Empire Records, tucked away in Heritage Close, is a breath of fresh air and feels like the idyllic traditional record shop. Despite its small scale, it houses an extensive selection of musical genres and reminds me of those long-lost record emporiums where I discovered the music of my younger years.

Having lived through the transition from vinyl to CDs and now digital streaming, I never could have predicted that one day I would have a teenage daughter who would take me back to an old fashioned record shop to flick through racks filled with vinyl once again.

I love the seasonal window display with seven-inch singles hanging like baubles from a Christmas tree as we go in. In the middle of the shop there is an island of records organized in colourful wooden units and the walls are decorated with a beautifully iconic display of album covers from Nirvana’s Nevermind to Kate Bush’s The Kick Inside.

The CDs are carefully alphabetised and tables of neatly categorized vinyl albums furnish the length of the wall. I spend time fully engaged in the dance and hip hop section then move on to have a look at the film soundtracks category. The selection of genres doesn’t stop there and I glance at the folk, jazz and reggae sections. You can also buy T-shirts, magazines, record players and even cassettes here!

I’m transported back to 1979 when I used to tag along to our local record shop with my brother or sister; we’d spend entire afternoons flicking though hundreds of albums in Harry Hayes record shop on the Fulham Road. The owner was often helpful in widening our interests and moulding our tastes. I remember Siouxsie and the Banshees playing in the background and how dimly lit and labyrinthine it was inside.

I enjoy shopping here at this time of the year and often find a couple of interesting vinyls for my teenager. I’m impressed that she is open to the music I like, and recently, have caught her in the act of listening to Kate Bush and The Smiths; she was also fascinated to hear the crude electronic sounds of Kraftwerk the other day when she got into my car.

I love the friendly atmosphere, how people know each other and how wonderful conversations begin. Eddie, who works here, once worked at Our Price, knows his music and tells me “It’s a dream job. I get to play any music I want!”

Eddie’s father was a hugely positive influence and brought him along in his search for vinyl collectables when he was a child.

I’m impressed that he knows both of the Bowie vinyl singles that I’d like to order, Width of a Circle and Be my Wife; he casually assures me that he should be able to get them. “We buy in collections all the time.”

I spot my daughter curiously rummaging through some old albums in a cardboard box in the sale section. She’s just bought Jorja Smith’s new album with some of her Christmas money and I’ve bought myself an 1980s electric anthems CD.

I bump into Marina, the shop owner, on my way out and stop for a chat; she explains that, “Once HMV closed down, we thought St Albans still needed a record shop. Music was being forgotten in its vinyl form and it’s not only something to be streamed online.”

I couldn’t agree more!

  • Marisa Laycock moved from south west London to St Albans in 2000. She enjoys sharing her experiences of living in the city.