Unassumingly located in Monrovia, Resistor Records is Los Angeles County’s most lovingly curated record shop. Opened in October 2013 by erstwhile independent filmmaker Sean Sprinkel and Joe “Jah Paul Jo” Ramsey, late of The Prime Movers and Dread Zeppelin, the store was dealt a major blow with Ramsey’s death right after Christmas.
Now the store is owned by Sprinkel, 45 and Allison Ramsey, 34, Ramsey’s widow and mother of his two children. Approximately the size of a small bedroom, what Resistor lacks in floor space it makes up for in selection. The latest Lana Del Rey release sits comfortably alongside aging Grateful Dead records, the hottest metal and punk records of 2015 and an entire Krautrock section.
“Joe had encyclopedic knowledge of everything,” says Allison Ramsey, whose tastes tend toward older bands such as Lou Reed and Roxy Music, in contrast to Sprinkel’s love of experimental music and jazz. “I wish I’d paid more attention while he was still here.”
Sprinkel and the late Ramsey opened the shop as a corner of Brooks Berdan Ltd., a high-end speaker and stereo store, on the same street in Old Town. This is where he worked when one day Sprinkel went in and “literally begged Joe for a job.”
The pair quickly ran up against the limitations of renting space from someone else, however. “Joe was a creative dude, so having limitations in the form of having a boss, even in a limited way, it just didn’t make sense,” Sprinkel says. “We were just punching the clock.”
The selection at Resistor is great, but so is the atmosphere. Newbie record collectors and grizzled veterans alike get a bright, sunny reception from the owners.”You want people to feel welcome. You don’t want pretensions,” Allison Ramsey says. “I just figure, be nice to people and they might come back.”
Sprinkel says he and the late Ramsey aimed for a place where people could feel as comfortable hanging out as they do shopping. “We’re not businessmen,” he says, “We wanted the place to be like a bar or a pub.” Having the welcoming atmosphere is a must for a place like Resistor. While they get good foot traffic, they wouldn’t last very long if they didn’t become a destination.
One way they’ve been able to become a destination in the San Gabriel Valley is by holding live events. They have at least two gigs a month, generally younger bands who would have trouble getting a show or can’t play in bars. “Last Saturday night was therapeutic,” Sprinkel says. “We had a room full of kids going crazy. He would have loved that.”
For Allison Ramsey, part of coping with the loss of her husband is the work itself. “I like to work. It’s a good place for me to be right now.” While going back into the store in the wake of her husband’s death was hard at first, she says without hesitation, “It’s just where we’re meant to be.”
After Joe Ramsey died on Dec. 28, the store stayed closed for a week. “It just felt like we had to open the place back up,” Sprinkel says, “but when we were closed there were days I didn’t know if it was worth it to go forward.” Once they reopened, however, they received more than just condolences. They got an outpouring of support that astounded both Sprinkel and Allison Ramsey alike. “So many people volunteered to work shifts here and help us out however they could,” Sprinkel says.
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One form of support takes place on Saturday. An alumni group from Arcadia High School, where Joe Ramsey went to school, is holding a benefit concert from 7 p.m. until midnight at the Santa Anita Race Track. Performers include members of The 88, original Wall of Voodoo vocalist Stan Ridgway and Natural Disaster, a re-formed version of Ramsey’s '80s rock band, The Prime Movers.