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The Record Store

This Record Store Promises Good Fortune

A profile of Sacramento’s own Delta Breeze Records
Ben Johnson and Rick Daprato, owners of Delta Breeze Records. (All photos credited to Spencer Knight)
Ben Johnson and Rick Daprato, owners of Delta Breeze Records. (All photos credited to Spencer Knight)

Nestled under the tree canopy of downtown Sacramento, Delta Breeze Records is the janky little used record store for the heads who collect classic rock, soul, modern funk and disco, and jazz. While all record stores have a recognizable musk, Delta Breeze’s fragrance in the ground-floor of a 100-year-old Victorian duplex is complemented with the aroma of fortune cookies baking next door. The owners even keep a bowl of cookies by the counter to take. And if “janky” seems like a jab at the store, it’s important to know the term is a badge of honor in Sacramento.

Originally established in West Sacramento in September 2014, the owners Ben Johnson and Rick Daprato moved the operation downtown in 2017. The two met when Johnson worked for Records Records, the store famously documented on DJ Shadow’s Entroducing cover (although Johnson’s tenure came after they were forced to leave the original K Street location). Daprato was a faithful regular who’d invite Johnson to his yearly garage sale to shop for records. When Daprato was retiring from his state job, he mentioned wanting to get back into owning a shop. He sold his original shop Esoteric Records in 1990.

“I’d already told myself I need to stop working [at Records Records] and go in another direction,” Johnson says. “When he told me about his plans my ears perked up. I said, ‘hey are you interested in having a partner in that venture. I’m looking for a change of scenery myself’.”

Named after the zephyr that cools the Central Valley, Delta Breeze is a narrow room brimming with second-hand vinyl, while revolving stacks of restored Marantz receivers, vintage speakers, and other sound equipment occupy the little remaining space. Their curated selection is priced fairly and based on the grade and condition of the sleeve and vinyl. Opposite the clerk counter by the entrance is a $1.00 bin section that’s not to be overlooked. Johnson rotates the stock to keep it fresh. He’s also good for your repair needs. Delta Breeze is a buy-and-sell location for vintage equipment, which Johnson restores himself—a trade he acquired in his undergrad days as an engineer at the legendary KDVS radio station in Davis.

“When I was DJing I was always the homie that when someone’s 1200S needed new cables they’d bring it to me,” he says.

Now the homies are his regulars at the store. There’s a community of welcomed loiters that range from the chatty to the serious digger. Daprato is the old jazz head; his gray-haired buddies come for modestly priced original pressings of Blue Note and Strata East records. While Johnson, a local DJ and producer in the funk group Love Cryme, curates for the vinyl-only funk DJs in Sacramento, Woodland, and Davis. Local DJs like DJ Epik, Todd Shima, and Ed Lampkin are regulars. If you recognize them holding a stack, it’s best to return another day. But, if you see them dropping off a stack, Johnson might let you take an early look.

The store prides itself on its used identity. It doesn’t have a “new releases” section. It doesn’t carry Record Store Day releases, but it will throw a chill party with turntablists clustered in a scratch session. As for the “Ethnographic Forgery” section? That’s Daprato’s inside joke about the exotica lounge genre. He’s not a Martin Denny fan. Beyond a benign diss to exotica, the vibe is friendly and helpful, especially to those looking for guidance as to where to start with a home studio.

How do you find your records?

Ben Johnson: We have a lot of different sources. The primary way for me is buying private collections from people. A lot of that comes from word of mouth and referrals just from having a good reputation, meeting people and making connections. We also try to trade really fair with people when they are downsizing.

What’s the most expensive record you’ve sold?

Probably an expensive jazz record for a couple thousand bucks. I can’t even think of a specific name right now.

The rarest?

The rarest records are probably acetates or one-off type things. They might not be the most amazing music ever, but they are one-of-a-kind type stuff.

If someone came in for a vinyl starter kit what would you suggest?

I’m a pretty big evangelist for putting together an old school type component system. That’s how I got started with it myself. That’s a good way to go. I usually show people what kind of decent quality and affordable turntable they could reasonably expect to find. An affordable receiver and some vintage passive speakers and you can get a decent little sound going that’s going to sound way better than your laptop speakers or your phone or a cheap bluetooth.

Who’s the most famous person to come into the store?

Marc Spears from ESPN is a regular. He comes pretty often during the basketball season. He collects a lot of soul and jazz records.

Wyatt Cenac. He came in a little while ago. He gave us a shout on social [media], which was really nice.

What’s your favorite album to play in the store to set the mood?

A lot of times I just kind of reach for something that is on the shelf. I really like throwing on Maze. Frankie Beverly and Maze is something I’m always going to throw on when we have it in stock.

Advice to someone who wants to open a record store?

Make sure you have a good handle on how to acquire inventory. A mistake I see people make a lot is maybe they have a really dope stash of stuff and they open and put it all out and never really have a lot of good, fresh stuff again. Sometimes if you have a big batch of cool records it’s good to slowly trickle them out so people have a good chance of seeing them and so it doesn’t just get stale right away.