Welcome back to this set of stories where I try to answer the questions “Where can I find some records stores in Athens? And what will I find once I am there?”. For this second installment I thought about heading towards Exarchia, a neighborhood well-known for its music scene in the city, to tell the stories of two recently-opened stores. These two stores are interesting and fascinating not only because of their owners’ willingness to share their stories, or their (large) collections, but especially because their histories show two different approaches when it comes to opening and managing a record store in 2019.
The first one, Old School Records, is at n°59 of Zoodochou Pigis, an important yet not-so-busy street in Exarchia. The owner is Yorgos, a middle-aged man who happily tells me how he ended up owning and managing a record store. “I was a freelance journalist here in Greece for 27 years before this. I was also playing records as a DJ in my spare time and as a second job at times, so I happened to collect a lot of records. Once I couldn’t continue with freelancing, I decided to open this store and so far, it has been good for me”. Opened in November 2017 Old School Records offers a collection focused on New Wave and Garage Punk from the 80s as well Psychedelic especially from the 60’s and 70’s. Classic Rock and Jazz records are also available along with what he calls “Greek Treasures”. “Mostly there are second-hand records here, and some reissues”. I ask him who are the typical customers who walk in his small, record-packed store.
“A lot of young people and collectors” -he answers- “but I am lucky, there are many tourists in the area because of good deals, so some of them happen to get inside”. As we talk about the neighborhood and how he felt this was the best location to open his store because here is where he has always hanged out, the conversation drifts to the not-so-recent-anymore vinyl renaissance. “There are two things that give an edge to vinyl, the gesture and the softer sound. But don’t get me wrong I don’t think the other formats will disappear.” “Streaming music is the status now but CD, for example, will come back as well.” “Just the other day I sold a CD for more than 100 euros to a person in the Philippines, strange eh?”.
Dirty Noise, Didotou 49, is the kind of shop which you don’t expect to find in Athens but, someway somehow, here it is. I say this because it is not easy to find a store specialized in Garage Rock, Punk, Post Punk, Noise Rock, and Dark Wave records anywhere, nevermind in today’s Athens. Even here, Yannis, the owner, kindly shares the shop’s story. “I opened the door on the 10th of April 2018, not even a year ago. At first my intention was to open a e-shop but the Greek legislation doesn’t allow you to open one if you don’t have storage, so after discovering that there has been another record store here in the past and realizing that there was a good amount of movement and people in the area, I decided to turn the storage into a store”.
Here, among two shelves of neatly placed LPs, you won’t find used records; all the copies (contemporary new releases, new editions, and reissues) come from the distributors. “Attention to the customers and quality records is what I think a store like mine needs to focus on to survive” – Yannis explains – “You need to specialize to find your clients, your niche.” And by looking at what he is offering he is putting his money where his mouth is: the (probably) most-known contemporary album you can find is The National’s latest. Beside the genres dealt here there is another unique element in the store, the “No Poster Policy”. “If you notice almost 100% of records store have posters on the walls"- he says- " so I said let’s have some drawings instead of regular posters”. The result is a bright, vivid store that rocks.
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