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Wonderland Pop Culture Emporium

08/08/2013 10:18AM ● Published by Enjoy Magazine

Today, music is available at our fingertips — press a couple of buttons on your smart phone and your songs of choice instantly appear. But if you want to fully experience that music, Robbie Pettersen insists that there’s no substitute for opening a cardboard record jacket, pulling out the album protected within, and taking that baby for a spin on a turntable.

Pettersen is putting that experience into closer reach for folks in the historic railroad town of Dunsmuir. His Wonderland Pop Culture Emporium, Siskiyou County’s only record shop, opened in April and has about 15,000 albums on hand, many of which were trucked up from the Hollywood shop that Pettersen closed two years ago. “My two dogs were missing the mountains and having a hard time in the city, so we took a 12-foot truck, packed it all up and moved to McCloud,” says Pettersen, who has had a summer home in McCloud for years.

“I actually never knew this place existed,” Pettersen says of Dunsmuir, nestled in a canyon along the Sacramento River in the shadow of Mt. Shasta. “One night I got a hotel here because I was too tired to make it from L.A. to Portland, and I found out it was a really cool place. Then someone said to me, ‘Why don’t you open a shop here?’ I liked that idea.” Wonderland sells records, eight-tracks, cassettes, comic books, Rolling Stone magazines — “everything that’s pop culture related,” Pettersen says. “We won’t sell iPods or iPhones or anything like that, though. We’re purists.”

He does sells CDs, but encourages folks to try the vinyl first. “Listening to records and listening to CDs is the difference between a romantic dinner by candlelight and by fluorescent light,” Pettersen says. “People who want to really hear what the music sounds like will buy a record before a CD. I’m getting 16-year-olds and 14-year-olds asking for The Beatles and Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones. Soul, jazz — we have it all.”

The shop’s display wall of 45s is a small representation of the thousands that are in stock. Judas Priest, Kiss, John Lee Hooker and The Who are represented in this rock-and-roll treasure hunter’s dream — they even recently had a couple copies of the Grateful Dead Record Store release of “Live at Winterland,” which sold out across the country on release day.

The flow of customers is a fraction of what he saw in his stores in Los Angeles and Austin, Texas, but today, many of his sales are online. “That’s what makes it great — we can serve our customers the best way and still survive,” Pettersen says. Wonderland shared its grand opening with several other Dunsmuir businesses as part of a downtown redevelopment plan spearheaded by former mayor Peter Arth, who bought property in the historic district with the purpose of rejuvenating it and attracting new business. A new jazz bar, music cultural center, tattoo parlor, antique stores, imaginative restaurants and the new Siskiyou Arts Museum are among the places luring folks to downtown Dunsmuir.

“We really have something special up here,” Pettersen says. “I’ve been to a lot of places and I’ve never found anything quite as amazing as up here, and I say this in all sincerity. We’re all friends and hang out. This little downtown area is almost like having San Francisco and a small-town community compressed into two blocks. Everything’s moving. The freeway is coming through, the water, the trains — there’s an energy that comes through.”

Allison Scull, a Dunsmuir musician, says the shop is a delightful addition to the community. “Dunsmuir is progressively becoming a center for music, art and culture, and this new record store comes here at a perfect time,” Scull says. “I love the store and I especially love to browse through old jazz records.” •

Wonderland Pop Culture Emporium • 4118 Pine St., Dunsmuir Wednesday through Sunday, 11 am-6 pm On Facebook: Wonderland Pop Culture Emporium

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