For those who have encountered Jack Black in High Fidelity, and who were likely born after the invention of CDs but at the perfect time to indulge in MP3s, the prospect of entering a record shop may not seem all that appealing. The Inkwell, nestled down York’s Gillygate, is fully aware of these hindrances, and is determined to conquer them in a refreshing and fascinating “post-internet shop”.
In fact, rather than feared, it seems owner Paul Lowman is a man to be envied in many respects. After stints in retail and office management, and googling every aspect of business start-up, he has opened his vinyl-CD-pop-culture-book-retro-gift-coffee shop with his wife and as a consequence now makes a living out of investigating, talking about and writing about music (I recently discovered The Inkwell blog – A-Z of All Time Great Pop Singles).
A move he made just two years ago, I can’t help but wonder what rationale one can give to starting such a shop in the middle of all things economically dire, as well as claims of the death of music sales. He admits, “it’s not like the things I sell are essential, I’m not selling bread and milk here”, but un-arguably offers “everything in a shop that an internet can’t do” because “the internet’s not going anywhere”. It’s both encouraging and lamentable to compare this record shop to so many others that had been around since the seventies and were “thunderstruck by the internet”; “it happened so quickly they just didn’t have time to react” whereas Lowman has the experience of a few years entrenched in torrents, YouTube and online stockists.
I suggest that it must have also taken a lot of faith in people to embark on this enterprise. “Belief that if you make something good, they will come to it”. But there also has to be “an element of absolute blind naivety about it, believing beyond the facts that this is a doable thing”. This must include some faith in the allure of music, and faith in his personal taste in music, which seems an applaudable thing. While the latter could easily translate into something insidious, Lowman stresses that the shop “isn’t some kind of pretentious hipster conceit; it’s someone genuinely passionate about this stuff. It has to be accessible to everybody”. Lowman’s shop, with its button-back sofa, array of intriguing stock and gleaming coffee machine, does indeed feel accessible and inviting, especially accompanied by his willingness to talk music.
As far as collectors go, while they do frequent The Inkwell, Lowman recounts someone who came in enquiring about selling their copy of Black Sabbath’s first record. After responding to a few questions, Lowman asked if the man had a record player, to which he said yes, and was promptly told to “just go home and play it”. “The value of this record is that it’s a great record”. Lowman knows – “it’s about enjoyment” and The Inkwell certainly does so much to make it even easier to enjoy music.By Alice Lawrence