Shop small Saturdays: Tres Kuleros Records & Dry Goods
It’s rare to come across a record store with a distinct personality. Some are too high end or hip, while others try too hard to be authentic. But not Tres Kuleros Records & Dry Goods in Boni Avenue — it has the right sincerity and rawness that makes it stand out like the cool kid in class.
The store is difficult to spot from the outside, with overlapping band posters plastered on the glass door of a photo studio serving as the only hint of the record store on the second floor. Stepping inside Tres Kuleros will feel like you’ve found a secret music attic in the metro filled with records, amplifiers, posters, and other music-related memorabilia. There’s even a couch for customers and regulars, and a turntable where customers can play records before purchasing. It’s almost like a scene from Empire Records, only there aren’t any music snobs like Barry, Jack Black’s character. Instead, there are crates and bins filled with records from every genre and era thinkable.
DJ owners Arbie Won and Flux Castro are massive vinyl collectors who started selling their records online so they could sustain their habit of buying more records. The timing couldn’t be more perfect for their small online business, since 2012 showed a significant rise in the demand of vinyl records.
“Eventually, I saw there’s a demand for records, and since we enjoy doing the record thing why not put a shop and a hangout place for like minded folks?” said Won.
Tres Kuleros’ eccentric approach reflects the titles they sell. Established in 2013, Tres Kuleros has a wide selection that’s probably one of the most diverse in the market. The records are separated by genres such as breakbeat, new arrivals (mostly contemporary titles), new wave/ electronic/ synth, rock/ garage/ psychedelic, jazz, blues, metal/ punk/ hardcore, pop, hip-hop, soul, reggae, classics, and an entire shelf where Php 50 and 100 records are found. Just because the records are cheap, it doesn’t mean the selection is crap. On good days, the budget wall holds bebop, blues, rock, hip-hop, jazz, OST and neo-soul gems; and it’s not so impossible to find a Sade or a Maxwell record for Php 50 hidden in that shelf as long as the customer is willing to dig around. There’s a section called “dad stuff” with artists such as Kenny G. and the like. A lot of the records being sold come from the states and from their personal collections bought all over the country. But what Tres Kuleros prides in is their OPM collection, where pieces of the local music’s history are tangible, hearable, and most of all, acquirable.
“Most of the stuff here is curated, we try to be diverse with our inventory, especially the OPM section. As much as possible, we try to keep it alive and have stocks of it,” said Won.
Some of the OPM titles that have graced the crates of Tres Kuleros are Kulay’s “Delicious,” a pressing of Gary Valenciano’s live concert in Ultra in 1988, out of print Sampaguita LPs, Mike Hanopol LPs, VST and Company records, Lea Salonga’s albums when she was just a little girl, and LPs from The Dawn.
The prices in Tres Kuleros aren’t too steep either. A sealed contemporary LP can go for Php 1,100, 500 less than in most other record stores. The cheapest record is for sale at Php 20, while the rarest, most expensive is at Php 12,000. Turntables, speakers, amplifiers, and other record-collecting accessories are also sold at the shop.
“Since we are also collectors, we always try to be fair with our prices. Highway robbery pricing is not allowed here,” said Won. The store’s clientele includes hardcore collectors, local and international DJs, musicians, and those who have just started collecting records.
“A lot of our customers are new to vinyl and are just discovering it for the first time. It’s really nice to see them diggin’, checking out stuff they haven’t heard yet.“
As for the business side, Won shares that passion is the key factor to stay afloat. This way, the owners are enjoying what they’re doing while giving Manila a slice of culture that other stores can’t give.
“It’s fun because we love what we’re doing, but if you’re just into the money aspect of it, its not very lucrative. Most of what we earn just goes into records.”
Tres Kuleros Records & Dry Goods is located at 641 Boni Avenue, Mandaluyong City
Open from 1 PM to 9:30 PM daily