Fire at Redwood City record store considered suspicious, investigators say

An early Wednesday morning fire is being called suspicious by Redwood City fire investigators. A popular peninsula record store was damaged in the blaze. Investigators questioned a man near the fire scene to see if he had any involvement.

The store’s owner says he’s lucky the flames didn’t wipe out his record collection, and part of the Peninsula’s culture.

"Down the road, people many want them, hard copies of the music they grew up with," said Gary Saxon, owner of The Record Man.

Wearing an eyepatch and a western hat, Saxson is part curator, and part record sales guru. The inside of his Redwood City store reflects a time when vinyl, not digital downloads was the way to experience music.

"You didn’t just cherry-pick one or two songs, generally, that you liked.  You would sit down with a group of friends and listen to that whole album side," said Bruce Barber, general manager of WNHU-FM, the student radio station at the University of New Haven.

For the most part, Saxon’s irreplaceable collection, dating back a hundred years, was spared from the Wednesday morning fire.

The resulting second lease on business life means more turns for listeners who are getting younger, not older.

"A lot of people are getting back into, and getting into, records," said Saxson.

While shops such as this may be few and far between, they do exist, and are thriving in the age of COVID-19.

"People were looking for affordable entertainment at home, and I think they really rediscovered what knew from our youth," said Page Brodsky, a manager at Streetlight Records in San Jose.

Brodsky believes that there’s something magical about being able to hold vinyl, as opposed to look at an artist’s work on a screen.

The result, according to industry reports, is a  4% uptick in record sales.

"I think people see it as a great way to support these artists. Especially during this COVID pandemic," said Patrick Kramer, former program manager at KSJS-FM, the student radio station at San Jose State University.

At the Redwood City fire scene, Gary Saxson says he’s still taking inventory. He promises one fire won’t ruin his record run of 30 years.

"It’s bad, but it’s not too bad," he said.

There were no reported  injuries in the fire, and most of the damage is due to smoke and water.

Investigators are checking to see if the fire at the record store is connected to a second fire in the area, around the same time of day Wednesday.