On the 13th of April 2019, the “Record Store Day” will take place again this year. At the “International Day of Independent Record Stores” approximately 2,000 record stores take part worldwide and sell special and limited (re-)editions of vinyl records that entire Saturday. Even though it is criticised by many (because it has become very commercialised), since its launch in 2008, the event has certainly contributed to the success story and return of vinyl.
It’s time to take a look at the record stores in Düsseldorf. We meet a veteran and a newcomer for a chat: Hitsville on Wallstraße is a true institution in Düsseldorf; Beat Retreat is the latest new kid on the block in Flingern on Ackerstraße. Both have one thing in common: their winning personalities.
One reason for choosing either Hitsville or Beat Retreat is the genre mix on offer. While the playlist of Ralf Brendgen’s Hitsville is wildly mixed from pop, hip hop to punk to electro, Beat Retreat’s approach by Marc Taake is a bit different. Marc offers those genres for which he had to travel to Cologne or Aachen in the past, because the selection was simply not available in Düsseldorf. This includes everything to do with soul, hip hop, Brazil/Latin/Afro and dub. In terms of reggae, electro and jazz, there is certainly the odd overlap between the two stores. Marc deliberately keeps the offer for these genres rather limited.
CDs and second-hand records don’t cross the threshold into Marc’s shop. This is due to the fact that especially old records are often sold at unfair prices on reseller online-platforms such as Discogs etc. – and it is therefore not worthwhile to resell them. But there are some cool tapes in the selection. Ralf, who has been running Hitsville for 25 years this month, offers both CDs and used vinyls which seems a sensible thing to do on his large shop floor on Wallstraße.
However, Wallstraße in Düsseldorf’s old town was not always the home of the record store. Hitsville has already journeyed all over Düsseldorf. It all started with a store in Andreasstraße in 1986, which was founded by Ratinger Hof legend Jürgen Krause. At the beginning of the 90s, however, it had to be vacated because it was actually not a store, but a regular apartment on the first floor. “The public order office did not tolerate this set-up and closed the location,” explains Ralf.
That’s why the store moved to Bolkerstraße above McDonalds – probably the biggest and most expensive location of the Hitsville shops so far. It extended over three floors and offered a great location for noisy in-store events. In 1994 the journey took Ralf to the old harbour near the Rhine until 1996 and then the store finally arrived at today’s location: Wallstraße.
Whether this will remain Hitsville’s home in the future, however, is uncertain. Not only for us, but also for Ralf: “It worries me. At the moment we are still here, but it is also possible that we will have to look for a new location in the foreseeable future”. However, he promises that the Hitsville Record Store will continue to exist one way or another. This is a real relief.
On the other hand, there is Düsseldorf’s newest record store, Beat Retreat. On Ackerstraße, the modern store shares its entrance with a kiosk. A great combination: First buy a few records and then get a cold drink or the other way around. The name Beat Retreat not only refers to the casual retreat for music fans, but also to the origins of the shop. Marc already worked in record stores during school and university, but then decided on a different profession.
The dream of his own store never left him though. Music and especially records have always been the purpose in his life: “I bought my first record when I was eight years old and it hasn’t stopped since.” In November 2017, the time had come and the dream finally came true. Thus, he said goodbye to his old job (“Retreat”) and got the beats pumping again.
There are always different in-store events like release parties or the Open Vinyl Night, to some also known as ‘Stammtisch’, happening in the basement. Music nerds chat and share their extensive knowledge. But these events should not become the main thing. “After all, it’s not a club, it’s a record store with extras,” says Marc.
Regardless of whether a record store has existed for more than a quarter of a century or only for a few years, business is tough. The internet and big multi-stores eclipse the small independent stores with their huge choice. Therefore, they have to rely on their charm, personality and local support.
Can you introduce your stores in one or two sentences?
M: I’m trying to offer things that you can’t find anywhere else and focus on quality rather than quantity. There’s only vinyl and a few tapes. CDs etc. are a no-go for me. I’m also directly in touch with the small labels, which is reflected in the price and ratio. Therefore, customers get a better price, I can have a listen before the release and know what’s coming.
R: My name is Ralf and I own the Hitsville Records Store for 25 years this month. The store is an independent place in a highly priced neighbourhood. Here, people can pin up flyers for their events and buy inconvenient music.
How would you describe the feeling in the store?
M: Relaxed, I would say, is the right word. The motto is: “Enter with a happy heart” and that’s the way it should be. You should be happy to come here, get to know a few people or even meet old acquaintances again, chat a little, drink coffee and nerd about music and take along one to 50 records.
R: Not old-fashioned, but a bit old-school, I’d say.
What was the most legendary event here in the store?
M: I actually think all events are cool when people come here and feel good, form a community. In the late 80s, early 90s, when I was musically socialised, people met in the record store, where they hung out together for hours, talked and discussed music. This has been lost over the years through the whole online shopping. I don’t want to demonise that in general, but I believe that many people miss the opportunity to exchange ideas with like-minded people. I would like to offer such a “communication hub” here. I also think that this Open Vinyl Night is really nice, when people stumble into the store almost by chance and can’t wait until the next time.
R: Looking back there were a few. I always remember one or the other when I see old photos or posters at home. Christian Koch (Chris Cook) from VIBRAVOID played with the previous band VOID FORUM in the old shop. This one had three floors, all were lit and he sat in the top one with his big Electric Sitar 1995. Back then, there was still a lot of smoking and drinking going on in the shop. Also Greg Ginn from Black Flag, Sniffing Glue and Kreidler played here. They are just celebrating their 25th anniversary and introduced their first 12” with the title ‘Sport’ at Hitsville (including their own bar). *While considering which bands were also playing at Hitsville, a customer joins our conversation and provides suggestions for the band name that Ralf is looking for * Ralf’s conclusion: It was a great night and the name was something very sacred.
We hope that the turn tables in both stores will continue to spin for many years to come and that lots of vinyls will go over the counter. Our opinion: Hanging out and chatting about music, even as an amateur, is a lot more fun in a record store than at impersonal electro discounters.
Hitsville, A&O Medien, Vinylwerk and Slowboy Records will officially take part in this year’s Record Store Day on the 13th of April 2019 in Düsseldorf.
Hitsville Record Store
Wallstraße 21, 40213 Düsseldorf – Altstadt
Genres: Independent, Punk/HC Classics, Soul/Funk, Jazz, Rock’n’Roll, Electronica, Reggae, Oldies
Beat Retreat Record Store
Ackerstraße 53, 40233 Düsseldorf – Flingern
Genres: Soul, Funk, Jazz, Hip Hop, Dub, Reggae, Brazil, Latin, Afro and Electronic.
More record stores in Düsseldorf!
Schadow Arkaden, 1st floor, Schadowstraße 11, 40212 Düsseldorf – City centre
Düsselthaler Straße 2, 40211 Düsseldorf – City centre
c/o 69m2 concept store, Lindenstraße 186, 40233 Düsseldorf – Flingern
Ackerstraße 61, 40233 Düsseldorf – Flingern