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Whitstable record shop Gatefield Sounds ranked among best in UK

The owners of a Whitstable store say they are “touched” to have been shortlisted in the search for the nation’s favourite independent record shop.

Gatefield Sounds at 70 High Street - run by husband and wife Jon and Errin Ashby - has made the final 20 of the UK-wide hunt by media company Long Live Vinyl.

Jon and Errin Ashby outside Gatefield Sounds
Jon and Errin Ashby outside Gatefield Sounds

The family-run business was opened in 1972 in Gatefield Lane, Faversham, by Jon’s uncle, Mike Winch, who launched the Whitstable store in 1979.

Mike also opened Gatefield Sounds stores in Herne Bay and Sheerness - and Soundhouse shops in Broadstairs and Deal.

Jon started working at the Whitstable store almost 30 years ago as a Saturday boy before manning the shop in Deal between 1995 and 2009.

“It’s ingrained in me,” the 45-year-old says. “It is a family business and I am very proud of the heritage of the shop.”

But there is sadly only one store left.

Inside Gatefield Sounds
Inside Gatefield Sounds

Jon says it is a surprise to be nominated, but adds: “I’m not saying that because we are not a great shop. It is nice that our customers have made the effort to vote for us and I am quite touched by it.”

While working at the Deal store, Jon met his wife Errin, who was running a nearby perfumery store, and they have been married for five years.

His dad and grandad built the counter and “all the fittings” in the shop, which are still there today.

In fact, the counter was the stage for Kent band Slaves last year - one of many in-store performances there over the years.

“One of the guys, Laurie Vincent, gets his tattoos done up the road and he said he had been coming in here for years,” Jon said.

"I think people see vinyl as a format which is going to stay for the foreseeable future..." - Jon Ashby

Hammer Horror star Peter Cushing was a regular customer until his death in 1994.

He used to purchase Disney films at the store and was sometimes accompanied by his co-star Christopher Lee, according to Jon.

Jon and Errin say they now both work tirelessly in-store and behind-the-scenes.

“We put a lot of hard work in,” he said. “There is a lot of work to do at home - research, information to go through and collating the albums which come in for our customers. I don’t get it right all the time; I am still learning.”

But the long hours seem to be paying off as sales continue to increase year-on-year.

“Our vinyl sales are growing,” Jon said. “Since I took over, CD sales had dropped five or six per cent each year. This year, CD sales are up.

“I think people see vinyl as a format which is going to stay for the foreseeable future and they realise when you play a record or when you buy an album, you take it home and you invest time in it.

“You put it on and you listen to it. You’re not flicking through it – you actually sit there and listen to the good and the bad.”

But Jon disagrees with the claim millennial hipsters are responsible for the resurgence in vinyl sales.

“I think my youngest customer at the moment is seven” he says. “He saves his pocket money and comes in regularly to buy an album. We have boys and girls – we cater for all.

“We have specialised niches in the shop – we do really well with modern jazz because of the new scene at the moment, and electronica.”

Vote for the Record Shop of the Year here.

Read more: All the latest news from Whitstable

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