Family run businesses continue to be seen as the heart and soul of Main Street in Vancouver. This tradition has been around for as long as we can remember, and Neptoon Records is no different. Now celebrating 30 years as Vancouver’s oldest independent record store, Rob Frith is proud to be running this iconic institution with his son, Ben.
The family, however, has been doing business in the area since the early 1900s. According to Frith, “My grandfather owned Arthur Frith’s Clothing for Men, at the corner of Main and Broadway, around 1910. The street was different back then and they tore down the building the store was in when they widened Broadway. He moved the store near the theatre on Main St. and was there until the mid 50s.”
Neptoon Records during Car Free Days 2011
Although he grew up in Burnaby and his first storefront location was on Fraser Street, Frith was always drawn to the Main Street area. After almost 20 years in business and with Neptoon Records continuing to grow, Frith was starting to outgrow his first location. He saw Main Street as an up and coming area and started looking to relocate there. “One day, about eight or nine years ago I saw a ‘for sale’ sign on the building that we are now in, I wrote down the number and made the call. It was a great deal.” He bought the building with his brother, and together they also own a construction company.
Frith was actually in construction when he started Neptoon Records in 1981. He was offering renovations and at that point there was a huge recession, the market fell apart and not many renovations were going on. “I put on record swap meets, collected records, and was trying to figure out what to do.” Along the way he thought “I should open a record store” and figured that “If it doesn’t work, I won’t lose too much.” But it did work and he did really well from the beginning, enjoying every step of the journey. “It was fun and I really liked the hours. I was used to getting up at 6am or 7am for construction, so getting up at 11am was a great new lifestyle.”
The business has been doing well ever since and with a bigger store on a busier street, the business continues to thrive. As an added bonus, one of his son’s is now involved and manages the store. Both Frith and his son have a long history of having great ties to bands and the local music scene. They do what they can to support them and the industry on a regular basis.
Neptoon Records sells new and secondhand records/CDs that represent a broad and eclectic selection of music. They also host a series of live in-store performances to help promote local bands and Frith even owns a record label (currently has three bands signed on – Belladeans, Theemanipulators (son’s band) and The Orpheans). Neptoon also participates in Record Store Day every April which has 14 bands over the course of the day performing live. Frith was involved with arranging music for Car Free Days on Main Street last June and twice a year he organizes a local swap meet called the “Record and CD Convention” (coming up on September 25th at the Croatian Cultural Centre). He also sits on the “Executive” for ShopMain.ca.
And, if all this wasn’t enough, Frith is also working on a book covering the history of Vancouver concert posters. He is an avid collector and despite an impressive personal collection, he is still on the hunt for more. In particular, he is avidly looking for one that featured Bill Haley and The Comets. This was one of the first rock and roll concerts in Vancouver in the 1950s.
3561 Main Street