Vinyl Destination: Rubber Ducky Records

By in Features





Vinyl Destination is a series where we visit new and established crate-digging locations and vinyl focused spaces worldwide to learn about the stories, people and records behind them.

With an ongoing cost-of-living crisis and post-pandemic era that sent shockwaves through small businesses, aspiring record store owners have been finding increasingly niche ways to offset the costs of traditional brick-and-mortar shops.

One such spot is Rubber Ducky Records, a boat-based record store run by Myles Greenwood. Opening in October 2022, the appointment-based store has been serving its visitors with a fine selection of mostly secondhand electronic vinyl, all from the cosy confines of a canal-anchored boat.

Unfortunately, last April, any boat owner’s worst nightmare became reality when Rubber Ducky sank on a journey to Manchester. In the following months, thanks to an online fundraiser and the support of the music community, Greenwood managed to restore the boat and its stock.

Now back in action with a new location in Manchester, Rubber Ducky has returned to calm waters. We catch up with Greenwood to find out more about Rubber Ducky’s origins, the incident, and the experience of crate-digging on the high seas.

Tell me about the origins of Rubber Ducky Records. 

The idea was born through lockdown. I had previously worked at a record store and wanted to start my own but there were certain limitations with the finances. Obviously, it’s a passion project, and I wanted it to not break the bank.

I was trying to think of ideas that would make it sustainable and at the time we were in and out of lockdown and small businesses were taking a bit of a hit. One day, I was walking on a canal and I just thought, ‘Why not on a boat’?

There are challenges with running it on a boat. It makes it entertaining and keeps me on my toes. I bought a pretty beat-up boat and spent 18 months renovating it before launching Rubber Ducky and taking customers on board. It was a great feeling.

It was doing well for the first six months and was in a town called Hebden Bridge. Hebden Bridge is a little town, but it has quite a good art and music scene. It was a good place for it to be but people working in electronic music and nightlife culture were travelling up from cities, so I thought I needed to get it to a big city. Unfortunately, that’s when it sank, on the way to Manchester, but here we are on the other side. 

What were you doing before you started Rubber Ducky?

I was working outside of the UK for most of my adult life and then I moved to the UK to start Rubber Ducky. It was an intentional move. During the process of renovating the boat, I was working in a special needs school and then renovating the boat. The school bell would ring at 3.30 pm and then I’d drive down to the boat and put up a shelf or list some records or sand the boat down. I did so much sanding, my god.

It was a bit of a DIY project. I had some great help from family and friends. To be fair, I’ve continually had help from family and friends and people in the music industry, especially after it sunk. It doesn’t feel like I’m doing this on my own. There’s a lot of help almost weekly, in some form or another. I feel very lucky in that aspect.

What was your initial vision for Rubber Ducky? It seems quite intentional to run a store that’s portable rather than a fixed location.

I’ve always been a bit of a rolling stone, it’s in my nature. A mobile shop suits me because I want to take it to Manchester, Liverpool or London, maybe do a summer in Glasgow. That was an appealing factor. 

It might be a bit cheesy to say but the quality of music always comes first. I didn’t want people just to come because it’s a record shop on a boat. I wanted people to visit because there’s quality dance music on board and so stock was the most important factor.

How did you acquire your stock?

I started by buying collections. The first batch of stock was like an old UK rave collection that someone had been sitting on since the mid-90s. I bulk-bought big collections in the UK and then started approaching a couple of DJs who might have changed their sound and now an earlier section of their collection is available.

The majority of the boat is secondhand and electronic music. I do work with some small labels and new distributors and that’s an area that I’d like to get into more. I’ve had a bit of a test run with new releases in the past three weeks and it’s great to support current labels.

Do you think there are extra opportunities for creating community because the space is so small and offers a boutique experience? 

I think boutique is the right word. I’m limited by space, so I have to curate the boxes so they’re of good quality. A large record shop might have thousands of records and bargain bins, but when you’re limited by space, you get creative around your limitations. With Rubber Ducky, it’s appointment only because of the size, but after a couple of hours playing records and talking about music, it becomes quite an intimate experience. 

It can be quite full on and be quite high energy so sometimes I try to just let the customer get on with the music but often we’re sharing drinks and stories and it’s really beautiful to meet so many amazing people and find out about their music journey. It’s an intimate space.

It almost sounds like vinyl therapy.  

God, maybe they need therapy after spending a couple of hours on the boat, haha. 

After the boat sank, what steps did you have to take to recover it?

So, the boat was on the bottom of the canal with about a thousand records in plastic boxes with all the covers destroyed. The first step after the boat went down was draining the canal, so it looked less dramatic, but it was still at the bottom of an empty canal.

Luckily, somebody came out and fixed it on the day. The stern gland was what let the water come into the boat, so when it was fixed and the water was back in the canal, it was at least floating again. The internals and the equipment were destroyed. 

The following day, I helped a couple bring their boat down the same stretch of canal and they very kindly towed me into Manchester city centre.

How have you got back to the point of being able to reopen?

All the records were cleaned in water baths and then alcohol sprays. I call those records ‘Sunken Tunes’ and they’ve got a stamp on them with the day and the story behind them, so even though they’ve lost the cover they have a bit of history. They actually sound great. It’s like they were cleaned, if anything. There’s about a thousand of those knocking around and I’m starting to feed them into the boat. 

To be honest, I would not be back up and running without the GoFundMe. I got exposed to the nicest side of humanity for weeks and even months after the boat went down. I was showered with love, support and kindness and people did fundraising. It was almost overwhelming how nice it was. I thought I just had this small idea on this little boat, but the story went so big.

Work had to be done on the internals, the bow and the engine. All the boring bits like the insurance and licensing had to be started again. It was a kind of fresh start.

If someone was considering visiting the boat, what can they expect?

It’s a warm, toasty boat. I think people think it’s gonna be freezing because it’s the middle of winter and it’s this tiny boat, but I’ve got a little fire and it’s boiling on board. If it’s winter outside, it’s summer on board. 

It will be a nice atmosphere. You’ll have drinks on the house. You can get stuck straight into some high-quality electronic music and, fingers crossed, you’ll find some gems and maybe some sunken treasure. It’s going to be a good time.

Find out more about Rubber Ducky Records.

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