I Love My Shop

Imogen Ramsay puts Thirroul on the record with Franks Wild Years.

Why did you open a record store?  I was chugging away at my University degree, feeling incredibly uninspired, when 10,000 records fell into my lap. My Dad had owned a record store in the ‘90s and thought he was doing me a favour passing on the crates of leftover stock that had been collecting dust for the last 20 years in my Grandmother’s garage, with the idea I’d sell records on the side to help pay my way through Uni. I kept the records, ditched the degree and suddenly I’m opening a record store.

Where can we find you?   3/2A Raymond Road, Thirroul, NSW.

Why Thirroul?   I made the move down the coast from Sydney last year, saw this shop come up for lease and thought “why not?”. It’s a sweet small town with a good music scene and lots of young creative people around.

What was it like setting up?   Highly stressful. I had little to no money, so this was a real labour of love only possible with a hardworking crew of family and friends. It was all hands on deck and miraculously we managed to get the place up and running in less than three weeks. We’ve just celebrated our 4 month anniversary, so I must be doing something right.

Describe the space.   The exterior has a super cool, tiled 1950s vibe. Inside is a fairly unusual space with lots of little nooks and crannies to sit and hide out and listen to records. I’m looking to turn one of these nooks into a bar so I can keep playing records and serving drinks into the evenings. There’s a very nostalgic feel to the place, from all the knick-knacks lying around to 'Deja Vu' playing on the stereo to all the album covers that spark memories of your childhood. Frank’s doesn't feel solely like a record store, it has more familiarity about it. 

Who visits?   Predominately middle-aged men who are buying back records they gave away in the ‘90s and are still cut up about it. But really there are all sorts of people after vinyl nowadays; I don’t think you can pin it down to one type of person anymore. I’ve just started hosting in-store gigs where local bands can show off their new releases which is also bringing in a younger audience from the area.

What makes Frank's Wild Years unique?   It feels like an extension of my living room; which looks like my Grandma’s living room, or your Grandma’s. Because the shop is filled with lots of my possessions, it's 50/50 whether something is for sale – I change my mind everyday. Oh and there’s usually a pot of coffee on.

Are you still slinging Dad’s 10,000 records?   I’ve been surprised at how quickly I’m moving stock; I really have to keep on top of buying records all the time. I generally cruise the markets and record fairs and swing by local garage sales. Otherwise people will come in with massive crates of vinyl to donate or sell.

Who’s Frank?   Well he’s not my Dad! Frank’s Wild Years is a Tom Waits album. My housemate came up with the name and I thought it sounded like a real good time. We’re all about good times here at Frank’s.

What’s the first record you ever bought?   I think it must be Led Zeppelin IV, the one with Black Dog as the opening track. 

What are you spinning in store at the moment?   I’ve had this fantastic Talking Heads album that was produced by Brian Eno on repeat for the last three or four days. I tend to do that in here – just smash one record constantly until I find another I really like. I end up keeping so many records for myself it’s ridiculous. I’ll chuck it on and think “there’s no way I’m selling this, it’s mine.”

Do you consider yourself a vinyl purist?   I think music can be enjoyed on all mediums – I don’t think vinyl is the be-all and end-all. I listen to music on anything from cassettes to my laptop to seeing live music. There ain't just one way. Obviously there are different aspects that make vinyl the preferable medium for certain people to consume music on: whether it's nostalgic, the thrill of the hunt, the artwork or the tangibility of the record, not to mention the quality of sound. What I have noticed from having a lot of collectors come through the doors is they also have a great sense of pride in their collection, a great record is kind of like a trophy. You feel like a winner when you find the one you have been searching for. My collection is growing bigger everyday!  

Do you love it?   Sometimes I want to torch it, but when I’m in the shop with a great vinyl on the turntable, drinking a coffee and researching records I can often find myself descending into this massive web of musical history. It’s total information overload – I’ll discover that this certain guitarist in one band used to jam with this other guy and produced so-and-so’s first record. Everything seems really vast and then it just gets smaller and smaller. That’s when I’m having the best time and in the zone of the whole business.

What's it like running a shop solo?   Operating as a sole trader has its upside but there are definitely disadvantages too. I like the fact that I have creative control of the business and that no one gets mad at me when I open the shop late (or close early). But sometimes it can be overwhelming with all the tasks big and small that need to be done and there is no one but you to do them. That's when you want someone around!

Any advice for a wannabe record store owner?   Do it with a buddy. It's more work than you think it's going to be. And you have someone to share the good times and the stress with. 

Describe your shop in a sentence.   Your own nostalgic lounge-room full of your favourite old records and bottomless cups of coffee.