A new boutique record store, Tigers and Daggers, opened its doors in downtown Merced last week, drawing a crowd of about 50 people at its 621 W. Main St. location to take in a free all-ages concert and peruse a selection of albums.
Established by friends Damian Pantoja, 24, and Travis Strang, 29, both of Merced, the pair decided to open their own store after working for several years at Strawberry Alarm Clock, a record store on the other end of Main Street.
"Well, it was really all through just punk rock and just being into similar music between Travis and I," said Pantoja about how the idea for the store began. "I needed an outlet to do something else with myself. It came to a point at work where we weren't going where we wanted."
The pair, who used to play in a band together, eventually decided to strike out on their own.
"I said we should do a record store. We should call it Tigers and Daggers," Pantoja said, noting that the record store name has the same initials as his and Strang's first names.
After leaving their jobs on good terms, they were able to get a space next door to Red Sky Comics. They have held the space for the last three months, planning their inventory and building shelves. The in-store product includes Strang's collection of vinyl and cassettes amassed over the past 15 years.
"It's our personal record collections, our personal DVDs, our personal cassettes. We just brought it in. We got to start somewhere. Our selection I feel was decent enough to bring in, more than decent I feel," Pantoja added.
Pantoja said they are using different distributors to bring in newer releases to the store. "We go through quite a few depending on what kind it is that people are looking for, and also buy, sell, and trade. If people have records that they want to skim down or trade for store credit, or possibly cash, we're happy to take a look."
Friends of Pantoja's in the San Francisco band Whirr, who specialize in a style of rock music called shoegaze, played at the grand opening with co-touring Philadelphia-based band Nothing after Pantoja asked them for a favor.
"With Whirr and Nothing, they're on tour for a full month, and they had to borrow a guitar head from me, and I said only if they return the favor by playing a show at my store as the grand opening, and they said 'Yeah.' We lucked out on that."
Pantoja discussed the decidedly punk rock and alternative feel to the store.
"It definitely does have a punk-alternative feel to it but we're not gonna limit ourselves to that. It's gonna be a different spectrum besides just punk and hardcore. It's gonna be reggae, metal, synth-pop, indie, new wave, no wave. Every genre and sub-genre you think you can get, we'll try our best to bring it in. If anyone every has any questions about what they should check out just talk to us, let us know what your looking for. We'll let you know what we think is good and hot and we'll listen to you, and what you think we should bring in."
Manuel Moreno, 19, of Le Grand giddily walked up to Strang at the register last Thursday and purchased over $70 of merchandise.
"I love it. I was excited another shop was opening. Plus it has that punk vibe. I love that atmosphere in a store," said Moreno.
Pantoja had a lot of gratitude for his friends and family who helped him open the store.
"I was just fortunate enough to have good friends that want to help me out, and I have to thank Travis as well for having a lot of faith in me for wanting to do this," he said.
Christopher Winterfeldt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.