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Amoeba Music: Our Favorite San Francisco Vinyl Record Store

Broad panoramic view of the record selection at Amoeba Music in San Francisco

I collect albums on vinyl.  At this point, I’ve spent more than a decade collecting records, and have amassed a ridiculous collection (well over 1,000 albums) of vinyl.  This is due in large part to having the good fortune of spending the “formative years” of building my collection in Pittsburgh PA. 

That meant I had access to two absolutely fabulous record stores:  the inimitable Eide’s Entertainment, and the world-famous Jerry’s Records.  Though San Francisco is world-renowned for its music scene and rock & roll history, I was initially concerned about finding a record store that could hold a torch to those two legends.


Amoeba Music – Historic San Francisco Record Store 

Naturally, my concern was completely foolish.  San Francisco plays host to the largest independent record store in the world: Amoeba Music.  Operating a massive retail storefront in one of the epicenters of classic rock – San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood – since the 1990’s, Amoeba survived the decline of vinyl record sales to emerge as the largest music retailer in the world.  As they describe their San Francisco store on Haight Street, “The tree-lined Victorian streets of the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood have some of the greatest independent book stores, vintage clothing stores, cafes, psychedelic emporiums and weirdo curiosity shops ANYWHERE… Ever since the Summer of Love in ’67, the Haight has been the epicenter for cutting-edge cultural change. For many decades it’s continued to be a mecca for free-thinkers and musicians. Come see where the “San Francisco Sound” was born and continues to thrive!”

It’s difficult to know exactly where to start my description of what the experience is like, shopping at Amoeba Music.  As a non-native now living north of the city, my journey to buy albums at Amoeba truly begins when I cross the Golden Gate Bridge and enter into San Francisco.  My excitement builds as I pass under the towering eucalyptus and Monterey cypress trees, navigating across the city towards Haight-Ashbury.  

Vinyl records line the shelves as far as the eye can see at Amoeba Music in San Francisco Haight-Ashbury neighborhood
Countless records line the shelves as far as the eye can see at Amoeba!


Where to park when shopping in Haight-Ashbury

Once you’ve found a place to park – I recommend finding a spot on Oak Street along The Panhandle (always lock your car & hide your valuables in the city) – take the short walk up to Haight Street and begin to make your way down to Amoeba.  I recommend you give yourself time for a leisurely stroll down Haight Street, allowing the opportunity to window shop along the way.  As mentioned above, the independent shops lining the neighborhood’s most famous boulevard are world-renowned for a reason.  You’ll likely miss an amazing opportunity if you buzz straight down to Amoeba.

shopping for records at amoeba music

Now that you’ve filled a few shopping bags (and hopefully your belly!) and lightened your wallet a bit, it’s time to mosey on down to shop for some records.  What’s it like to shop for records at Amoeba, you ask?  This is nothing like the shopping mall music shops those of us born before 1985 remember all too well…!  Amoeba still very much embraces its independent roots and punk rock soul, from the moment you walk past the wrought-iron gates and under the age-worn neon lights on your way into the store, to the broad forest of racks covered with shirts, collectibles, patches, stickers…  and more music than you’ve probably ever seen in your life.

The most obvious advantage of shopping for records at Amoeba is the vast selection of music to choose from.  My guess here is definitely not scientific, but to my eye, there are more albums at Amoeba than even what was available at Jerry’s back in Pittsburgh… and that is really, really saying something (Jerry’s had an inventory estimated to be anywhere from 500,000 to 2,000,000 different records).  Regardless of which store is actually bigger – there is a massive inventory of records at Amoeba!


You can buy more than just music at Amoeba, though.  The store also has a sizable inventory of a wide variety of patches, both iron and sew on.  I’ve bought several already, and will certainly buy more as I continue to go back!  It’s definitely a legit spot to pick up some pretty fantastic stickers as well.  There’s a great selection of band T-shirts, and plenty of other Amoeba merch.  Don’t forget to swing over into the VHS video cassette room to the right as you walk in, or stop and peruse through their mini-library of music-related books.  You can even get old-school lapel pins and buttons for your jean jacket at the counter when you check out! 

More than just records: Amoeba also has cassettes, compact discs and more!

In addition to the countless records for sale, Amoeba also carries a couple other album formats you can choose from.  There are racks of old school cassette tapes, plus plenty of 90’s era compact discs to pick through as well.  You can easily spend an afternoon winding your way back and forth between the dozens of shelves filled with all different kinds of music!  You can even 

No matter what it is you’re shopping for, if it’s even slightly music-related (I see you sitting on the shelf over there by the door, Golden Girls prayer candles…!), you’re going to find it at Amoeba.  And as I described above, the actual in-store experience is only one of the facets of shopping at Amoeba.  Being surrounded by such a unique, historic, and enjoyable neighborhood can easily turn the trip into a eventful day filled with San Francisco legends!

Two happy shoppers enjoy the selection of vinyl records at Amoeba Music in San Francisco