Today’s interview is with Corey Lavender from Vanishing Point Records: An independent record shop in Chesterfield, Derbyshire. In the store Corey sells some new titles, mainly soundtracks and electronica together with many genres of vintage vinyl on 45s and LPs. The shop also stocks a small selection of CDs and music and film related second hand books.
Hi Corey, tell us a little about you and your shop…
and I’ve been living in Chesterfield since my family moved here in 1980. Schooled at Holymoorside, Manor and then Brookfield Community School I worked at Shorts Chartered Accountancy for 23 years after leaving school. Initially starting as an office junior I ended up running their payroll department for 200 plus clients.
After 23 years I decided I needed a new challenge and on the first day back after the Christmas Hols for 2015 I handed in my notice. So in March 2016 I left and set out to walk the Camino De Santiago, a walk from the Pyrenees in South West France to Santiago in the North West of Spain.
It’s 500 miles (ish) long and is both the best and the hardest thing I’ve every done. Walking on average 25 km each day gives you plenty of time to think, and it was towards the end of the walk when I got the idea to open a store. Three months later I opened Vanishing Point Records.
Where are based?
VPR are based in the Yards, an area of town for independent traders and cafés in the creative arts. It’s useful being surrounded by fellow independent retailers especially for advice and encouragement. We all know each other and we do our best to help promote the area for the benefit of us all.
When I got back from Spain I rang the council to see if they had any properties up for rental. They had luckily (that day) had one of their current tenants opt to bring their lease to an early end, so I went to have a look at it that day. The first thing that grabbed me was the 5 cafés/restaurants that all face the building. A perfect location for record buying!
How did you start out?
After years of running my own department and then a year off work altogether I wasn’t ready to return to being an ‘employee’ just yet, so the chance to be my own boss selling something that I’m absolutely obsessed with was worth putting the remainder of my savings into. On 17 February 2017 I opened the store and five months later and most days worked in between I don’t regret a thing. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had in my life.
What makes you stand out from the crowd?
I’ve not gone down the traditional ‘look’ of a record shop. The main feature of the property is the lovely big window so although you need to be careful in making sure not too much direct sunlight hits the records I felt it would be a shame to cover it up. To make my shop different from others I thought I’d just stick to a small number of genres as far as the ‘new’ titles go. So I settled on Soundtracks and Electronica, the good thing being that Soundtracks can include most genres within it.
What links do you have to the local community?
We are part of the Yards and South Street Tenants Association, a group set up for us all in the area put ideas and opinions forward to help promote and improve the area. My customers are predominantly local record buyers who were delighted to find another record shop in Chesterfield together with the many tourists we get passing through visiting the Peak District.
What tips do you have for fellow small business owners?
I’m still learning and I need tips from people far more experienced than me. That said, the customer is king. If you treat your customers well with good service and good choice that’s a good start.
What do you consider to be the main challenges facing small business at the moment?
The uncertainty over the UK’s exit from the European Union might mean that the new vinyl prices could get pushed up, if they are pressed in Europe and then imported into the UK. The cost of this may well mean it’s not worth selling them in the store.
The gradual privatisation of departments at local council level is worrying. Will we see our service charges and rates being raised for a worse service than we currently receive?
Time will tell…..
How do you market your business?
I try to do some social media promotion but the downside of being a one man band is this tends to get put to the back of the queue until the million other jobs I need to do on a daily basis get done. I do plan to focus more on advertising very soon and the local radio station radiofreesmedleystreet based in Matlock have been very kind in pushing adverts for me on their Monday nigh shows. We also choose a VPR track of the week for this show too, and might possibly be starting a show of our own in the near future!
What are your plans for the future?
To get more people through the doors, which means I will hopefully be able to hire some assistance and who knows maybe acquire another small property. It’s good to have plans.
Quick fire questions:
Favourite Song: Things Have Changed-Bob Dylan
Film: A Shot In The Dark