Special/Signature Issues » Top 40 Under 40

Jordan Pulaski, 33, and Zoe Golden, 31

Owners, Small Friend Records & Books


Less than two years in as owners of Small Friend Records & Books, Zoe Golden and Jordan Pulaski had already relocated.

The married proprietors first set up shop in 2018 adjacent to the 17th Street Market, which underwent unexpectedly drawn-out renovations that decimated foot traffic. In January of 2020, they moved to the corner of Main and N. Lombardy, in the newly subdivided Baja Bean Co. building. Regardless of where they’re located, though, their passion for helping sounds and ideas find the people who need them remains unchanged.

A longtime Richmond resident, Golden does much of the record buying for the cozy basement store, which offers an adventurously curated selection of new and used titles. Golden specializes in music that’s been rediscovered and repressed for the first time in decades, giving new life to old sounds, from Japanese city pop to Egyptian bigband jazz. “I can’t have everything,” Golden notes, acknowledging that there are other stores in town where you can pick up the latest Taylor Swift album. “What I think I can cover that isn’t already being covered is [this] cool, weird stuff that other people aren’t going to have," she says. "I started focusing way more on that, and that has turned out to be pretty successful.”

From the outset, Pulaski, who grew up in Maryland and met Golden when the two worked together at Relay Foods, had a goal of selling books that fostered independent thought. Relocating to the Fan caused Pulaski to question whether the same titles would remain popular with customers.

“Moving to this location,” he says, “we’ve been able to sell more of everything, but especially more of the more radical stuff that we wanted to sell from the get-go … There’s definitely an appetite for different ideas, for new ways of thinking.”

But there are readers who can’t make it to the corner of Lombardy and Main, some as a result of incarceration. Following the lead of similar programs across the country, Small Friend started its own Books Through Bars operation, which collects funding, fields reading requests and puts those books in the hands of interested prisoners. “One or two people knew some people in jail,” Pulaski says, “they told them about it, and since then it’s basically just spread through word of mouth.”

“Usually, it’ll start with one guy in a particular facility who will write us a letter, and before you know it, there’s 20 of them in that facility who are requesting stuff,” Golden says. “It’s been pretty cool to see how that moves.”

That’s not all the Small Friend owners have done to keep resources moving to those in need. They regularly collect and post flyers and calls to action — online and in person — for community organizations like Mutual Aid Distribution Richmond, the Richmond Reproductive Freedom Project and the Richmond Community Bail Fund. They’ve even offered up their storefront as a collection site for supplies when needed.

Their initial vision for the store involved providing room for community gatherings and zine swaps — goals they’d consider returning to if they eventually move to a larger space.

“As far as what’s actually achievable with what we are,” Golden says, “I feel like we’re pretty happy with the level we’re at.”