The collection at Fatkat Records | Courtesy of Fatkat Records
Despite the comforts of online shopping, the incurable vinyl lover knows there’s nothing like the rush of flipping through a couple of thousand LPs on a rainy Saturday afternoon, all the while hoping to discover that one sublime or rare track. It’s an exciting experience only the independent vinyl record store offers. Antwerp has no shortage of these habitats for the nostalgic. The legendary USA Import may have closed its doors in 2009, but there are still many unique stores with their own musical DNA that remain. Here are the must-stop destinations for any vinyl collector who visits Antwerp.
The new store front of Fatkat Records | Courtesy of Fatkat Records
The recent vinyl revival has done the Antwerp record store scene good. The popular but previously tiny FatKat Records was recently able to move into a new space that houses 5,000 LPs: double the amount that fit into their previous location, only a five-minute walk away. For the past 16 years, FatKat has been known as one of the best places to get your alternative tracks, focusing mainly on punk and rock. Friendly staff will gladly help you out by ordering anything you can’t find in their bins and the store has a large selection of that medium caught awkwardly in between the LP and mp3 file (like a neglected middle sibling): the CD. Opening Hours: Tue-Thu: 12:00pm-18:00pm and Fri-Sat 10:30am-18:00pm
Surely the record shop with the most original name, Wally’s Groove World takes you off the beaten track in more ways than one. Before setting foot in the door, the big plushy reindeer greeting you through the window display already gives an inkling of the curious sense of ‘otherness’ pervading this shop. Owner Koen van Immerseel, or ‘DJ Koenie’ if you will – phenomenon of the Belgian House scene during the 1990s – is always happy to share his extensive knowledge and experience with those looking for decent electronic tracks. The entire collection of over 70,000 new as well as secondhand titles can be browsed through on the website. Opening Hours: Mon-Sat 11:00am – 18:30pm
To say that the owners of the previously named Vinyl Records gave into the hype of the coffee shop combination may be true. To say it was a genius move to simply add coffee may also be true. Coffee and knitting, coffee and books, coffee and laundry: Antwerp has seen it all. What it was lacking up until 2011, however, was a place that blends together the two things both known as ‘black gold’. Coffee & Vinyl offers up the opportunity to enjoy a hot cup of joe while perusing their enormous collection of soul, jazz and funk. Beach chairs are broken out on sunny days so you can lounge outside while lovingly staring at your newest purchase, latte in hand. Opening Hours: Tue-Fri: 10:00am-18:00pm; Sat: 11:00am-18:00pm and Sun: 12pm-18:00pm
For the vinyl freak, stepping into Chelsea Records is like stepping into a treasure trove for the very patient. Owner Pascal the Bruyn has magically managed to fit an enormous collection into a tiny, almost claustrophobically small space. The store will be expanding to double its size soon, but for now the key to finding your way in this mountain of music is an awareness of Pascal’s own, somewhat unusual, system of arranging tracks according to the first name of the artist (rather than the more conventional method of using the last name). The congenial owner is always ready to help, and at the end of the day, the avid search and low prices will leave you stepping back out into the Antwerp sunlight completely fulfilled. Opening hours: Tue-Sat 11:00am-18:00pm and Sun 13:00pm-17:00pm
Housed on the first floor above a magazine store and surrounded by the taverns of the Melkmarkt, Tune-Up Records is Antwerp’s hidden vinyl gem. Once enlightened by the sign and up the stairs, the inside of the shop surprises by being much bigger than you’d expect from the outside. It’s a place where music lovers of all kinds bump into each other, attracted by the wide array of genres and the intimate in-store concerts. Owner Carlo Adriani – who frequently roams the United States in search of rare LP’s – also makes room for artist exhibitions. At one point, fellow collector and programmer of the Ancienne Belgique, Kurt Overbergh, adorned an entire wall with his ‘cat cover exhibition’: 119 LP covers with a total of more than 300 cats on them. Opening hours: Tue-Sun 11:00am-18:00pm