Rasputin Music is the largest independent chain of record stores in the extended San Francisco Bay Area, California named after 19th century Russian religious figure Grigori Rasputin. The store was founded as "Rasputin Records" in 1971 in Berkeley, California by Berkeley entrepreneur Ken Sarachan.
Rasputin Music currently operates nine locations around the Bay Area: the flagship Berkeley store at 2401 Telegraph Avenue, 2 in San Francisco, Mountain View, Newark, Campbell, Pleasant Hill, San Lorenzo, and Fairfield. There are also three locations in the Central Valley cities of Modesto, Stockton and Fresno.
The original Rasputin Music store was located on Telegraph Avenue in the space currently occupied by Blondie's Pizza, which is also owned by Ken Sarachan. Rasputin moved across the street into a larger space when Odyssey Records went out of business. In the late 1970s it split into two separate locations, with one store specializing in rock music and the other in soul, jazz and other music genres. In July 1982, a suspicious fire at next-door Steve the Greek's restaurant destroyed the soul and jazz store. Rasputin's Berkeley operation was then consolidated into a single location. It currently operates at the corner of Telegraph Avenue and Channing Way.
Although in recent years its prices have become more commensurate with those of other music stores, Rasputin was known for offering low prices on new and used CDs, DVDs, and vinyl records compared to other Berkeley music stores like Leopold and Tower Records. Its selection of new vinyl is unusually rich, as is its selection of used CDs and DVDs.
Rasputin occasionally features in-store performances by top musicians and bands. Metallica made its first in-store appearance in almost a decade at the Rasputin Mountain View store as part of the April 19, 2008 "Record Store Day".
Rasputin published an in-house magazine and web site, the Rasputin Manifesto, with reviews of mainstream and independent music and DVDs. Its web location is no longer reachable.
On February 4, 2008, the Newark location closed due to redevelopment of the shopping complex in which it was located.
Ken Sarachan Properties On Telegraph Avenue and Business Practices
Ken Sarachan owns several properties on Telegraph Avenue, and is considered a controversial figure in Berkeley because of the apparent neglect with which they have been treated. His other businesses and properties include Blondie’s Pizza; the vacant Cody’s Books building; the shopping mall at 2350 Telegraph; 2503 and 2509 Haste; and an empty lot 2501 Haste Street.
The empty lot at 2501 Haste, the subject of innumerable blight complaints despite incentives offered by the City of Berkeley, has been vacant for over 25 years. It was purchased in 1991 in an apparent attempt to prevent the expansion or move of the Amoeba Music into the address. According to Aaron Cometbus in issue 51 of Cometbus, The Loneliness of the Electric Menorah, Sarachan personally delivered more than a million dollars into a suitcase to the property owner, buying the lot out from under Amoeba and the developer. The City of Berkeley has offered incentives including the waiving of $640,000 in liens and interest if Sarachan builds stores and affordable housing. In January 2012, the City of Berkeley sued Sarachan over the property.
New projects were proposed for the former Cody's site in 2013 (a nightclub and performance space called Mad Monk) and for 2501 Haste in 2012 (a multiuse apartment building). As of April 2015, no building has taken place on either lot.
Sarachan is also known for aggressively placing new businesses next to perceived competitors. In addition to his actions to prevent Amoeba's expansion in Berkeley, Rasputin opened a location in 2013 on Haight Street in San Francisco less than a block from an Amoeba location. Following the success of CREAM, Inc. at the corner of Channing and Telegraph and contentious Berkeley city hearings, in 2013 Sarachan opened an ice cream counter Scoop Dreams just across the street, a mere 10 yards away, in the front of his Rasputin Music store.
Acquisition of former Tower Records locations
Rasputin acquired the leases of four former Tower Records locations: Concord (where the Pleasant Hill store was relocated), Mountain View, Fresno and Stockton. The Concord store, despite having been under Rasputin's management since 2007, still carried Tower Records signage with no mention of Rasputin; poster displayed in the window of this location stating that the Tower Records signage was a "Historical Anomaly." The Concord location closed and moved back to its original Pleasant Hill location in 2013.
The Mountain View store at San Antonio Road and El Camino Real was closed at the end of 2011 and reopened about two weeks later about a mile southeast on El Camino Real.
- Dennis Taylor (1997-01-03). "Rasputin Music is hoping for sweet sound of success". Silicon Valley / San Jose Business Journal. Retrieved 2008-10-18.
- Ed Christman. "Metallica In-Store Set For 'Record Store Day'". Billboard.com. Retrieved 2008-10-18.
- Todd R Brown (2008-02-29). "Iconic music store shuttered in Newark". Oakland Tribune. Retrieved 2008-10-18.[dead link]
- "Twenty-Five-Year Record Store Feud Spins Again: Rasputin's Rubble on Telegraph and Haste". East Bay Express. Retrieved 2015-04-01.
- Fran Dinkenspiel. "Berkeley’s Telegraph Avenue, Hit by Hard Times, Needs a Makeover". New York Times. Retrieved 2013-06-19.
- Frances Dinkenspiel. "Berkeley files suit against owner of blighted Telegraph lot". Berkeleyside. Retrieved 2013-06-19.
- Emilie Raguso. "Mad Monk Center to rise on Telegraph". Berkeleyside. Retrieved 2013-06-19.
- Tracey Taylor. "Telegraph Ave property owner shows plans for vacant site". Berkeleyside. Retrieved 2013-06-19.
- "New Rasputin Music Haight Street NOW OPEN!". Retrieved 2015-04-01.
- Staff, Alyssa Neumann |. "CREAM appeals opening of Dream ice cream shop | DailyCal.org". The Daily Californian. Retrieved 2015-04-01.
- "The Scoop on Berkeley's Chilly Ice Cream Rivalry". Retrieved 2015-04-01.
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