Pie & Vinyl as an idea would probably not have made it very far on Dragons’ Den but it just works. The idea for Pie & Vinyl was conceived in 2011 and the shop opened in April 2012.
I had this idea of my dream shop (that lived in my head), built around records and music but offering quality food to create a unique experience. Borrowing from the past to create something modern and human. Comforting and real. Something that would touch your soul, and make you happy.
Why not try and make it happen?
I started buying records again, purely because they seemed to be more available. They also came with a download code. Something I consider to be a very important part of the resurgence. In 2011 it was a light bulb moment – I really thought that people would want to buy records, although the message was clear. Physical formats were on its knees and dying very quickly. But with this, it seemed the music industry wanted to embrace new technology and piracy problems, rather than fight it.
In my eyes, it’s almost a new premium format that covers a broad range of experiences – On the go, and a total high-quality insular experience.
Let’s be a friendly shop, that doesn’t challenge but learns about what your customers like and listen to. The opposite of the second-hand record shops I was used to, growing up – where you had to pass a music exam to buy something, even though they really didn’t want to sell you a part of their ‘collection’ anyway.
The food idea to accompany records came from the idea that everything we do is borrowed from the past but dragged right up to date to become something modern and exciting. Pie and mash is a traditional working-class food, something I had grown up with and passed down to me from my parents, Similar to records. They both were traditional ideas, that have been remolded into something new. With pie, we could create bespoke fillings and pastry types, catering for all dietary types but served in a traditional way. There is something hugely comforting about them, and together it seemed the right food choice to specialise in, that would work with the music side of the business. Luckily, other people thought that also. All the food and décor is sourced locally and use high-quality ethical ingredients.
Pie&Vinyl is essentially a sensory experience, visually, auditory, and tasty! Combine all of these things, and you get a real human experience! Something you can’t find on a screen using the internet. In our older age, there have become many facets to the Pie & Vinyl experience. Not just the records, the food, and the friendly atmosphere, but also the whole feel of the visit and what we can offer outside of the shop.
We host many instore performances, with great emerging and established artists. We have a great range of merch and work with local artists to reinterpret our visuals and ideas. We put on shows around the city. We host a street party every year for Record Store Day. We work with many local artists, and invest and promote local bands using our very own record label. We have curated many festivals, DJ vinyl-only records out and about and have had the honour of appearing at EVERY 6 music festival event which has left us to have close ties with those wonderful people.
We like to be original and excite people, online and offline.
The drive behind all of this is a real passion for the city of Portsmouth & Southsea. An incredible place, that doesn’t quite get the recognition it deserves, with so much history and a village feel. Despite being the most populated city outside of London in the UK. Which makes everything very interesting, with many types of people from all different backgrounds living and working together. There is a great local art scene and a wonderful local independent community in which we are proud to be a part of.
In 2012, I really wanted to help be a part of something that put the city on the map, but now I’m happy feeling that we are an undiscovered secret to many people. Many things have changed since then with so many great local offerings and people arriving in the city.
Behind the drive and passion that allows us to be Pie&Vinyl, is the one thing that unites us all. The Sea. We are very lucky, and guess this is the one thing that ties together all of the local arts and offerings. A village city by the sea with a tonne of literary history and lots of different people living side by side.
Sorry, I have also become a bit of a tourist guide on my travels with this.
Covid 19 – Lock Down.
During the corona 19 lockdown, we have been concentrating on the record side of the business. And feel lucky that we can. The big hope of course when this is over is that people have rediscovered what is important to them. We have been proud to supply many people locally, and around the UK (some much further afield too) with some great new music, and recommendations.
I say we, mainly me – as everyone was furloughed! Ha.
So, I have been very busy but it’s almost been like a hobby every day, and I’m happy to be occupied doing something I enjoy. No joke, during this – and spurred on by the recent Cocteau Twins reissues – I’ve been playing those to death, whilst in the evening have a few cocktails and looking after my twin boys. Cocteau Twins and Cocktails and Twins is how I’ve been coping. Sorry, ha.
We’ve been selling a lot of the weekly new releases, Ghostpoet, Baxter Dury, Yves Tumour, Thundercat, Mark Lanegan, Sleaford Mods, B.C. Camplight, Tom Misch & Yussef Dayes, The Strokes new one, weirdly lots of Kanye West, Rina Sawayama, Pigs x 7, The Lovely Eggs, Ren Harviieu, Waxahatchee, Sorry, Porridge Radio, Jonathan Wilson, The Orielles, Soccer Mommy, Grimes, Caribou, King Krule…and many other titles. Along with merch and vouchers etc, for people that love what we do and want to support us.
There have been huge positives with this experience, we have connected with so many customers that have been with us from the start, and many that have moved on but not forgotten us. I guess every business is under threat of closure during this uncertain time, but it seems that we have really meant something to people. Along with purchases, have been stories of when people first came to the shop, what they bought, how we became a sanctuary through difficult times or just someone’s favourite place to go.
Worth more than any amount of money – although sadly that is essential, and hopefully has given us a chance to come out of the other end. It has also given me a chance to reconnect with many areas of the business and get truly excited again, with many ideas on how to improve and move forward.
By Steve Courtnell
Feature Photo – Pie And Vinyl
Shop Photo – Carrie Lavers