Graham Jones asked Tough Love owner Anja Petitto why she opened a specialist rock shop in the town of St Leonards on Sea?
I’ve always secretly harboured a desire to have a record shop since I failed at all my attempts over the years to work in one as an employee. After many years of collecting, DJing, various music industry jobs and retail management, it finally felt like the right time to try and make that dream a reality.
I left London in 2018 with the intention of setting up my own record shop wherever I ended up choosing to live – and it just happened to be in St Leonards on Sea. I ended up in here partly through searching ‘which part of the country has the most average hours of sunlight’ on Google, and through personal recommendations from a couple of friends who had visited and thought I might like the place.
I took a chance and rented the first year, and fell in love with the town. We have lots of beautiful nature around us, and the town is full of creative people and music which gives it a vibe that reminds me of Brighton in the 90’s. It just felt like home.
With that spirit, I decided that it was finally time to go for it… and then lockdown happened.
In hindsight, it was a blessing that I hadn’t opened my space before the lockdown, and it meant I had a lot of time to really plan and think about what kind of shop I wanted to open, and the practicalities of it all.
My first day of trading was a mixture of dread (that I had bought all the wrong records), fear (that no-one would come), and also excitement. Luckily my fears were unjustified, and I had an excellent first day, and it has been growing steadily ever since.
Three years later, here we are. The name of the shop, ‘Tough Love’, stems from my character and upbringing. I’m very direct and say what I think, especially when it comes to music, but it always comes from a place of love.
What I can say is that my customers are incredible, and I’ve absolutely loved the conversations about music that I have had so far. I will give a particular mention to the customer who hates cats. He said he would rather give his records to me than to the cat charity down the road, so there must be some great traumatic back story there that sadly he did not elaborate upon.
As a young female record collector in a very male dominated arena, I always felt intimidated and dismissed in many of the central London record shops, I won’t name any names, but let’s just say that I personally did not lament the closure of certain “institutions” one little bit. I always vowed to myself that if I were to ever open my own shop, that it would be the exact opposite. It would be inclusive to all, including young, shy girls with a curiosity and love for music.
Sadly, misogyny is rife in this industry. It is a subject that comes up frequently in my shop. I am happy to say that as a record shop owner – so far – I have been treated with nothing but respect, and I could name many record shops (including Electric Church, Bug Vinyl, Cloth + Wax, Music’s Not Dead, and 12 Tonar) that have been supportive, encouraging and helped me on this journey, and have never made me feel less simply for being a woman.
I stock vinyl, CDs, vintage rock shirts, band merch, coffee, and limited-edition artist prints; I offer a cleaning service for records, and gifts for grown-up goths, stocking locally made products by local makers. I do have a section in my shop called “Local Legends” which is for local musicians as there isn’t anywhere for them to sell their often-self-produced products in town.
I felt like a local record shop should highlight what’s going on and champion the locals, so this is my connection to the town. Luckily the town is full of rockers, both old and young, and there isn’t a shop around here that caters to them, hence why most of my stuff is rock music.
As a rock/metal specialist it is good to be able to get the classic metal titles from Proper such as the Sorceress boxset by Opeth, and the Cult of Luna back catalogue, both of which have which have flown out of the shop and been the source of many an epic discussion in here. I am hoping that some of these great bands will pay me a visit and perhaps even do a signing!
Vinyl, CDs, vintage t-shirts, merch, coffee, artist prints
Monday – Closed
Tues – Weds: 10am – 6pm
Thursday – Closed
Fri: 10am – 6pm
Sat: 10am – 5pm
Sunday: 11am – 4pm
73 Bohemia Road