How the London Road record store got into the groove after the lockdown

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One of the biggest lockdown success stories in Tunbridge Wells is that of vinyl record store Sugarbush Records after owner Markus Holler’s online business exploded during Covid…

It’s heartening to hear of a success story in Tunbridge Wells, and in addition to the town center burger boom reported on our Food pages, we’re celebrating the popularity of the new vinyl record swap shop in London Road – Sugarbush Records.

Owner Markus Holler had been successfully buying and selling vinyl records online full-time for 30 years, but had long dreamed of opening a proper record store.

And it was during the pandemic, when he was playing and selling music on the terrace of the Forum every Saturday, that he spotted the ideal place on the main road opposite when it led to the market. So in the spring of this year it opened up, and it’s been a roaring trade ever since.

Rotating plate

Vintage singles and albums as well as CDs and cassettes are at great prices, just a few pounds each, or buy five and get a sixth free. Markus handles the music on the turntable and there are retro pictures on the walls, including a gorgeous illustration of his dad.

During our visit, the store was buzzing with enthusiastic shoppers. No wonder, as the town has sorely missed having a good second-hand record store since the popular Vinyl Revolution pop-up opened in Camden Road in 2016 and then closed to relocate to Brighton.

Explaining the story of his vinyl adventure, Marcus tells The Times:

“Sugarbush Records started in the late 80s as a label for my own band, Silent Blue. Then in the early 90s I started selling used records because I needed to earn money !

“Fortunately, people were dumping their vinyl record collections in droves to replace them with CDs, but there was a hard core of people who still really liked to love and collect vinyl. There was a huge void in the market after that the record companies stopped pressing records, so it worked pretty well,” he says.

Besides the appeal of holding a physical disc and authentic sound, you couldn’t beat the amazing album art and information on it.

“I spotted the store when I was selling records outside of the Forum, and it was ideal for extending Sugarbush’s identity. Due to the pandemic, rents were more affordable and I needed space for my inventory. Now I have two floors of extremely cheap discs between one and two pounds. Plus, you meet people, and it’s just more fun,” says Markus.

“After I opened, I was surprised at how many people were interested in buying vinyl, and since I’ve had the store, I’ve received way more records than I could buy.”

As for the most popular artists people are looking for, he instantly says:

“Ah, PinkFloyd! They get asked a lot of me, more than any other band. ‘The Wall’ and ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ are massive albums.

“Then it’s the classics – the Beatles, Bowie, the Stones, Oasis and Stone Roses, plus Queen, of course. And with “Rumours” by Fleetwood Mac, I could probably sell five copies a day if I could find them. This is one of the biggest sales
albums of all time.

So what is Markus’ favorite band?

“It must be the Beatles,” he laughs. “I got my first Beatles album when I was about six!”

Sugurbush Records is located at 2 London Road, with the Tunbridge Wells store website at: sugarbushrecords.info

Mail order: sugarbushrecords.com

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