Store owner Diara Reid with a photo of her dad with then 17-year old Aretha Franklin, who he brought to Oakland for a gospel concert

Store owner Diara Reid with a photo of her dad with then 17-year old Aretha Franklin, who he brought to Oakland for a gospel concert

Reid's Records To Close After 74 Years

Berkeley record store helped bring gospel to the Bay Area.

Doug Sovern
February 07, 2019 - 11:43 am
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BERKELEY (KCBS Radio) -- For decades, Reid’s Records, a black-owned gospel record store on Sacramento Street in Berkeley, spread the good news of gospel music. But times, and tastes, have changed—and the owners know it. Over the years, sales have slowed to a trickle.

But Reid’s is not just any record store. Its owners brought rising young stars, like a 17 year-old gospel prodigy named Aretha Franklin, to play shows in the East Bay.

It’s no wonder the shop has endured—fortitude runs in its roots. Reid’s Records was co-founded the legendary “Rosy the Riveter”:  97 year old Betty Reid Soskin, who is currently the nation’s oldest actively serving National Park Ranger.

Reid’s is now run by Diara Reid, who told KCBS Radio that the store has lost its footing in a digital world. “Technology has just taken away the physical product that we sell,” she said. “It’s all available at people’s fingertips.”  

In the age of single tracks racking up streaming counts, Reid said the full-length album no longer matters as much as it once did. If they do buy records, she added, they’re shipped for free and waiting on the customer’s doorstep when they get home from a long commute.

“So, we’re no longer convenient,” she said, sounding weary but resigned. It’s not just digital music and online retail, but changing tastes that ended the shop’s 74 year run. Reid said there’s no longer as much demand for the spiritual music that Reid’s Records helped to popularize.

“We’re losing the music that traditionally was gospel. You don’t hear gospel very much anymore,” she said.

The store held on as long as it could—“ten years longer than I should have,” Reid admitted—with only occasional customers passing through racks of church robes and hymnals alongside the rows of vinyl records and CD’s. The shop plans to pack up and rent out the storefront.

Reid’s Records will close for good on October 19th, joining a growing list of Bay Area food and culture institutions being wiped from the map. They hope loyal customers will stop by one last time to say goodbye.

Written by Jordan Bowen.