• Marcy Farrey

3 neighboring businesses in San Luis Obispo you must visit

Updated: Sep 22, 2020

In our indieland world, where one of us is obsessed with books, the other is obsessed with music, and both of us love coffee, nothing goes better together than a record store, a bookstore, and a good coffee shop!

We stopped in San Luis Obispo on our way to and from San Francisco--that's how much we loved it! And that's how much we loved visiting these three spots.

Boo Boo Records

Boo Boo Records has been in San Luis Obispo County for more than 40 years (established in 1974). Much like independent bookstores, record stores have faced their share of challenges over the years as online retailers grow and the product itself moves digital. But again, much like bookstores, they've reinvented and continue to find new ways to thrive. Boo Boo Records sells not only records and CDs, but also apparel, books, music accessories and equipment, and other gift items that fall under the musical umbrella.

We both came home with Boo Boo Records sweatshirts and I also bought a tee-shirt -- I really could not resist buying a shirt promoting an independent businesses that actually says "be independent" on it. When I wear my shirt and sweatshirt, I feel like I'm supporting Boo Boo Records AND the greater cause.

I was also quite impressed with their book selection. Since it is usually Crosby who gravitates to the music section in a bookstore, I don't always give it as much dedicated time. But here, I was curious, and even though I'm not nearly as big of a music person as Crosby is, I saw many books in the nonfiction realm that I could easily dive into. And speaking of books...

Phoenix Books

Yes, of course I found the independent bookstore a couple doors down! Phoenix Books sells a wide array of used books at great prices. This is one of those independent bookstores that you could get lost in for a few hours, as there's multiple rooms to explore and another room on the second floor. I love that I can weave my way around and up--there's no shortage of possibilities!

I also liked that they had a space on a bookshelf in the front of the store, near the register, reserved for books they feature on their Instagram page. I like when used bookstores give me a preview of the books that just came in on social media, or share the items the staff find interesting. In case I don't happen to come in during a specific week (or in this case, don't live in the area), I can be alerted to new arrivals and make a special trip.

Ascendo Coffee

Since we were hitting the road again after our stop in San Luis Obispo, we needed to fuel up with some coffee, and just a few doors down from Boo Boo Records and Phoenix Books is Ascendo Coffee.

This turned out to be the perfect stop for us before getting back in the car. The staff members were friendly, the coffee was good and strong, and the space was bright and open with some touches of fun. We sat in a section of tables where no laptops are allowed, and you are encouraged to interact. They even have board games you can play, which reminded me a lot of kibbitznest in Chicago.

I also enjoyed the little touches that took advantage of the industrial-style of the building--including some stuffed animals strategically placed and peeking out of spots in the wall. I bet the kids get a kick out of those! They also feature art work from local independent artists on the walls, and I saw they even hosted an Indie Artists Fair back in September. The best independent businesses are the ones that partner with and support other independent businesses and artists, in my opinion!

We plan to return to San Luis Obispo and spend a full weekend there to see it all. As we drove out, I saw that here too there's no shortage of independent businesses. If you've spent some time in San Luis Obispo, share your recommendations so we know where to go next time!

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