Friends and community looking out for ‘Traffic’

Manuel Barba with his gear circa 2016. Most of it was stolen from him on Oct. 5, 2018

ATASCADERO - Back in May 2018 when a reporter for the Atascadero News dropped by for a more extensive report on the City’s newest slice of music culture and sonic appreciation, Traffic Records Store co-owner Manuel Barba told her he believed in, “record karma.”

In context that was to say that he wanted good vinyl releases to flow through the shop finding niches of the community where they’d be appreciated, and possibly returning for a good trade.

That’s why it hurts so much he explained recently, that parts of the record collection he’s been cultivating and caring for the better part of three decades were in a late night heist from his vehicle in San Luis Obispo on the night of Oct. 5.

At least one thief, maybe more, incurred some seriously bad karma breaking the window of Barba’s car without setting off the alarm, and made off with 200 pounds of gear worth at least $5,500 ($7,000 with the records, although that’s harder to estimate).

Aside from the personal turmoil and hurt of the event, he discovered the theft while he was due to DJ a wedding in three hours, and blaming himself for being careless on the night of his Birthday - leaving the gear in the vehicle overnight after celebrating with his partner - it bothers him that the records likely won’t be appreciated.

“They left the records that were in a milk crate so that’s not part of what they were after,” he said. “They took the [locked] fly cases with records in them though [probably hoping for more electronics inside].”

The list of items for the police report makes more sense to someone who knows what they’re looking for than it does to a non-musical civilian but suffice to say it was all of his DJ equipment, two 1200s, one Rane 62 mixer, two QSC k 10.2 power boards and about 250 records.

Aside from being all the tools of his main trade, which is symbiotic with the record store in Atascadero as a business venture, the two amplifiers were rented for the occasion, “and weren’t mine to lose,” he said.

Meaning that while he’s been able to do some gigs with borrowed equipment and help from friends, he’ll be needing to come up with cash out of pocket for the replacements on that gear.

While that may all sound like a pretty raw deal for someone who believes in some form of karma, he’s anything but self-pitying, stopping just short of rebuffing help.

“Look, I’m not sick, I’m not in the hospital it feels weird that people would donate to me,” he said, adding that he had a talk with his friend, fellow Atascadero business owner Kate White of Scissors clothing designs, after she set up a Go Fund Me campaign to help recoup his loss.

In the end, he did not ask her to take down the fundraiser, partly because gratitude is the better part of valor, and it would be nonchalant to deny how people express their feeling about a friend.

In the Go Fund Me, White wrote, “Whether you’ve gotten down on the dance floor at NOVO,  a wedding, or a SLO record swap. You’ve had your world brightened by the sounds of our dear friend Manuel Barba. He’s been there for so many in times where help was needed. Now’s our chance to rally for him.”

She explained on the phone, “I set it up because that’s the least that Manuel would do for somebody else. He’s been a DJ for a very long time and everyone’s met him at these events but he’s also a very supportive and encouraging member of our community. He’s helped so many others, it’s his turn.”

She added that she set up the fundraiser, which to date had garnered $1,042 of pledges because that’s one of the tools Barba had used in the past to support others.

Two years ago another local business was put in dire straights by a burglary in their workshop. Flanders Bicycle in San Luis Obispo had their building broken into, an interior wall vandalized and two highly customized, and expensive, rigs stolen.

“They hit us at the worst possible time,” said owner Shawn Hafley.

Barba set up a Friends of Flanders page which eventually saw $8,000 in contributions, and took part in an event at the shop to offset the losses.

“We’re here today because of that help,” Hafley said, noting that the experience, good and bad sticks with him.

“I know what he’s going through. There was very little follow up with the police after the day,” he said. “I still look around sometimes to see if what was taken is out there. I hate that we have to think about it but people just feel entitled. Manuel’s record shop is a passion, but what they took without thinking about it were his tools for making a living.”

For his part, Hafley is talking to other businesses about donations for a silent auction for a future event.

Plans for a benefit date and location to help Barba recoup the loss haven’t been solidified but the Bang the Drum Brewery in San Luis Obispo is being thought of as a possible venue.

In the meantime, the website for the Go Fund Me account in Barba’s name is www.gofundme.com/paying-it-forward-for-manuel-barba.

“I’d never done it before, but they made it so easy to get involved that way, I had it online in under an hour,” White said, but noted that other people have been able to give directly without going through the site which takes a percentage of funds.

“Honestly the best way to support Manuel is to go patronize his shop I think. Go meet him, he’s amazing with people. That’s the coolest thing to do, go say. ‘Hi.’”

As for whoever took his gear, Barba said he hopes they needed it more than he does, but he could arrange for a grateful, no questions asked reward, even just for the return of his collection of 45s from the 1980s. He’d really like those back.

Hours for Traffic Records are Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Traffic Records is located at 5870 Traffic Way in Atascadero. or call the shop at 805-464-2994.

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Manuel Barba with his gear circa 2016. Most of it was stolen from him on Oct. 5, 2018


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