Greville without a cause
As Greville Records celebrates its 35th anniversary this year, the street it resides on is undergoing another major transformation. Can the store survive?
Adorned in orange vests, a myriad of construction workers are tearing down Greville Street’s Station Hotel. Apartments are imminent.
Further along, For Lease signs are abundant; their vacant lots littered with unopened mail.
This is far removed from the alternative street once home to Melbourne’s hippie community, which thrived in the late 1970s with chic cafés, boutiques and fashion.
However, as the street changes once again, Greville Records remains. Opened in 1979, the independent retailer is arguably the oldest shop on Greville Street and has become a cultural landmark, a remnant worthy of guidebooks.
Greville Records is arguably the oldest remaining shop on Greville Street. Picture: Sam Bliss
Steve Morgan remembers the street well. Not only has he worked at Greville Records for 20 years, he also spent years living above it. “It meant I had no excuse for being late,” he jokes.
While Stonnington Council calls Greville Street ‘creative, arty and edgy’, Steve is dismissive of the street’s development over past decades.
“The street keeps going downhill. It no longer has the same atmosphere. The biggest changes were in the early 2000s with rapid gentrification and homogenisation. That trend is still prevalent.”
But Steve is proud that Greville Records has managed to last 35 years. “I don’t know how that happened. We’ve been treading water for a while but, for an old relic, it’s nice.”
As Steve discusses the store’s survival, frequent customer Alasdair McDonald peruses the shelves. Hidden under a long mop of hair, Alasdair is in his late 20s.
He approaches the register with a handful of records and Steve tallies up the price: $150. Alasdair shrugs and smiles. “It’s all worth it.”
For Alasdair and the other faithful clientele, life without Greville Records would be unfathomable. “I come here every week,” Alasdair says. “There’s always something that catches my eye.”
Alasdair and Steve both believe that vinyl has experienced a recent resurgence, which has helped Greville Records endure. This is true. Annual vinyl sales increased 32% in 2013.
Greville Records, which also sells t-shirts, CDs, magazines and books, is now an Oztix outlet. Selling tickets to prominent concerts is another strategy to attract customers.
Yet Greville Records still struggles. “We used to have seven staff working here on any given day. Now I work three days a week by myself. The owner works the others. It’s tough going.”
As Steve reminisces, Alasdair tucks his newly acquired records under his arm and heads off, his shoulders hunched from the crisp evening breeze.
“But you know,” Steve leans over. “It’s not all bleak. With great support from people like that, maybe we will make it to 40 after all.”