Curator of Boulder Creek’s eclectic collective specializes in vintage vinyl and refurbished stereo consoles
By Julie Horner
If only the vintage West German Grundig stereo console could speak, imagine the secrets it might tell of swanky summer evenings laced with cognac, the mood dreamy with the warm, smooth, easy-listening sounds of Perry Como on vinyl in analog high fidelity. Jeff Brough was head and torso into a neighboring console putting finishing touches on the innards. “Once upon a time it was a Grundig. It has different components now. It was missing stuff so I had to repopulate it.”
According to Brough, owner of Swag in downtown Boulder Creek, “Most people are un-populating old consoles to turn into bars. I’m the only one restoring them. It’s a niche market, I guess.” Amazingly, you can even plug your smartphone into what appears to be all-original components and play your downloads through the console’s built-in speakers. “Almost all of them I add the ability to use your smartphone.” Brough picks a vinyl album from his collection and powers on the unit for a test spin. The big soulful sounds of Tyrone Davis fill the shop. “I love this old soul music…when I listen to the radio, this is what I tune in.”
Brough looks at it from the assembler’s point of view. “I’ve got four for sale and another one, two, three in queue.” He specializes in mid-century modern, from the mid-50s through the mid-70s. “Any later and they got ugly.” He can doll up just about any console to look just right. For instance, he might put peg legs on some of them to give them ‘that look’ if they didn’t have it when they rolled in. “This one, it’s got a real nice turntable in it.” The cabinet he picked up in Sacramento, the turntable and other components came from another unit. It’s what Jeff called a “triple threat.” It sounds good, looks good, and the turntable is good. “I do name them. I have a personal relationship with each one of them. Tamara’s that I just sold, I called Morse-l.” The brand, of course, being Morse. “I fall in love with them, have a hard time letting them go.” He always wonders, “Is this one better than the one I have in the living room?”
“I’ve driven as far as Santa Rosa to get things that suit my fancy.” He’s got eyes and ears out there now looking for items to add to the collection. The consoles are what got him started.
“When I retired from Silicon Valley, I spent about a year chilling and figuring out where my stuff would go…I had to downsize. Originally it was a hobby, I don’t know exactly how it evolved, but I’d start finding things on craigslist.” Stephanie, owner of Foundre that used to occupy the space, gave him advice about obtaining old consoles. He would work on them in the basement with his wife and bandmates helping.
A customer walks in. “I have a first pressing of Meet the Beatles,” he says. “I have about 500 vinyl records.” Everyone knows that vinyl has come full circle and is all the rage now. For those who have held on to their collections over the years, it’s as cool as it’s always been to have full size art and sleeve notes. As the customer turns to leave he jokes. “I’m one of the few men who is married and still has his vinyl!” Brough is quick to point out, “There’s more here if you want to add to your collection!” Indeed, the sign out front that drew the customer in says, “We’ve got vinyl!”
“My selection of vinyl is comparative to any record store in Santa Cruz, maybe better. I’ve got some cool old records.”
Jeff has owned the building about seven years, with residences upstairs and now his business downstairs. “Even as a youngster, I’ve always been a creative collector with an entrepreneurial spirit so it only made sense to open my own space! My daughter and mother contribute time and energy…it’s all friends and family at this point.” And he’s looking for a partner to collaborate with, someone who might put their artwork on consignment and tag-team to help keep the doors open on weekends.
Swag. Affordable retail in Boulder Creek featuring restored mid-century modern stereos, vinyl, vintage and locally crafted apparel, jewelry, art, consignment, and event space.
13026 Highway 9
Boulder Creek, California
Copyright 2017 Julie Horner. Originally published in the Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin June 2017 issue.