Rasputin Music: Berkeley icon endures

BERKELEY, Calif. — Along Berkeley’s bustling Telegraph Avenue, amid street vendors and coffee shops, lies a hidden treasure: Rasputin Music. While its faded exterior is easily overlooked, the shop holds a wealth of music merchandise. Covering three floors and dominated by a sea of CDs, movie and record collections, Rasputin Music has attracted music lovers since opening in 1971. With 11 different locations in the San Francisco Bay area, the franchise has stood the test of time even as other music stores slowly disappear.

Saeed Crumpler, a Rasputin employee of 10 years, credits the ongoing success to the store’s extensive variety of music.

“That’s what keeps us going,” Crumpler said. “We have stuff they [other stores] don’t.”

Rasputin Music

On the upper level of Resputin Music, headphones allow customers to preview their favorite artists. Photo by Holly Warendorf

Namely older, classic albums, such as The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan. The store also showcases independent artists hoping to make a name for themselves in the music industry. Crumpler, the chief buyer for the rap and urban collections, is always on the lookout for new, emerging musicians to feature.

In the past two decades, the evolution of MP3 players and online music downloads has caused a decline in CD and record sales. Even as the number of music stores dwindles, Rasputin has maintained its business as a result of dedicated customers within the Berkeley community.

“There are regulars that come here all the time,” Crumpler said. “Some people come in multiple times a day.”

One such regular, Jaie Uyenhara, praised the store’s variety.

“There is definitley more of selection here,” Uyenhara said, while perusing the CD racks with friends.

Debbie Ferreira, a Berkeley native, has been visiting Raputin Music since the late 70s. Though she no longer resides in town, she frequently returns to visit her favorite spots in the city.

“Berkeley is a place of its own,” Ferreira said. “Vinyls are also coming back.”

True to its history, Berkeley continues to nurture a unique art and music scene. The offbeat atmosphere of the town has allowed stores like Raputin Music to survive for so long.

As Ferreira said: “It’s an icon.”