A visit to Steveston’s Beatmerchant Record Store feels like travelling back in time while still being anchored in the present. As I am writing, I am imagining songs that could accompany this story, for it is music that greets you the moment you enter the “best little record store in the world,” along with the shop’s charming and welcoming owner, Frankie Neilson.
Frankie has always had a passion for music. He bought his first 45 by The Kinks when he was 11 years old.
He got an early start in the music business. At age 17 Frankie began working as a recording engineer at the Marquee Studios in London. In 1974 he joined Dick James who founded the DJM record label and signed Elton John. Dick James and The Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein also founded The Beatles’ music publishing company Northern Songs.
Frankie went on to work for Polydor Records, which signed artists such as Jimi Hendrix, Cream and Taste. While at Polydor, Frankie felt privileged to work with artists such as Paul Weller, The Jam, Ian Dury, Billy Fury and the Comsat Angels.
In the 1980s Frankie branched out to start his own record label, Individual Records. He jokes, “The records released have become collectibles since nobody bought them!”
After moving to Canada in 1990 he spent a few years in Toronto before relocating to Vancouver. He left the music industry behind and worked in Telus’ business department. Those were the early days of high speed internet. Frankie says, “I learned a lot about business and computers.”
While still employed at Telus, Frankie began selling music online, which was the precursor to the Beatmerchant Record Store. The physical storefront came to be when he was cycling through Steveston and spotted a for lease sign; he opened the Second Avenue shop in October 2005. Initially, Frankie had two staff (Melissa and Rupert) working for him until he was able to leave his job and begin working at the record store. His long time employee David shares a passion for music and has been working with Frankie for 10 years.
Although Frankie left England 30 years ago his British accent remains strong which adds to the authenticity of his music shop with a slant towards British-themed music and merchandise. He started out selling cds and albums and subsequently added concert posters, coffee mugs, music books, T-shirts, hats and toques and U.K. soccer wear.
Customers frequently comment on how much they love the cozy shop.
Approximately eight years ago vinyl records experienced a resurgence and are often favoured by listeners for their warm and pure studio sound. This renewed interest has been beneficial to Frankie’s business.
As well, the recent hit movie “Bohemian Rhapsody” about Queen’s lead singer Freddie Mercury has introduced a new generation to “old music” and has inspired them to start exploring other classic bands.
Frankie points out, “Music is for young people. It plays an important part in our youth and growing up. There is nothing better than seeing an exciting live concert with your mates and enjoying yourself. The music you love in your teens will stay with you for the rest of your life.”
Music is inextricably linked with history and teenagers have always been a driving force in music trends. Frank Sinatra was an early teen icon in the 1940s with his loyal following of bobby sox and poodle skirted fans. In the 1950s Elvis Presley rocked and rolled his way into the hearts of screaming fans and introduced them to music nobody had ever heard before rooted in gospel, country and rhythm and blues.
The British invasion began when The Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan show on February 9, 1964 and changed the landscape of music once again.
Commenting on The Beatles’ staying power, Frankie says, “The world has not been the same since, and rightly so. It seems that all generations including today’s youngsters love the mop tops and at Beatmerchant we sell more Beatles stuff than any other artist.”
The store carries a great variety of genres ranging from blues to bluegrass, Celtic, classical, country, folk, heavy metal, hip hop, jazz, New Age, punk, rap, reggae, R&B, soul, soundtracks and world music.
One thing that makes this little shop unique is Frankie’s expertise.
Unlike the solitude of ordering an album online, Frankie can regale you with stories from the British music scene in the 1960s and 1970s, and you will leave having learnt something you did not know.
Seeing album covers and posters may stir up memories of favourite concerts you attended or memorable songs as music has the wonderful power to do. It’s a nostalgic feeling that simply does not happen during an internet search.
Beatmerchant Record Store has evolved over time and Frankie is always finding creative ways to keep his cozy shop a destination for music aficionados as well as for those who are curious to make new discoveries. He is happy to order in albums or cds and enjoys the thrill of tracking down a customer’s request. In addition, Frankie likes to stage mini outdoor concerts and book signings to attract people to his business.
He says, “Downtime is needed in a record shop to browse.” He enjoys being able to offer this specialty business to our community that draws people from far and wide. One
of the biggest rewards for Frankie is hearing people’s stories.
“I really enjoy introducing people to new music. It’s about sharing my knowledge and giving back,” he says. Frankie concludes, “This place is magical. I put my heart and soul into it. I enjoy making people happy.”
Beatmerchant Record Store
12240 Second Avenue
Richmond, BC V7E 3L8