“It took us 26 years to be the only record shop left”, says owner Yves Deckmyn with a grin from ear to ear. Located right next to the museum ship Mercator, Compact Center - Ostensche Ploate is a lesser known but equally important historical attraction in the city of Oostende. There used to be about ten record shops in the coastal city only - remember Maison Bleu, MU 2000, Billboard, HVH, Extra Zone, Music Mania, Superclub, … - and plenty more in other towns by the seaside, but today the shop Yves and his wife Ingrid Sanctorum run is the last one standing. The interior hasn’t changed for years, but this has never stopped customers from visiting the shop. The secret is constant and thorough music curation, as Yves will explain us.
But first a bit of history. Ostensche Ploate first opened its doors on September 17th of 1976, no sign yet of compact discs since this technology wasn’t on the market yet. It was Ingrid, no sign of Yves yet either, who launched it on her 18th birthday. She ran the shop until 1982, when she decided to sell it and try a new career. In the meantime Ingrid met Yves and they fell in love. Since they both have music running through the veins, they decide to give it another shot. On June 11th of 1988 they reopen the shop under the new name ‘Compact Center’ in the Vindictivelaan, where they are still located to this day. Their idea was simple yet revolutionary: customers could buy but also rent cd’s, which was back than a relatively new medium still rather expensive. With the customer pool Ingrid had build up through her first shop, their business immediately turned out well. Around 1995 they realized vinyl records started to become popular again, especially among dj’s. The couple decided to start offering dance 12 inches from their basement. Nowadays both vinyl and cd’s are being sold at the ground floor again, the basement has been closed at the end of the 2000’s. They don’t rent cd’s anymore either, but the Oostende shop has a large offer in both new and second hand, in many genres. It’s surprising to discover what it has in stock, from classic albums by Queen, Kraftwerk or The Beatles to the latest releases by young and upcoming artists such as Kamasi Washington, Zwangere Guy or Reena Riot.
The shop is a world of its own. Customers from different ages and backgrounds walk in, search through the crates and start a chat with Yves, who knows almost all of them by name. “I have a lot of regulars, mostly people who live at the coast. The last couple of years they tend to come from further though, since their local shops have all closed.” The 15 year old Vincenzo is one of the regulars at Compact Center - Ostensche Ploate. His father visited the shop from day one, so Vincenzo made his first appearance still in the baby buggy. “I’m a huge David Bowie fan”, Vincenzo explains us. “My father has been playing me great music since I was a kid and now I I come here every week.”
Today Compact Center - Ostensche Ploate sells about 60% cd’s and 40% vinyl. Yves is constantly looking for a unique selling proposition. He rented cd’s when no one else did, he specialized in dance 12 inches as the only one in the area and nowadays he is probably one of the last shops still selling cd’s and even music dvd’s. Another strong point Yves has to offer is the music curation. He spends hours looking for new artists and sees tons of concerts in the whole country. When he plays us a blues song he asks to listen carefully. A beautiful old male voice starts singing and Yves smiles proudly. “This is the 22nd years old Marcus King, I discovered him in the AB Club two years ago. He is the next big thing in the States at the moment, he even made an appearance in the Late Night Show last week. He came to play a showcase here, can you believe this? His album was my best seller both on cd and vinyl last year. That’s how I run my shop here, we make our own hypes, far away from what is being played on the radio.”
Compact Center – Ostensche Ploate
Find it in our database of Belgian Record Stores.
Words & pictures: Koen Galle