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Mod Lang Owner on Running Small Business in El Cerrito After Years in Berkeley

Not in Berkeley anymore, Naomi Diamond's transplanted record store, Mod Lang, now calls El Cerrito home. She talks about her store's new home and offers a bit of advice for running a small business.

Name: Naomi Diamond

Age: “That’s not going in there”

Occupation: Owner of , a record store in El Cerrito

How long have you been in business for yourself? Thirty years.

What made you decide to open up your business in El Cerrito? We were in Berkeley for a really long time – it was kind of getting skuzzy. Parking was really difficult, landlords were difficult to deal with, and the whole thing was getting to be overwhelming. El Cerrito was nice – the people are nicer, there’s parking, and it’s easier to get to by BART and by freeway.

Are your customers happy with the location? We get a lot of El Cerrito customers in El Cerrito who don’t seem to go to other places. “Shop local” happens in El Cerrito.

What are the challenges you face as a small business owner? Sadly, not many people from outside of El Cerrito come to El Cerrito. I have regulars from back then – I do email lists and I do online sales – so that part is okay. In terms of getting new customers, it’s not like anyone is going to happen to be shopping in El Cerrito unless they are from El Cerrito. Pretty much the only new people I get are going to the post office or to the plaza. It really is local-based people who find me here – other than online, which is its own thing.

Why music? When we started, it was me and a partner. He was already into working at record stores and stuff, so that part was automatic for him. For me, it was just a matter of you buy records for yourself and then if you buy records that you know that you can sell to other people, then you make money so that you can buy more records for yourself. It’s like being a drug dealer, basically. You buy enough to sell, so that you can keep your own going.

What would you recommend to prospective small business owners? In general, don’t lose more money than you can afford to lose. A lot of people think that it’s a good idea to get a giant loan or something to start a business, but really, unless you can afford to just lose the money, don’t do it. That’s basically the only advice I can give. 

For other installments in our Who's Who series, click here and here.

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