Vinyl may be in the grip of a worldwide resurgence, but you wouldn’t know it living in China. Though the last few years have seen more and more record stores popping up around Beijing, vinyl remains a niche part of an already niche market for physical recordings. Heck, we’re living in the age of the internet in a land where piracy is rife – why wouldn’t people ditch discs for MP3s?
Luckily for the nostalgic among us, there’s a small-but-growing contingent working to revive music fans’ deep-seated collecting instinct. Among them is Fruityshop, a record store and venue in Dongsi that specialises in secondhand vinyl. ‘I’ve always loved vinyl – both how it sounds and how it looks,’ says co-owner Wang Zheng. ‘I appreciate the quality and the fact that you get to enjoy the full impact of the cover design.’
Wang originally opened the store’s first incarnation, Strange Fruit, two years ago in Qianliang Hutong, before moving it to its present digs on Dongsi toutiao and renaming it Fruityshop, after the label of his new partner, Zhai Ruixin (also known as the ambient musician me:mo). With the new location – a spacious, unmarked storefront tucked away just north of Dongsi subway station – came new possibilities.
‘The old space was too small,’ says Wang. ‘Here we can have shows, and we’re planning to eventually diversify – clothes, motorcycle accessories, stuff like that.’
Still, music remains Fruityshop’s main focus, a fact that’s obvious as soon as you step through its rusted iron doors and take in its wall-to- wall vinyl. The offerings start with jazz, followed by aisles containing four decades of pop and rock (’60s through to the ’90s), soundtracks, blues, country, bluegrass, ambient and experimental. Like any secondhand store, Fruityshop contains a mix of classics, gems and dross, all priced accordingly from around 40RMB to more than 200RMB.
‘We buy most of our records from the US and Japan,’ explains Wang. ‘Some you can pick, and some distributors just send you a big box full of records for a fat price, without telling you what’s inside. So it’s kind of a gamble in terms of what you end up with.’
That’s both the vexing and the charming thing about Fruityshop; you could spend an hour picking through their crates without finding anything you want. Then again, if you’re looking to build a record collection from scratch, you could do worse than classics by Bob Dylan, Count Basie, King Crimson and The Kinks. But don’t expect much in the way of modern music – while the shop offers a decent selection of relatively new ambient and experimental, as well as several ’90s rock and new-age classics, Fruityshop is a steadfastly retro affair, with few to no releases from the last two decades.
But then, that’s what fellow record stores like Indie Music or C Rock are for; Fruityshop is going for something else. With its concrete floors, warm lighting and musty aroma, it feels like a record store should, complete with a makeshift cafe and rooftop for lounging, along with weekly ambient shows. Stop by for a browse or wait for the next gig for a chance to be transported back to your early years of music nerd-dom.