Amoeblog interview with Rich Craig + Todd Connors of North Oakland's Rent-A-Relic
This is the first in a new Amoeblog series focusing on businesses and organizations in The Town (aka Oakland, CA) including many small, independently run & operated local businesses that are neighbors of the Amoeba Berkeley store, from steps away and up to a one or two, or three mile radius. Kick-starting this new series is the successful North Oakland car rental company Rent-A-Relic. Located on Telegraph at 45th in the Temescal District, Rent-A-Relic has seen their surrounding neighborhood undergo much development since they opened shop back in 1993, with countless other small independently operated businesses (including lots of restaurants) opening up along Telegraph Avenue. Rent-A-Relic, which also offers notary services, is run by Rich, Todd, and Spencer, and anytime you stop into their small offices, odds are that you will hear good music, from Miles Davis to the Minutemen, playing in the background. I caught up with Rich to interview him about operating a business like Rent-A-Relic and about music and radio, among other things. He supplied his Top 5, while Todd supplied his Top 25 -- all below.
Rent-A-Relic Rich's All Time Top Five Albums:
1) Meat Puppets Huevos
2) Talking Heads The Name of this Band...
3) Willie Nelson Phases and Stages
4) Steely Dan Pretzel Logic
5) Bruce Springsteen Born to Run
Amoeblog: Are people renting more nowadays in this more environmentally aware era and/or in these more financially challenging times?
Rent-A-Relic Rich: Since our cars are economical on gas and also priced reasonably, we definitely appeal to people who are environmentally and fiscally responsible. I have been very encouraged with how our business has fared during this recession.
Amoeblog: Your cars are not really "relics," but can you tell me what year / condition most cars are and what are the most outlandish things you have heard from people who took the name Rent-A-Relic literally?
Rent-A-Relic Rich: Most of our cars are 2006 and newer with between 40- 90,000 miles. They are all in great running condition. Years ago our cars were older but we've really upgraded the fleet. Every once in a while we get a call for a classic car but most people realize we are going head to head with the other major car rental companies.
Amoeblog: You are a small independent company in an industry dominated by the likes of Avis, Hertz, and Enterprise, who have these huge, multi media national marketing campaigns, among other advantages. But what are some of the advantages of being a small indie car rental biz -- especially one in the East Bay?
Rent-A-Relic Rich: I really don't see us as underdogs to the major chains. As a matter of fact, I feel we have a huge advantage over them. Primarily this is due to our experience and commitment. Todd and I have been working side by side for over 17 years and Spencer has been with us for over two years. We know the business inside and out and are dedicated to our customers.
Amoeblog: While you may be situated across from two large fast food franchises, for the most part the North Oakland neighborhood you are based in is made up of a myriad of indie businesses. Is there a reason you think there are so many indie businesses in the Temescal hood? And do you think people consciously consider supporting indie businesses or is price the prevalent factor for most?
Rent-A-Relic Rich: Temescal is a great neighborhood and is clearly moving in the right direction. I think that the make up of the businesses in Temescal matches the taste of the people who eat and shop here. Savvy, independent minded people realize that you get better overall service, prices and quality from small businesses. Then, of course, each individual business has to deliver with good prices and strong service or else these same smart people will not turn into loyal repeat customers. Ideally the customer not only returns but recommends the business [to] their friends.
Amoeblog: What are the most common Bay Area radio stations on the dial that you find the car radios left on? And if you guys listen to Bay Area radio, what do you tune in to?
Rent-A-Relic Rich: I listen to KPIG 1510 AM and various other stations (KFOG, 103.7, KCSM Jazz 91, and KDFC 102.1 classical; Spencer listens to 102.1 and sports talk shows; and Todd listens to live105.radio.com and 107.7. But the customers listen to all sorts of things of course. Live 105, KPFA and KQED are popular for news/talk. The top 5 music stations may be KFOG, Live 105, 106.1,Alice 97.3 and 107.7 The Bone.
Amoeblog: Some of your cars have cassette players. Do people like that?
Rent-A-Relic Rich: We still have a few cars that have tape decks and some people do prefer that so they can bust out their old cassettes. It's funny, because people used to ask for CD players and now people are asking for the AUX jack for ipods.
Amoeblog: How important is music to the people who work at RAR?
Rent-A-Relic Rich: Music continues to be really important to me. I put on a Frank Zappa album the other day and my kids loved it. You do have to be careful with Zappa though around the little kids. I went to 311 at the Fox some months ago and had a great time. I also saw American Idiot at the Berkeley Rep and that was very impressive. Last year I saw Merle Haggard at the Paramount and he was amazing. One of our customers is [former Amoeba Berkeley employee] DJ Platurn and he makes these great CD mixes like James Brown and De La Soul compilations and those get a lot of play on my home stereo.
Rent-A-Relic Todd's Top 25
1) Bad Brains I against I
2) Steely Dan Aja
3) Rush Permanent Waves
4) Midnight Oil 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1...
5) Minutemen Double Nickles on the Dime
6) Echo and the Bunnymen Ocean Rain
7) The Who Who's Next
8) The Beatles Revolver
9) Paul Weller Wildwood
10) Marillion Misplaced Childhood
11) Meat Puppets Up on the Sun
12) The Police Ghost in the Machine
13) The Replacements Tim
14) R.E.M. Reckoning
15) The Afghan Whigs Congregation
16) The Jam All Mod Cons
17) Led Zeppelin III, II or I (Take your pick)
18) The Doors The Doors
19) Nas Illmatic
20) A Tribe Called Quest The Low End Theory
21) The Beastie Boys Paul's Boutique
22) Firehose Ragin' Full On
23) Frank Zappa One Size Fits All
24) Dinosuar Jr. Green Mind
25) The Lemonheads It's A Shame About Ray
Rent-A-Relic's Todd Connors, who supplied the above Top 25 (some of his favorites, in no particular order), estimates that he has "over 10,000 CDs and about 1500 LPs," and adds, "I have many more favorites, but these are all timeless to me. I already thought of The Supersuckers' The Sacrilicious Sounds of the Supersuckers, Buelah's When Your Lonely Heartstrings Break, and The Cro-Mags' The Age of Quarrel...I could go on all day."
Rent-A-Relic is located at 4444 Telegraph Ave, Oakland CA 94609, (510) 601-6560