Meet Your Merchant: Ron Quintana rides the wave of the vinyl revival |

Meet Your Merchant: Ron Quintana rides the wave of the vinyl revival

Ron Quintana, owner of Ron's Real Records on Mill Street in Grass Valley.
Cory Fisher/ |


Ron’s Real Records

233 A Mill Street off Neal St., Grass Valley


Facebook: Ron’s Real Records

Hours: 4 to 7 p.m., Friday through Monday

For more "Meet Your Merchant" stories go here!

If you can pull yourself away from the Elvis, Muhammed Ali and Donny Osmond dolls and weave your way around the Road Runner and Return of the Jedi lunch boxes (before you get to the Monkees plastic guitar and “Mötley Crüe Greatest Video Hits”), chances are you’ll find Ron Quintana squeezed behind a small counter next to the Metallica poster in front of the Princess Leia figurine.

But don’t be fooled by his staggering collection of vintage memorabilia — this is a record store, and truly one for the ages.

Ron’s Real Records has experienced a number of incarnations within various Nevada County storefronts over the decades, as Quintana seems always in search of enough space to showcase his massive personal collection of vinyl, boasting 150,000 records at last “guesstimate,” he said.

Today, Ron’s Real Records on Mill Street in Grass Valley (only open 4 to 7 p.m., Friday through Monday), houses roughly 5,000 records from his eclectic collection, with another 10,000 at his rented space at nearby Booktown, a Bank Street cooperative of independent sellers of books, ephemera, CDs, DVDs, LP records and art. But he’s not ready to stop there — he’s looking for a larger space in downtown Nevada City.

“I’m nuts — I need about five locations for my customers,” said Quintana, with a laugh. “Between my collection and Clock Tower Records on Main Street, we’re probably the vinyl capital of the world. This is the place to come if you’re into vinyl.”

Young people who likely missed the first round of vinyl are discovering it now, he said, and records — full albums — are making a significant comeback.

“I understand why — there’s this tangibleness — it’s something you can hold in your hand, read the album cover and study the photos,” he said. “Cassettes and CDs are boring.”

A San Francisco native, Quintana has been a DJ for more than three decades, starting out at age 21 at the now-defunct KUSF, where he first began collecting vinyl. In addition to getting cast-off records from the station, he would invest in his favorites for his second job of DJing at local dance and rock clubs. Among the many perks of a DJ was scoring free tickets to nearly every concert in the greater Bay Area.

“I got tickets to everything — I went to about 150 concerts a year for about 15 years,” he said. “I’m surprised I’m not deaf.”

Quintana says his “thing” has always been listening to every genre, which is reflected in his diverse collection. His 2 to 8 a.m. shift for 30-plus years at the radio station meant he had ample time for experimentation. His carefully-chosen play lists created a loyal following — along with the occasional drunk crank caller.

In addition to his endless quest to find the most pristine edition of prized albums (he has 20 copies of Janis Joplin’s “Cheap Thrills”), there is a thrill in the hunt of certain collectibles, such as the “butcher” photo on the cover of the original Beatles “Yesterday and Today” album.

Released in 1966, the original LP photo included the band members in white butcher coats, draped in slabs of raw meat and doll parts with cigarette burns. A full 10 years before the graphic art of punk rock emerged, the album cover was quickly withdrawn due to public backlash. Records that were not purchased by individuals had a new photo pasted on top, and that’s where the thrill of the hunt comes in.

“That album cover was only out for a few weeks, so there aren’t many out there,” said Quintana. “But today if you find the ones that were covered over with the photo underneath, that’s the holy grail.”

With a practiced eye, one can spot Ringo’s dark v-neck beneath a white portion of the overlaid photo, he said, meaning the LP could be quite valuable.

While Quintana may be a collector, he is not a snob. Much of what he loves about his job is seeing customers find that vintage treasure from a slice of an earlier time, and take it home. He regularly travels to San Francisco and L.A. in search of new inventory because people don’t bring in enough locally to sell to him.

“This is not a museum — I love to sell,” he said. “I could sell higher-end items on the internet, but there’s no joy in that. I love seeing people’s eyes light up when they see something that takes them back to another time in their lives.”

To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at

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