“Saki is not just your typical record store,” says manager Adam Hirzel. “This place is built to host bands and artists.” At most in-stores, band and equipment are crushed into a corner while audience members vie for space between rows of records, but Saki has a stage and pushes its magazine shelves aside to make room for fans. Last weekend, Saki took advantage of these resources to celebrate its first year, with beers, bands and birthday cake. The two-day event attracted both long-time supporters of the store, chatting with bandmembers and employees, as well as new customers, wandering the aisles and wondering why they had never ventured this far west on Fullerton. Outside, people smoked cigarettes and petted dogs. Inside, locals Tiger Bones, sweaty and serious, played dark psychedelic-tinged garage rock as a child danced around.
“Many of the people involved were also here for our grand opening,” says Hirzel. “Our first goal was to get as many of those bands and DJs back as we could. After that we started asking some of our favorite bands that have performed here in the past year.”
Named after a siamese cat owner Patrick Monaghan bought for his wife Julia, Saki is, according to Monaghan, the “physical extension of [the] web presence” of his record label, Carrot Top Records. “When distributor CTD (Carrot Top Distribution) started doing mail order about ten years ago, we just liked the name and started it as a subsidiary company. When we opened retail… we kept the name. I guess we did that part backwards from most people, huh?”
Though the store’s namesake cat has passed on, a painting of her hangs over the fireplace where she is “surrounded by musical ghosts”—the art of Mekons bandmember (and Monaghan friend) Jon Langford. “We like to focus on musicians who are also artists, or art that is somehow related to music,” says Monaghan. The faces of Ian Curtis and George Harrison look on as shoppers browse through the records, which are mostly new and selected by Carrot Top Distribution. Saki is looking to expand its “used” collection, though, according to Hirzel: “People think we’re not in that game, but we are. Our selection is still pretty small, but it will continue to grow as more customers bring their records to us.”
Another area where Saki hopes to increase customer involvement is in the types of events it hosts. “We would really like to branch out,” says Hirzel. “We love doing in-stores and art openings, and we’ll never stop doing them, but we also want to do movie nights, trivia, silent auctions, art exchanges—basically anything that will bring more fun and interesting people to the shop.”
The events that made up Saki’s first anniversary weekend were, really, not so different from the types of gatherings they hope to host in the future, according to Hirzel. “Everyone who performed was someone we really like, both artistically and personally. What more could you want?” (Rachel Lazar)