Bringing the vinyl revival to Bow: Rook Records becomes the latest in a stream of roaming and online shops to find a permanent home in the East End.
Rook Records opened its first permanent vinyl shop and events space in Hackney Wick this September, becoming the latest addition to Wick Lane’s eclectic community of sign makers, music studios, woodshops and pizza vendors.
Co-owned by university friends and former DJs Julian Gascoigne, 36, and Louis Rooney, 36, the record retailer was first launched online by Gascoigne in 2016 out of his parents’ spare room in North London.
As venues shut down and Covid lockdowns forced music fans and DJs into the confines of their bedrooms, businesses like Gasgoine’s saw an upsurge in sales.
Rook Records operated from an upstairs studio space across the road on Wick Lane for a few years before pouncing on its new location this summer and opening its first bricks-and-mortar shop front on Saturday 9 September.
Luckily for the new business owners, the vinyl revival has only continued since Covid, with sales across the UK increasing by 23 per cent in 2022, overtaking CD sales for the first time in 35 years.
Rook Records sells mainly second-hand vinyls which it buys wholesale from overseas. Stocking myriad genres including soul, jazz, house, disco, hip hop and world music: its vinyls range from just one pound to £550 for the Japanese edition of Armani Caesar’s latest LP.
The rarest and most valuable records hang on the shop’s industrial white-painted walls, with the rest organised in plastic tubs and cardboard boxes covering every available surface. Turntables sit on a mezzanine level looking down onto the shop below, a ready-made dancefloor waiting to be filled.
On top of buying and selling vinyl records, the shop hosts DJ events on the last Saturday of every month and is planning a collaboration with local alcohol suppliers and Born and Raised Pizza just down the lane.
‘Vinyls are not necessarily for your average high-street shopper, so we really want to make it a destination for music fans,’ says Gascoigne.
‘We’re a very specialist shop but there’s definitely a community of people who know that we’re here and have been coming from around Roman Road and Hackney Wick: It’s really nice to be able to walk to your local record shop.’
Since the closure of Rhythm Division on the Roman over a decade ago, local vinyl devotees have been waiting for a new dedicated vinyl retailer to open up shop in the area.
The arrival of Rooks Records follows a stream of roaming food trucks that have chosen to set up shop permanently in Bow, a sign of the enduring attraction of the East End to new food and entertainment venues.
If you stop by Rook Records you might find Gascoigne or Rooney on the decks recording a DJ set for their YouTube channel. The pair also play at Servant Jazz Quarters in Dalston and as part of their collective, Roaming Horizon, at Stereo in Covent Garden.
Closer to home, Gascoigne and Rooney are catering for the growing appetite for African, Latin and world music fused with disco and house in East London.
With fellow music venues, Grow, Hackney and All My Friends around the corner, Hackney Wick is fertile ground for Rook Records to establish its roots. And it seems like it’s already turning a few heads.
Visiting the store on a grey Thursday morning, a local painter and decorator was unable to hide his excitement at discovering Rook Records, professing to own almost as many records as those stacked up in the shop, but vowing to return for a rummage through their collection.
And the best thing about owning your own record store? You’d think it would be having the first dibs on everything that comes through the door.
‘But we haven’t actually had our hands on anything yet,’ admits Gascoigne: ‘Because the worst thing about owning your own record store is managing the finances: keeping the bills paid, keeping the lights on, keeping the staff happy.’
The recent closure of Breakhouse Café down the road is a reminder to everyone on Wick Lane of the precariousness of starting a business in the current economic climate.
But Rook Records has built up a loyal following selling records online for the best part of a decade, and if their next guest DJ is anything to go by, we’d say their future looks bright.
On Saturday 28 October, worldwide turntablist Mr Thing will be squeezing into Rook Records’ small industrial unit with as many of his fans as can fit. We’d recommend getting down to Wick Lane early for the best view of the vinyl.
If you’re looking for more things to do in Hackney Wick, our review of the Community Sauna Baths might just take your fancy.
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