Haight Ashbury Music Center to close for good, just shy of its 40th anniversary

Haight Ashbury Music Center to close for good, just shy of its 40th anniversary
Photo: Alisa Scerrato/Hoodline
By Alisa Scerrato - Published on August 07, 2019.

After nearly 40 years in business, the Haight Ashbury Music Center is set to shutter. The music store has posted signs on its facade advertising a “total liquidation sale.”

Owner Massoud Badakhshan told SFGate that he's "proud of being able to serve the community of San Francisco for as long as I was here, and I appreciate everyone who's supported me here ... but I haven't taken a paycheck in five years.”

The store got its start in 1976, when music producer Leib Ostrow bought it under a different name. It became popular with area musicians, hosting jam sessions for the likes of Mickey Hart from the Grateful Dead and Armanda Peraza from Santana. 

In 1980, Badakhshan purchased the store and renamed it Haight Ashbury Music Center. In 1984, he relocated to its current location at 1540 Haight St. (between Ashbury and Clayton streets), in order to have more space. He's also the owner of Gelb Music in Redwood City, which he plans to keep open.

Photo: Sharon B./Yelp

Over the decades, Haight Ashbury Music Center sold thousands of instruments, audio gear, and other items, attracting famed musicians from all over the world.

But changing San Francisco demographics have had their way with the store, as Badakhshan told SFGate. Regular customers have moved away because "tech people have moved in, and they can't afford it here anymore," he said. "Tech people don't seem to support local businesses — they like buying everything online."

The Haight's tourist trade has kept other area businesses going, but for a store specializing in bulky items like musical instruments, it's hard to make a sale, he said. Tourists would rather browse than shop. 

The neighborhood has seen the closure of several longtime businesses over the past year. Braindrops said farewell after two decades, and Earthsong called it quits after close to 15 years. The Haight Ashbury Free Clinic, which opened during the Summer of Love in 1967, is being shut down. 

Other longtime businesses are on thin ice. Skates on Haight, which has persisted for 45 years, has said it will close if it can't find a co-tenant to share its space.  

Haight Ashbury Music Center's liquidation sale will start this Thursday, August 8. Badakhshan says the store will remain open for a few more months, until all the inventory is cleared out.