Sadly, in recent times, there has been more of a need to report on the closure of record and CD stores as they lose their fight against the dual digital enemy of streaming and downloading than there has been on celebrating the arrival of new music retailers.
Eighteen months ago, Craig Siviour (aka Cragos to his regulars) after a decade of meticulous planning, bucked the trend and opened Vinyl Squeeze at Gilles Plains confident that there was sufficient demand for a quality vinyl retailer in the north-eastern suburbs of Adelaide.
A visit to the store immediately confirms that this is a store sure to please record collectors. There is a huge range of new and second-hand vinyl albums and 45s. The back room also has a wide selection of second-hand CDs and music DVDs, books and tapes. And the prices are surprisingly affordable!
Everything is beautifully and accessibly laid out – and there is also an unusually large amount of ‘Weird’ Al Yankovic memorabilia on display around the store…
Last week, Vinyl Squeeze expanded its reach by launching its mightily impressive online store.
The new website lists over 800,000 items, which are in addition to the thousands of new and second-hand items Craigos stocks in store, and he reckons most of these new titles can be delivered, or be in store, within a week of being ordered.
To add credence to this claim, whilst The Upside News was in the shop, a courier brought a delivery of new CDs from the U.S. that had only been ordered five days before, so it seems that Vinyl Squeeze has hooked up with some pretty efficient suppliers!
The Upside News caught up with Craigos to discuss his latest venture and to find out what drove this vinyl crusader to buck the trend and open a retail outlet when most who have tried have already come and gone.
The Upside News: So Craigos, why open a record store when it seems so obviously against the trend? It must have been a big risk?
Craigos: Yeah, a bit of a risk but I don’t really think it was against the trend. There were signs of records coming back over the last ten years or so I was fairly confident that they would make a good comeback – because they’re so amazing!
TUN: So, now, after eighteen months has everything gone to plan, or better?
Craigos: Better. At this point in time, we’re really happy with how it’s gone.
TUN: Gilles Plains seems a strange place to open a record store. Have you been surprised at how much demand there is for records here?
Craigos: It is. But it’s close to where I live and there was nothing else really out here so, yeah, I suppose we took a bit of a risk opening up out here but its paid off. People around here have been amazing and really supportive.
TUN: Do you get people regularly coming in to your shop from all over town?
Craigos: Yes, we do!
TUN: Prior to opening up for business, you stockpiled records for ten years didn’t you?
Craigos: I did. Every day off that I had, I’d go round to op shops, garage sales, everything, and if it was cheap enough I’d grab it.
TUN: How discerning were you in your choices?
Craigos: Not very. I used to buy a bit of everything. They used to be so cheap that you could pick them anywhere because people didn’t want them.
Now, you go into an op shop you can’t get anything decent.
TUN: Unless you’re a Kamahl fanatic…
Craigos: Or Barry Crocker…
TUN: Now that you’re selling all that stuff you gathered, are you surprised at what people actually buy? Was your decision to buy all those records vindicated? Are people actually buying them?
Craigos: Absolutely. I’ve sort of been in the industry since I was fifteen so I’ve kind of got a rough idea of what people want. It’s always changing though.
TUN: It’s interesting isn’t it? As soon as someone dies, or joins up with some other band, suddenly everyone wants all of their past catalogue. People are always finding new connections in music, or discovering new artists and genres from the past…
Craigos: Yes, absolutely.
TUN: So what genres styles or artists sell best in the store? What’s the people of Gilles Plains main go-to?
Craigos: It’s a real mix. We sell a lot of 70s & 80s, yet we sell a lot of newer stuff as well. It’s really good – and it’s what I wanted the shop to be. To sell a bit of everything from 1950s music through to today.
And I love ordering unusual things for stock too, because I always believe that if someone finds something unusual in the racks then they’ll come back. Because they remember that they got that unusual item from you.
TUN: So, when did your passion for records first begin?
Craigos: Probably at the age of five or six. My parents used to have a lot of old 45s and I used to pick them up and play them – particularly if the song title sounded interesting. For example, The Martian Hop by The Randells was one of the first records I can remember playing – and I’ve still got it to this day.
TUN: And that was in your parents’ record collection?
TUN: Wow! My parents’ records were all like Acker Bilk and the Morriston Orpheus Choir…
Craigos: Well, none of mine had covers or anything. I’d just pick one up and think ‘that sounds interesting’ and I usually loved it.
TUN: I remember playing my sisters’ 45s. I liked one called the Ugly Blues by The Uglys, and didn’t even realise it was the B-side [of Wake Up My Mind].
Craigos: Yeah, that was the thing. There were so many B-sides I used to like on records that I didn’t even know were B-sides back then…
TUN: They were just good songs…
Craigos: That’s right.
TUN: So have you always been in Adelaide?
Craigos: I grew up in Port Pirie. I left Pirie when I was twenty-one and came down to Adelaide to study school teaching. Did it for a year and decided I didn’t like it…
TUN: [laughing] Smart!
So, what were your favourite Adelaide record stores? And did they contribute to the template for this store?
Craigos: Adelaide stores? Not really. The template for this one was the first job I ever had in Port Pirie with Mr. Music in Port Pirie.
A local bank manager had bought the local record shop in Pirie which was really rundown. I was fifteen, going in there all the time, and he said, ‘You’ve got the best taste in music, it’s really diverse. Do you want to work here?’
And within a year or so, I was pretty much running it.
TUN: And did you conform to the usual teen fantasy and ask to be paid in records?
Craigos: No, not really. I used to save my lunch money from school to buy records though. I used to buy a vanilla slice for lunch – and that was it – the rest of the money went to buying records!
TUN: The perfect diet!
I always used to have a dream of opening a record store myself, but I always used to worry that people would bring in really cool stuff and I would not be able to then sell it – I’d have to have it for myself! Do you have that problem?
Craigos: As I said, I’ve been doing it for so long that I’m kind of used to that by now.
I have a fairly extensive collection, but there is always new stuff to discover. But yes, it is hard sometimes. Someone will bring in a whole stack of records and you think, ‘I wouldn’t mind that, and I wouldn’t mind that!’ but…
TUN: What is the most tempting record that someone has brought in that you have sold on, but you found hard to do so?
Craigos: Oh, that’s a tough one! Probably one of the Grateful Dead live albums.
TUN: There’s a lot of those!
Craigos: I know. But one in particular, which I have got the CD of – Skull & Roses. That came in second-hand one day, and I thought, ‘Ooh!’.
TUN: But then you already had a recording of it?
Craigos: That’s right.
TUN: So, is it the music or the artefact that is most important to you?
Craigos: To me? Both. It’s the whole experience.
TUN: And it’s vinyl that provides the whole experience?
TUN: Especially as you get older and your eyesight starts going!
You have just started up your website. And I understand there are over 800,000 items listed on there. Is that figure correct?
Craigos: Correct. CDs & vinyl.
TUN: What goes in to setting up something like that? Obviously, it’s not something that just happens instantly.
Craigos: No, it has taken us eighteen months to get it up and going. A friend of mine actually helped me to set it up because he was keen to see how it all worked, to be honest. So he volunteered! Eighteen months later…! [laughs] He has done really well!
It’s all about gathering data, and getting data sorted from suppliers, and adding it all into the system.
TUN: And the list of suppliers you have on the site is pretty impressive, there’s hundreds of them, did that all come from contacts you made whilst working a s a music buyer for JB Hi-Fi?
Craigos: No. It was nothing to do with that, to be honest. It’s all come from stuff that I have learnt since I left that job actually.
TUN: All part of the ten years you spent getting ready for this venture?
Craigos: Pretty much.
TUN: The only disappointing aspect of your store that I have found is that it seems the store’s name is actually a subtle reference to ‘Weird’ Al Yankovic and not, in fact, borrowed from the hard to find Doug Yule era Velvet Underground album, Squeeze…
Craigos: When I was seven or eight, ‘Weird’ Al was a pretty big influence on me, and hence my chosen career in selling music, so it’s kind of a homage!
Vinyl Squeeze is nestled behind Fasta Pasta at the corner of North East Road and Darley Road. Their actual address is Shop 9, 511-526 North East Road, Gilles Plains.
There is plenty of close free parking, so you can spend a few hours browsing without having to dash out and move your car!
The new Vinyl Squeeze website can be accessed HERE.