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By Matt Stokes
Truck Store, Oxford’s only independent record shop, has reversed at the last minute its previous announcement that it would close down this month.
With the store set to have its last day trading on Sunday 16th October, staff found out that they in fact would be able to continue at the Cowley Road premises on Friday 14th.
The managers made the announcement on their Facebook page, having already held a closing down sale. They followed this with a “NOT closing down party” with local live bands on the 15th October to celebrate.
In September, plans were set out to move the store to central Oxford. Manager Carl Smithson said: “Arrangements for a new lease near Gloucester Green were 99% certain, but things fell through at the last minute. We had announced prematurely that we would be moving, our temporary sublet here on the Cowley Road was due to run out, and new tenants were going to take up the premises. However, we found out this was not the case and are now on a rolling monthly contract to remain where we are.”
Smithson admitted that it was “mostly our fault for announcing things prematurely” but added “everything has worked out well, since summer is always very quiet in the area and now – with students back and the run-up to Christmas – business is doing well. In this peak period, we’re going to have a real run at it and advertise more.”
Smithson acknowledged that the current situation is “financially challenging”, but was hopeful that “advertising will raise awareness amongst the community” sufficiently to keep the shop in business.
The store is “still keeping an eye open for premises in the city centre”, he added, but said that “it would be a big decision to make. It would be a different type of business: here we are a destination shop; if we were in town we would get more passing trade. Which is better? I don’t know.
“I’m convinced that if we were to relocate, we would maintain our whole ethos of being a sociable, friendly place to come to. It can be magical here, when local bands chat to one another and to customers.”
One customer suggested the confusion was “a planned way of making money”, while another said “I don’t mind if it closes – I buy comics but I can get them online just as easily”. However, the majority expressed their happiness to see Truck Store surviving.
“Truck Store really adds something to Cowley Road,” said Ellen, a newcomer to the area, “it epitomises what the area should be about: independence. My student friend comes here every day and has a great relationship with the owners and other customers. It would feel different in the centre of town, but better than no shop at all.”
Another praised the “social aspect” of the store, calling it a “spiritual home”. He continued, “They’d get more students in the centre, but I just pass by here every day so I wouldn’t make the effort to go into town.”
One second-year Wadham student said: “I really like the events they do there.” Asked whether a move to Gloucester Green would affect her or the shop, she replied: “I’m not sure the location is what gives it spirit really – Cowley Road is pretty commercial anyway. I prefer buying stuff there than from Amazon because it’s important to have spaces for people to go to.”
She continued by praising it as a “friendly place” and adding that shops like Truck Store ensure “everyone is not just sitting in their rooms doing everything on the internet dystopia.”
Angus Stevenson and Ian Nixon, two regular customers, said its location close to work was “ideal” and that they “wouldn’t go as often to Gloucester Green”. Stevenson added, however, that “it would get young people listening to these types of music, which would be great, especially people from other places like Witney who come in to the centre by bus. Fopp in Gloucester Green used to be an oasis of interesting stuff, and I reckon Truck Store could bring that back.”
The store is the first independent music store in Oxford since others, such as Polar Bear on Cowley Road, Avid and Vinyl Frontier, closed down. It was created in a partnership between Rapture, an independent music store with stores in Witney and Evesham, and Robin and Joe Bennett, founders of Truck Festival, which has been running annually in Oxfordshire since 1998.