In Melbourne’s west, a new take on record stores is exactly what the community wanted

For the first time since the 1980s, a record store in the heart of Footscray bolsters the ever-growing community of creatives and music enthusiasts in Melbourne’s western suburbs.

Coming from years of operating out of the factories and selling records online, Joshua Hudson-Smith, the owner of Footscray Records, finally opened his store in the hustle and bustle of Footscray’s main shopping district.

“I just did the weekend shopping this morning,” Josh said. “I just walked down the road. Usually people come in and put their oranges and potatoes under the counter as they browse.

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In keeping with its centralized and convenient location, Josh has created the space to support artists and meet fan needs, but also to foster a fortified but growing community of creatives within Footscray and surrounding areas.

“We want to cater to the needs of fans and artists in the west,” says Josh, “Obviously Footscray has changed a lot in the last 10 years or so, there are bars opening and people playing music A lot of people say ‘finally [there is a record store here].”

However, Footscray Records is not just any record store. Josh has around 6,000 records circulating in the store at any one time, making it a huge collection that often shocks people once they walk into the store.

“We have about 6,000 records, but we get hundreds more each week,” says Josh. “I’m getting about 300 more in the next two weeks. We have loads of records that you don’t see in other stores.

“A lot of people don’t expect this type of record store to be in Footscray until they walk into it.”

Footscray Records has a comprehensive collection of diverse and eclectic records that they offer to customers online and in the physical store. Although Josh points out that these are the bizarre and unconventional records he strives to fill the shelves to in turn utter the unique nature of Footscray Records.

“We specialize in a lot of weird music; a lot of psychedelic stuff and I have a lot of original pressings of West African stuff. Online, people don’t know what it is, but in stores, people can come and listen to it, and people talk about it.

“People come in and say ‘Turkish psychedelia, what is that?’ I know lots of things that I haven’t heard either, so we discover them together and it becomes this common point of discovery.

The nature of selling particular styles of music only further confirms the community-focused mindset that Josh is trying to establish at Footscray Records. Being community oriented, Josh finds he relates to the public as if he were a bartender.

“It’s a welcoming community which is cool here. Selling records to people who want and need them,” says Josh. “People who come by the store treat me almost like a bartender. People buy a record, and they tell me the story of their connection to it. I didn’t know it was so community-driven.

“You talk to people who are finding out about their history and people who tell you about the Footscray record store 30 years ago.”

It did not come without careful consideration and no doubt from others. When Josh first considered opening Footscray Records, he was greeted with an attitude that suggested such a venture would fail.

“A lot of people used to tell me before I opened the store that there would be no market in Footscray, but everyone here has been so welcoming and there are a lot of music fans here. Especially with rising rental prices, many artists are moving west. That works.”

For a moment, even Josh doubted the store was a good idea.

“I’ve never worked in retail in my life, you know, so getting a lease made me think who did I make a huge mistake or what?”

But Josh ducked into the store operations. So much so that Footscray Records has its first gig in store on Sunday October 2 which will feature local post-punk band Grups. A show that stems from regular interactions and conversations with a client.

“I think I take it as it comes, it’s not too difficult,” says Josh. “We have our first in-store show on Sunday October 2, which is a local post-punk band from Footscray, the guy comes in all the time to buy records and I just talked to him.”

A prolonged hiatus in access to a record store in the west has been firmly halted with the timely opening of Footscray Records.

You can buy the online store here https://footscrayrecords.com.au/categoriesor go in store via the Footscray Market.

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