There used to be a time when Belgium was jam-packed with record shops. Our last year’s #belgiumvinylsticker project unearthed stickers from record shops in small towns and villages all aroung the country such as Moerkerke, Winterslag, Oostrozebeke or Jemappes. With the decline of vinyl sales in the eighties and nineties, the medium being replaced by the Compact Disc (CD) as most popular commercial distributor for music, most of these local stores vanished into thin air. The record selling business plummeted and only the fittest survived. Our articles about the history of legendary but discontinued Belgian record shops such as Music Mania Brussels, Diki Records, USA Import, JJ Records and BCM Records read as the memoirs of the vinyl record industry from the previous century. But by the end of the two-thousands though, vinyl sales started to increase again. A vinyl revival started to unfold and hasn’t stopped until today, with vinyl being the bright spot among physical formats, the only one that seems to stay alive next to digital streaming. This has also led towards a new growth in record shops. Our database of Belgian record shops proves this point, with new shops being added on a continuous basis. Examples of recent shops are numerous: Warrecords, ZouZou Records, Rolling Vinyles or Vinyl&Chill. Also interesting are a new kind of hybrid shops, who combine vinyl selling with other activities such as a restaurant (read our article about Super Fourchette), a bar (De Ververie) or a maker shop (read our article about The Manufactory).
Another phenomenon noticed in our database for Belgian record shops are the so called home shops. These are stores at seller’s houses, in their garages or basements. These shops always mention ‘by appointment only’ as opening hours and don’t have a classical storefront. You just enter someones property and start digging records in a very homely vibe, in a one-to-one relationship with the owner, no other customers around. We have put ourselves to the test at Noiski Records, a shop in a small Flemish-Brabant town called Opwijk, and had a pleasant conversation with owner Geert.
TVF: Hello Geert, thanks for having us in your house. You prefer not to call this a record shop, right?
Geert: You’re very welcome! No, that’s right, I call this my man cave. I built the whole space myself in just a few months time from scratch. I installed isolation, heating, the floor, a sound system and a surveillance security system with the help of some friends and family. This room used to be a storehouse for audio equipment that I rented out.
TVF: You have always worked with music and records. Explain us how this all started?
Geert: As a teenager, I’m 48 years old now, I started to dj at birthday and school parties. From the beginning I also provided the sound system for these events, collecting all the available hardware from friends next to my own mixer and cd’s and records. Already at high school I was buying and selling second hand records, I had my own little business. On the one hand I would sell among friends, on the other hand I would go to second hand markets early in the morning and buy all the vinyl available only to resell it at the same market. My tactic was simple and effective, at the end of the day I returned home with more money and more records. When I moved to Leuven to study I began to buy records at high speed and dj in a few bars and clubs in the vivid student town. I didn’t take long before I started to invest into audio equipment. I was in my early twenties and all of the sudden had four full audio systems for parties, driving around in my van and installing them all weekend long. Next to this I was also dj’ing and managing a small booking agency. I would not only rent out the systems, but also dj’s alongside with them.
TVF: How did you end up starting a record store slash man cave in your own house?
Geert: Two years ago I decided to sell all my audio equipment, because of a painful back and the desire to spend more time with my family. The idea to start selling records on a bigger scale had always been floating in my head, but it was only until I got fired at my previous job as a bank officer that I decided to make the move. Today I feel better than ever. Waking up and being able to work here at home all day long is a dream come true. It also made me realize how much stress I was enduring at the bank.
TVF: Are you able to make this into a living?
Geert: Right now I don’t really make money, I see myself more as a crazy hobbyist with a passion for music. In the future I’ll see how it evolves, I have been doing this for only a year now. But the energy I get out of this is priceless. I’m a nerd with all the details, from keeping track of everything I do in extensive spreadsheets, to making my own price labels or building shelves.
TVF: Why should people come to Opwijk?
Geert: First of all because of the personal contact. I’m fully available for a customer and I have every record in the shop listed in my computer, so I can easily find something. I never allow more than one customer at the same time, so you get the personal and relaxed approach with a soft or coffee included. I offer a broad scale of records and cd’s, from French Chanson to rock, disco, soul, funk, house, trance and Flemish music. You can discover new old music in my man cave. And if you wish to stay in your sofa, you can also check my website or discogs page. I have all the records and cd’s, 42777 at the moment, listed on my website and a smaller part of them are on my discogs page.
TVF: What kind of visitors do you get?
Geert: Mostly people come from a 20 to 25km radius. I have a weekly radio show on ‘Familieradio Enjoy’ in Merchtem, this helps for local promotion. But I also promote the shop on the internet, which attracts people from everywhere. Last weekend I had a Dutchman from Den Haag in the shop who drove all the way here for a 7 inch singles of John Rowles. And once I had a Japanese collector in a rental car who mostly bought French and children’s music.
Thank you Geert!
If you also have a ‘by appointment only’ home shop, don’t hesitate to contact us (koen @ vinylfrontier.be), we are happy to add you to our Belgian record shop database.
Words & pictures: Koen Galle