“It’s something I always thought about when I came back to Doncaster,” says “The Notorious Aardvark Record Shop” proprietor Simon Saynor. “I thought: ‘Doncaster needs a proper record shop. Why don’t I do it? Every major town has an independent record shop’.”
If you think vinyl has had its day, think again. By opening a record shop in the Waterdale section of town, Simon is actually “riding the crest of a wave”. According to him, 10 years ago, there were 2,000 record shops in Britain.
Only 260 remain. However, 50 have opened in the last 12 months. Of those 50, all are “still thriving”.
Vinyl sales are up 140%, says Simon. In fact, this year is estimated to see the highest sales of actual records since 1997. Downloads, by contrast, are “down massively,” says Simon.
Besides the vinyl records, CDs, record players, band t-shirts, and related paraphernalia, the shop will also feature a dedicated seating area disguised as a 1950s front room, plus a coffee machine for those of who need caffeine to fuel their lives. And yes, tea for tea lovers like myself, though don’t expect Simon to make your brew.
“Just come and have a chat about music,” he says.
“The Aardvark” will be the venue for live, daytime gigs, including one which takes place when Simon and friend and employee Alistair Pearson open the Aardvark’s doors on Saturday, 1 November, at 09:00 am. The bands will start playing at 10:00. Taking part are: Passion Play, TJ Norton, Joe Snow, Scarlett, Rob Tinsley, Groom Lake Fugitives, The Last Politician, Alistair Pearson, Storm Trees, Sick Note Tez, 13 Women, Bam Morgan, and Habberdash. Work is also under way to stream the “Aardvark”’s concerts live from its website.
Fans of Simon’s Sunday night show on Sine FM, “The Other Way,” needn’t worry. Simon and Alistair will be continuing “Way”, which airs between 18:00 and 20:00 on 102.6 FM in Doncaster, and online at sinefm.com
Simon was previously the presenter of Sine’s “Bigger All Important Breakfast Show”, just part of his decade-long involvement with Doncaster’s music scene. So when he answers the question “What is your unique selling point?” with the word “Me”, he’s not kidding – or being arrogant.
The kid who spent much of his teenage years in the record section of Doncaster Central Library – just yards away from “The Notorious Aardvark” – grew up to know, and love, Doncaster’s music scene. Whether through his association with Sine FM, or time spent at “The Hallcross” and other Donny pubs, Simon knows many of the bands, DJs, and music fans in and around town. He reckons the Doncaster music scene is “the best it’s ever been”.
Even a good sized shop such as “Aardvark” can only stock so much. Don’t fret: “If I haven’t got it in … I can get it,” says Simon, adding that he will let customers know how much an item will cost, and when it should arrive. He will also text people so they know when to collect their orders.
As well as records, CDS, tea and coffee, and live gigs, the shop will also feature events such as a signing session by North London band “The Dexters”, who will be at the Waterdale shop on Saturday 8 November. Simon will also offer customers the ability to buy gig tickets, initially to the Diamond Lounge in Doncaster, the Plug in Sheffield, and the Mosborough Music Festival.
Why “The Notorious Aardvark”, though?
“One of my first dates with my girlfriend Julie was a day out in York. We’d had a few pints, and the conversation turned to marriage in about 15 years times. She replied that I’d have to change my surname to ‘Aardvark’. The conversation then turned to forming a band to be called ‘The Notorious Aardvarks’.”
Partway through the interview, someone passes the shop window, and says hello to Simon. Do you know everyone in Donny? I ask.
“Pretty much,” Simon says with a smile.
The Notorious Aardvark is at 4 Kingsgate, Waterdale, Doncaster. The shop opens on Saturday, 1 November, at 09:00. Opening hours will be Monday – Friday, 08:00 – 18:00, and Saturday 09:00 – 17:00.