Steveston's retro record store gets set for one last jam

However, Frankie Neilson said it's not the end for the Beat Merchant, which will transfer into online only

If you’re one of the growing number of Stevestonites who takes great pleasure in flicking through the storied vinyl collection at the Beat Merchant, you’d better soak it all in.

For the popular, retro record store on Second Avenue at Bayview Street will soon be no more.

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But don’t panic just yet, owner of 15 years Frankie Neilson said he’s going to stay open for the next six months – until the lease runs out on March 31, 2021 – so his loyal customers get comfortable with the fact he’s taking his entire business to an online and delivery model.

Ironically, Neilson told the Richmond News, since the pandemic kicked off in March, there have more customers popping in for a browse and a chat than ever before.

He said, at age 67, it’s just time to dial it back a bit and create more time to dance to his own tunes, rather than spend it all sourcing music from around the globe for others.

“This kind of started with COVID. I was getting emails and orders from customers. I was dropping orders off to people on the way into the store and people were kind of liking it,” said Neilson, a native of London, England.

“I thought, this is the way forward. Take-out and delivery is all the rage now for everyone and music is kind of like an essential service right now for a lot of people.

“People have got so much more time on their hands now. One customer said he’d went through his music collection in two days and needed more.

“But I’ve turned 67 and I’m not going to go on forever, so I thought I’d like to see the actual store go out on a high note.”

Neilson recalled taking over the old CD store, Mind, Body and Soul, seeing the potential for a “rock ‘n’ roll store.”

“I’ve made money from day one on this store, which is incredible, because everyone was saying ‘it’s not going to work, vinyl is gone, everyone is downloading, you’re a thing of the past,’” he laughed.

“But I’ve been selling vinyl since day one, as well as many CDs. The whole world was fed up with the rush these days. There is another pandemic, it’s the cell phone. Now people have time for music.”

Neilson said, with the new online and delivery model – with which all contact details will remain the same – he’s hoping to scale down his load to a three-day working week.

The one thing that both he and his manager of 13 years, David Milner, will absolutely miss is the interaction with their customers, many of whom they’ve gotten to know really well over the years.

“Most of these customers have become friends…there’s a social side to the business. They would come in, chat about music and such. It’s more than a business,” said Neilson.
“But I will still meet them for coffee and a beer I’m sure. I still live near the village.

“I’m going to get choked up, because it’s going to be hard for me to let it go. It has been 15 years of my life.

“I’ve loved being part of the community. It has been fantastic.”

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