We check in with Greville Records’ Warwick Brown.
When we recently spoke to Suzanne Bennett from Basement Discs about how her perennial record store was faring, there was a sense that the current crisis was giving rise to creativity and innovation – a business that had long looked to foot traffic as it’s main customer stream was gazing laterally to online sales, social media and email newsletters as ways of communicating with their record-lovers.
Warwick Brown, the beloved owner of Prahran’s Greville Records, has been faced with a similar challenge as he pervades an unprecedented situation. After assessing the pandemic and initially closing his store, Brown then looked to online sales. Then when the postage gridlock caused headaches, Greville had to think outside the square.
“We went, ‘Oh ok, we’ll go online, try sell stuff online’, but then that became a bit of an issue because international post became pretty hopeless and even local post became so swamped that deliveries were taking forever so I started doing personal deliveries,” Brown says.
He then hit the road to visit customers one by one.
“I just put my mobile number up on Facebook and went, ‘Delivery in Melbourne, you want a pile of records and I’ll deliver them to your front door’, and that sort of worked pretty well,” Brown says.
“A lot of people were in lockdown, isolation, a lot of people were worried about leaving the house, people who were vulnerable about getting sick. So we found a whole raft of people – one, they had to legally stay indoors; two, the psychological thing of being lonely and bored came along or because of their own health reasons they couldn’t go out.
“So we found this little thing of I’d just take orders on my phone and once a day, drive around Melbourne and drop records off at peoples’ front door.”
One of Melbourne’s most approachable people, Brown enjoyed the task of driving the back streets, venturing into pockets of Melbourne he hadn’t explored. Geniality is the framework of his business so this was always going to be an interesting excursion.
“We’re always a pretty personal shop – a lot of our regular customers are friends rather than customers I guess you could say. People come and hang out, talk about music and footy and all sorts of stuff. That’s sort of part of running a shop like this – it’s a personal sort of thing,” Brown says.
“And yeah, I liked doing it, it was a nice thing to do and I enjoyed seeing all these parts of Melbourne I haven’t got to see. Drive down desolate streets – felt like I was driving through a weird science-fiction film as the only person around.”
Then support came from the government and other external channels and Brown felt more assured about Greville’s prospects.
“People from all sorts of angles we found were pretty nice, reasonable and understanding and certainly the JobKeeper stuff relieved a lot of stress about that side of things. Then the landlord coming to the party, being lenient and [negotiating] cheaper rent and not really pressuring us to be on time and all of that stuff – it kind of meant that the whole attitude started to change a bit,” Brown continues.
“We realised that with deliveries, a bit of online stuff, that we were probably going to be able to navigate our way through it. Then loyal customers, realising they’d rather buy off a small local business was a nice thing as well.”
The necessity of lockdown has gifted punters more time; more time for investigation and exploration. How does one respond to this unique situation? Well, they start chasing new and original things to keep life interesting and to stem the boredom. This played into Greville Records’ hands.
“One of the great things when you’re locked indoors is you turn to art, you’ve got to turn to television, movies and music,” Brown says. “Art, music, what else are you going to do indoors? We have noticed that people are turning to music definitely – a lot of customers … there’s only so many Netflix films you can watch about drugs and murder and crime before you don’t watch anymore of it I reckon.”
The continued stability of Greville Records is a testament to their relationships. While the digital age redefines how we can communicate with people and reach new eyes it doesn’t take away from life’s age-old foundation – loyalty and trust – and Greville has these in spades.
Lead image was taken by Xavier James. Check out more of his work here.
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