If you’ve decided the read this article, chances are the thought will have crossed your mind fleetingly at least once in your life. Maybe I could open a record shop. It can’t possibly be as ball-breakingly stressful as people make out, can it? And yet, the adolescent fantasy (the twenties are the new teens, right?) of so many collectors and music fans to open or at least work in a record shops will for most of us remain just that, a pipe dream filed somewhere on the ‘things to do with my life’ list between living on a French vineyard and riding bareback across the Mongolian steppe.
However, for the lucky ones, that pipe dream is less of a feted sewage duct and more a polished briar smoker; a dream held confidently between thumb and forefinger, one to be huffed on every now and then with an unparalleled sense of self-satisfaction. In short, some people do actually open record stores, the latest of which to launch in London is Love Vinyl, a four-way venture between DJs/promoters Stuart Patterson and James Manero, and veteran record dealers Zaf Chowdhry and Jake Holloway (below: right to left).
We caught up with the quartet knee deep in sawdust and pricing tape to find out just what it takes to open a record shop these days and see what we can expect from a store that looks as good as it’s tastes (re: pipe metaphor).
Step One: Know why you’re doing it and seize the moment
Sounds like an obvious one, but running a record shop is not for the faint-hearted and if you’ve not got the love then there’s probably no point even starting. Not a problem for Love Vinyl though, who love vinyl so much they only went and named the bleeding shop Love Vinyl.
Stuart: Everyone knows it’s not the easiest business, there’s not huge mark-ups, there’s not huge profits. We’re not silly, we don’t want to be losing money, but I don’t think anyone thinks they’re going to be getting rich. It’s the opportunity to do a good shop with great music, have some fun and be around what we love, which is music.
For me personally as a DJ who is getting a bit older, I’m looking at the longer game. I want to be involved in music but not have to rely on DJ gigs at five in the morning for my income. The situation with the shop won’t be here again in two years so it was now or never, and hopefully in ten years I’m still surrounded by music and working with like-minded souls.
Step Two: Find a nice spot and be patient
Love Vinyl is set back from the road on a lovely little side street round the back of the (also excellent, if you’re into soft furnishings) Geffrye Musuem in Hoxton. They went in for tender on the small shop front with about fifteen others and came up smiling.
Stuart: We got this directly off the council because Hackney Council wanted something from the creative sector. But when you’re dealing with the council it’s a slower process than when you’re dealing with the private sector. There’s a lot of red tape. So had been planned for a good six months.
Step Three: Choose your partners wisely
Love Vinyl was initially the idea of Stuart Patterson (the man behind London venue East Village) and James Manero (of party outfit ‘Another Party’). But despite their experience in the London clubbing scene, everyone knows your shop is only as good as its recommendations and there’s nothing like getting a bit of help from the true experts, the dealers.
Stuart: It was me and James initially and I suggested to James that we could share the strain and bring more people in. Bring people in with knowledge and history.
You know, Zaf and Jake, they not only bring the music, but people know them as good dealers, so you’re off to a good start anyway. Zaf managed and ran Reckless in Soho for 18 years, and Dave Jarvis is going to be managing mine and James’ counter and James was at Banquet records in Kingston for 17 years. He’s had about 7 or 8 years off and I didn’t know whether he’d want to get back in, but he was buzzing to get back doing what he likes, being involved in music and selling records. There’s a lot of experience in the team.
Step Four: Keep the concept simple
On the press release they called it a ‘mecca for dance music lovers’, but in truth it looks like Love Vinyl are catering for lovers of any music you can dance to. Split between two walls and two counters, there’s new house and techno on one side and second-hand funk, soul and disco on the other. Over to Stuart for a rundown:
Stuart: The shop is split into two counters, this on the left is all new vinyl, although we’re going to be stocking reissues, a few new comps, but it’s all unused, and then that one on the right is used. Me and James are doing this counter and the guys (Jake & Zaf) are doing that counter and I think both counters are going to feed off each other. Our new stuff is going to go from reggae through to techno. Reggae, soul, jazz, disco, more soulful deep house and then house and techno, from one end to the other.
Step Five: Familiarise yourself with DIY
Once you’ve got your hands on the keys, you’re going to have to get your hands dirty and buckle down to some good old fashioned DIY. Those crates aren’t going to build themselves and no matter how much time you leave yourself to prepare, something always gets left behind.
Stuart: We had about 3 weeks, and we just set an opening day, so we’ve just cracked on. It looks like there’s a lot to do and we wanted to put a wooden floor down but we haven’t had time but it’s not the end of the world. We’re here to sell records not show floor off.
Step Six: Get your records in
Arguably the most important step in the whole process, getting your records in isn’t as easy as it sounds and here is where having a couple of bonafide record dealers on board really comes into its own. Jake Holloway stepped in to tell us how you can take advantage of ageing rave dads to stock a serious second hand section.
Jake: We’ve been buying some collections, stuff from the old shop [In Wood Street Market, Walthamstow], car boots, charity shops, so just anywhere and everywhere, but mainly buying people’s collections. Since we’ve opened the shop there’ve been quite a few famous DJs who’ve come forward. You know, it’s just a case that they’ve got kids, they’ve put everything on digital and they want to get rid of their spare room full of records. So that’s the way we get that stuff.
I’m also going to have some rock stuff, just totally across the board, drum n bass, reggae. The kind of staples, Pink Floyds, Zeppelins, those albums always sell. If you see them cheap, it’s silly not to have that stuff. People are always asking for it.
Step Seven: Price wisely
As Stuart’s already said, there’s not a lot of leeway when it comes to pricing records, so getting the balance right is key. There is competition, but with most of the remaining swimmers just trying to keep their heads above water, it’s imperative you get the number right. With the new counter largely going by RRP, Stuart did shed a little light on the dark art of pricing second hand records.
Stuart: They’re going from literally £5 to some £300 records that they’ve got in there which is nice. I think people don’t realize a lot of stores do have little second hand sections, but I think what we’re going to try and do is have a really great selection, as good as we can for the size of the shop.
Step Seven: Get the people in
Space: check. Team: check. Stock: check. At this point, all your really need to get started are customers. Love Vinyl launched with a party on Saturday 14th June and have been open for business since the following Tuesday. While stock quality, reputation and a degree of hype will help, there’s so much more you can do to get people through the door.
Stuart: We’re going to do plenty of in-stores. I’d like to go beyond the in-stores, I’d like to have certain DJs who’ve got a lot to say to actually come down and play some tunes and actually do a Q&A. I’m sure it’s been done before, and some DJs haven’t got a lot to say and just want to play some tunes, but we’ve built our offices up there too so this is going to become our hub of creativity.
Step Nine: Be bold and plan for the future
So what happens now? You’ve opened your record shop. Sit back and take a long hard drag on that damn pipe. Although it’s easy to get carried away, but there’s certainly no harm in a bit of optimism early doors.
Stuart: We’ve got a five year lease, but I’d love to be celebrating our tenth birthday, I can’t believe Phonica celebrated their tenth the other week. It only feels like yesterday that I was at their opening, so it comes round. So that’s got to be the goal. We might evolve with what we’re selling. We might end up doing more DJ equipment, more T-shirts, but at the start it’s 95% vinyl.
There’s so much being produced and released, we can’t stock everything, but as time evolves the stock will get better and better.
Visit Love Vinyl in person at 5, Pearson Street, London E2 8JD. They’re open Tue – Sat: 11:30 – 19:30 and Sun: 11:00 – 17:00. You can find out more from their Facebook page here.