Photos: Whye Tchien Khor
Snow infiltrates the recently opened Blossom Records as Norwich receives an unwelcome spring snowstorm. “Still, it’s better than working on the market!” answers its owner, Blossom Blois. Indeed, from working at a Sainsbury’s checkout to stocking records in her own shop, it becomes clear that she’s weathered enough personal storms to be in the position she’s currently in.
This month marks the company’s first birthday after a year of many incarnations. Together with business partner Adi Walder, Blossom originally started the company on eBay before securing a stall on the Norwich Market. “At first it was a bit of a laugh; we both hated our jobs,” Adi says. “Working in the market is an easy-entry way to start your own business, but it taught us that we needed to sell our products in a different location.” The pair may have been trading in the wrong place, but their mission statement remains the same: a grassroots approach to selling music, with a heavy focus on recycling.
Blossom, a graduate from Norwich University of the Arts, recounts the “karmic events” that led to the company’s newly-found permanent premises: “We used to take a 40-minute walk to the market to set up every day, and each time we would walk along Bridewell Alley. One day, there was a note on one of the shop’s windows that said it was available to rent. I said to myself ‘I have to have it!’” She smiles, wide-eyed. “I always thought it would make an amazing record shop.” Her enthusiasm is evident, though Blossom and Adi both stress the struggles encountered to get the business off the ground.
“We had to sell everything we owned,” she says, matching her passion with determination. For Adi however, the biggest setbacks occurred more recently. “Trying to convince banks to provide us with the funding has been the most difficult challenge. If we originally had access to the money we have now, we would have had the shop in a much more business-ready condition than it is at the moment.” When Blossom recalls banks turning the pair away after previously agreeing to match their own funds, it seems as though Adi’s visible agitation is justified. “Banks need to have more faith in grassroots businesses” he argues.
In fact, it’s Blossom Records’ friendly, hands-on approach to business that makes the company such a perfect fit for the Norwich Lanes, renowned for its heritage and independent shops. “As soon as we opened our shop door, our neighbours came out to support us,” Adi says. Prior to our conversation, Blossom and Adi were finishing a meeting with a local audio supplier who’s set to provide the shop with turntables. “We’re all pulling together for the same cause,” he adds. “The only businesses surviving are small ones, and that’s why the Lanes are so important.”
With the recent liquidation of HMV, the cynical among us may see the venture as a case of bad timing. But for Adi vinyl represents what Blossom Records is trying to do as a business. “We’re trying to take things back a couple of decades to what HMV began as, before everything went wrong,” he says. “We’re recreating that old concept of a record shop as a centre of the local community. We do the same thing as the Bridewell museum: we offer nostalgia.” As well as records, the shop also sells vintage clothing sourced from across the country, ranging from tweed jackets to Levi’s jeans.
However, both Adi and Blossom are uninterested in appearing exclusive to any specific generation. “It’s not a selfish venture. We hope this place can offer something for everyone.” Adi says, touching wood. Blossom hopes that the shop can get involved in charity work before it reaches its second birthday, but it’s her long-term goals that are most exciting. “We have a cellar downstairs that is perfect for a small recording studio,” she reveals, fuelling Adi’s dream of Blossom Records becoming its own independent record label. With passion, drive and one foot firmly placed in the past, Blossom Records is soon to become what its owners envisage: “a beacon for people to feel positive about.”