I popped into Cardiff to meet Allan and James from Kellys Records. I had always known them as one of the UK’s best second-hand record shops but boy are times changing here. They now have a massive selection of new vinyl. This shop is a must visit for any music fan visiting Wales.
I asked the boys to tell me the history of the shop.
Kellys Records was established in 1969 and was set up by the amazing Eddie and Phyllis Kelly. It was originally a small stall in the corner of the balcony upstairs in “Cardiff Indoor Market” now Cardiff Central Market – a vibrant indoor market based in the heart of Cardiff City Centre bursting with its unique variety of stalls ranging from international food vendors, breath-taking flower stalls, fresh vintage clothing and everything in between… and of course ourselves! Over the years the shop has expanded to what it is today. Both Eddie and Phyllis built our record store on their shared passion for music, and love to be out in the community, talking to people and learning from one another about the latest trends, sign of the times and especially, what was the ‘new sound’ that people just couldn’t get enough of.
Part of Eddie and Phyllis’ history with the Market included sharing the buildings Centenary. Just before our opening in 1969, The Market had just undergone a three year clean up and part of the celebration was to offer Victorian prices for some items and for the staff to dress up in Victorian era clothing. Eddie was an encyclopaedia of knowledge on recorded music, his biggest interest was in Classical Music. He could often be heard singing at the top of his voice during the working day. Phyllis’ greatest strength was her attentiveness, where she would spend most of her day chatting to customers about their daily lives and their passions. It is testament to them both that even today we have people coming into the shop to ask about them. We still hear stories all the time about the pair, with customers reminiscing their childhood digging through bins and picking up their first record at our store.
Working in a second-hand record store during the 1990s draws similarities to the Wild West. Chaos around every corner, mass upheaval and conflict between two ideologies – to embrace the new, or to resist modern change. For some, it was out with the old and in with the new. People would sell their entire record collections to fund their new addiction… Compact Discs. We were buying collections that spanned every genre imaginable – Big Band? Check. Rock n Roll? Check. Rock, Pop, Soul, Funk, Dance and everything else in between? Check. Easy Listening? We still have a lot of that if anyone reading this is interested. Whilst some people managed to build their dream collection for very cheap during this decade; some people are still rebuilding their collection from giving it away in the 90s,
“I won’t need these anymore, I got all their CDs now!”
This is a line we heard daily during the 90s when chatting to people… I’m sure a few are kicking themselves in 2023, especially seeing some of the crazy price’s records go for nowadays. Eddie and Phyllis retired and passed ownership of the shop to their nephew (and current owner) Allan Parkins. The rise of digital formats such as CDs, DVDs, DAT Tapes, Mini Discs meant we expanded as a shop to meet the new forms of demand digital offered. Whilst we offered different formats and ways to immerse yourself into your favourite artists, the unwavering cult-like lovers of vinyl were still the backbone (and heart) of Kelly’s.
The 2010s up to today is probably be the most exciting period we’ve had as a store; the rebirth and rise in popularity of Vinyl allowed us to expand as a shop, branch into new areas (selling New/Sealed Vinyl) and we became more involved with the local community. The rise of streaming services such as Spotify was a big worry to record stores at first, why would people buy albums and visit stores like ours when you could have an entire catalogue of music at your fingertips with a monthly subscription? Thankfully, the result was the complete opposite. As music became more accessible for millions on their smart phone, it allowed individuals to discover new artists and listen to their favourite albums on the go. Whilst this affected CD sales as they were once the portable option people used in their daily lives, it had the adverse effect on Vinyl. In our opinion, streaming services benefitted record stores like ourselves; people still wanted to own a physical copy of their favourite albums for numerous reasons; to support artists, to complete their collection, or just to have a different listening experience compared to online streaming services.
To meet expanding demand, we renovated our store in 2020, before (and during) COVID times. Whilst this was the right move at the time, COVID was an exogenous shock that turned this period into a worrying time. Our store was shut for over a year and we solely relied on customers ordering products online – again we are so grateful for everybody that supported us during this time. We may not be here today if it wasn’t for you lot!
Whilst being located in Cardiff Market, our store stands out due to the bright picturesque display album sleeve provide the shop and all across the balcony. We’re fortunate to be located in such an amazing building which is cherished in Cardiff due to its cultural and historical significance. Operating in the market since we opened in 1969, we’ve become part of the furniture here! Our Elvis Presley statue has been a stalwart on the balcony for the last twenty years (although some say he now resembles Shakin’ Stevens more than Elvis) alongside the balcony bins which have been present ever since we first opened. Due to where we operate, we feel that this gives our store a sense of uniqueness over others as we share this space with other independent business in the Cardiff community. We all support each other and it’s like one big family here, where else can you pick up a Vinyl, fish food, grab a pizza and buy some new clothes and then top it off with some comics and classic literature? Being situated in the centre of Cardiff in such an historic building is a massive positive for us here, we can understand and offer the services we do to benefit the larger community.
Kellys Records has always felt it was part of a community spirit driven by the appreciation of vinyl. Every day is Record Store Day for us and we are not surprised that Vinyl is still the much preferred and loved format for customers and musicians alike. Whilst we do not participate in Record Store Day ourselves, we offered a club night with our friends Spillers Records to bring vinyl lovers in Cardiff together to celebrate this format, and get together to catch up with old friends and have a good ol’ dance, spinning strictly plastic. Icons such as Don Leisure, Gruff Rhys and Charlotte Church have all played across the years along with many other Cardiff legends spinning including our very own colleague, DJ Enzine. Other friendly faces have popped in over the years for a chat and a dig such as Martin Freeman, Loyle Carner and The Hoff. Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor also filmed part of the music video for his song ‘Suspicious of Me’ which was brilliant for us to be involved in.
That bring us up to today. We’re in the planning stages of expanding the shop further to meet customer demand which should hopefully be done by Christmas 2023. Furthermore, Cardiff Market are in the planning stages of doing a multi-million-pound refurbishment of the Market. If this is approved, we are looking at some disruption to the regular store hours, but we believe this will only benefit us and Cardiff market in the long run, if done properly! If anyone reading this ever happens to come to Cardiff, make sure to visit us (seeing Elvis is worth it along)! Whether you’re a vinyl-loving junkie or just fancy a chat, we’re always here and cherish meeting new people to share stories. As we said before, this is one of the best parts of the job and long may that continue. A massive thank you as well to Graham Jones for popping into the store, meeting us and allowing us to write this blog about our store to all you lovely people! Diolch yn fawr!
Proper Releases we enjoy/looking forward to:-
Since De La Soul started their reissue campaign way back in February and Proper have been supplying us the good ever since. A personal highlight of ours was seeing the iconic ‘3 Feet High & Rising’ sleeve still wrapped in cellophane! Coming up soon is the reissue of their 5th studio album ‘Artificial Intelligence: Mosaic Thump’ and we cannot wait to get some copies in stock for our customers!
A Proper release that we’re excited for is ‘Eyedress – Full Time Lover’ released on the 3rd November 2023. Eyedress’ music is known to span multi-genres from shoegaze indie whilst dipping his toes into a more post-punk industrial sound in recent years. We’re excited to have a listen to this new album and we highly recommend you do the same!
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Monday – Saturday: 9am – 5pm