Owner Simon Dampier’s expertly curated collection of new release vinyl and vintage classics has seen Fareham’s only independent record shop flourish since it first opened its doors.
Now trading from its second home on West Street having moved to a new shop 18 months ago, Heathen Chemistry celebrates its fifth anniversary next year.
Simon and his assistant Steve Rossi (Rossi’s Social Media) are both passionate about music and the shop is crammed with thousands of vinyl records, both new and pre-loved.
‘When we opened, we were the first independent record shop in Fareham for 21 years,’ said Simon.
‘The love for vinyl was not at the peak level it is now, but the reception was still fantastic. Even people who didn’t have records anymore said how brilliant it was to see a record shop back in town.
‘The big turnaround for us was in 2019 – that’s when the vinyl rediscovery really started to take off.
‘When downloads took over from CDs, there was nothing physical about records anymore.
‘But when you buy a vinyl record, it’s all about the physical experience. It’s almost ritualistic: getting your records out, looking at the covers, going through the lyrics. A lot of the pleasure is in the album covers – how cool they are. They are art in themselves.
‘Now people are rediscovering that love, and even decorating their houses with album art.
‘Where’s there’s a record collection – seeing the record player and all the records – that’s a statement. It can tell you all about a person.
‘Our customers range from fans who have been collectors for years to the younger generation with a love for both modern and vintage.
‘We find the younger generation buys a lot of older stuff – the 70s and 80s are really popular.
‘They love the whole experience of vinyl. When you put a record on, you can’t skip like you can on your phone or Spotify, you listen to it from start to finish, the way it was intended to be listened to.’
Simon and Steve enjoy being part of the community in Fareham and have got to know their customers’ likes and dislikes over the years.
Simon said: ‘Music is a massive part of our life – it’s a hobby and a passion as well as a business.
‘Our customers feel the same and they love to come in and talk. The conversations go on for
ages – if we sold beer, we would be millionaires by now! It’s part and parcel of being independent; everyone is a person and not a number. We know our regulars, we know what they want, we can get things in for them, and they love it.’
Simon is a big supporter of the ongoing Live Love Local campaign – set up by Fareham Borough Council to promote independent traders – and says going out to find your local independent traders is more crucial than ever.
‘Lockdown was extremely hard for us, but it also led to lots of new people rediscovering a love of vinyl,’ he said.
‘Once we opened again, we were busier than ever, but some people just don’t know we’re here.
‘There are so many reasons for people to come to us and not buy online. We are a Record Store Day UK retailer, so we get all the new and exclusives, and we also do pre-loved.
‘All our pre-loved albums are cleaned and tested, so you know you are going to go away with a record you can actually play!’
Live Love Local is a campaign to get shops and businesses across Fareham’s towns and villages buzzing in the run-up to Christmas.
The campaign is designed to help the area’s diverse range of unique, independent shops and food and drink businesses bounce back after the challenges of the pandemic and rally against competition from online and out of town shopping.
It is supported by Fareham Borough Council through the European Regional Development Fund.