In challenging times, we all crave simple comforts: things like good company, good food and good music. All reasons to head to Southsea’s Pie & Vinyl for some well-deserved self-love once lockdown fully lifts then – this is the cafe-cum-record shop and community hub that puts the rave in gravy and the thrash in mash.
“It was conceived in my head while I was working an office job,” says Pie & Vinyl founder and owner Steve Courtnell of the inspiration behind his unusual business, which he thought up while working in management and inventory in the fab world of consumer luxury and beauty. “My big love is music and always has been. So, like a lot of people, I kind of had this dream, which was to run a record shop.” His dream came true in April 2012 when Pie & Vinyl opened its doors for the first time.
In the digital downloading and streaming age, such a vision could have proven half-baked. But Courtnell put faith in the vinyl revival, which over the last decade has seen sales of vinyl records – often with free download codes enclosed – recover to their highest level in years. It helped that Courtnell, a Southsea native, had a clear idea of the type of record shop he wanted to run – an open-minded and welcoming focal point of the local alternative scene. It was to be a place to meet and hang out with like-minded souls and even attend in-store gigs. “Whatever kind of music you’re into, I wanted it to be somewhere you could feel at ease,” he says.
As for the pie and mash? Courtnell simply had a desire to put a contemporary spin – pun intended – on a traditional working class dish. You might even call it a remix. “The great thing about pies is you can put almost anything in them,” he says. “So we started doing pies dedicated to bands and albums and record labels, some of which have become really popular.”
Favourites such as Back to Black, Steak That, Pearl Ham and Sonic Pieways have kept a steady stream of customers drifting through the door for eight years now. But given that it specialises in niche interests, Pie & Vinyl has always had to stay nimble. “We don’t take anything for granted for one second,” says Courtnell.