British Columbia

Vancouver's oldest independent record store marks 40 years of selling more than top 40

Neptoon Records opened on the city's east side in 1981

Posted: January 12, 2021

Rob Frith, left, and son Ben Frith celebrate the 40th anniversary of their business Neptoon Records in Vancouver this month. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Rob Frith had never before worked in retail when B.C.'s construction industry took a nosedive in the early '80s and he decided to take a chance selling vinyl to Vancouverites — a bold move considering cassette tapes were all the rage and CDs were on the precipice of popularity.

Fast-forward to 2021, and the founder of Neptoon Records is celebrating the 40th spin around the sun of what has become a beloved father-son business well-frequented by locals and tourists alike.

The shop, located at 3561 Main St. on the city's east side, is Vancouver's oldest independent record store and is run now by Rob and his son Ben Frith. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Turns out Rob Frith, who had only hawked albums at swap meets before opening Neptoon's original location on Fraser Street in Jan. 1981, was pretty good at the retail thing.

"I really needed a job," he told CBC's The Early Edition host Stephen Quinn with a chuckle.

Neptoon Records, located at 3561 Main St., is Vancouver's oldest independent record store. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

In creating one for himself, he also created a space for his son to grow up appreciating music and later join him in the family business.

Not a lot of people can claim they skipped school to meet American music legend Bo Diddley at their pop's shop, or got to attend record conventions as a kid.

"It's just engrained on me at this point," said Ben Frith.

An audiophile haven, the store has also been known to double as live show venue before the pandemic made that impossible.

ADVERTISEMENT

A huge claim to fame for the Friths was hosting American rock band The Raconteurs in the summer of 2019 complete with the star power of frontman Jack White.

"That was a really wild one," Ben Frith told CBC's The Early Edition host Stephen Quinn.

He said a friend who works for a recording label called him up and asked him if the store could save a date for him to bring a band in for a live show. Ben Frith said yes without knowing what act would come through, but when he peeked at the list of bands in town on that date he had his suspicions.

"Yep, I think we're good to do that one," he told his pal.

ADVERTISEMENT

Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, the Friths don't think they will be throwing a birthday bash until at least sometime in the fall.

Until then, the store remains open for shoppers who the Friths say do not need to be too worried about being mocked for whatever guilty-pleasure tracks they're seeking.

"Anyone should be able to listen anything they like without judgment," said Ben Frith. "Well, almost anything."

Tap below to hear Rob and Ben Frith's interview on CBC's The Early Edition:

Show more
Neptoon Records owners Rob and Ben Frith speak with Stephen Quinn about the 40-year history of their shop on Main Street.  9:42