562) 607-2257. Follow the store on Instagram: @SoulificRecords.