World's Best Shops: Aloha Got Soul in Courier Magazine

In early 2022 we were featured in issue 45 of Mailchimp's Courier magazine. The article, entitled "Aloha Got Soul: prioritizing vinyl in the streaming era", showcased photos from our shop and an interview with its creators, Roger Bong and Leimomi, who spent two intensive months from April 2021 building out what would become our first-ever brick-and-mortar space, aptly named AGS Honolulu. 

The author, Tokyo-based journalist Kenji Hall, interviewed Roger and Leimomi about their beliefs and approach in creating a storefront: 

"We sell new and used vinyl records, books and magazines, turntable accessories and lifestyle goods. We have an emphasis on local musicians, and we support indie artists and labels with a focus on Asian and Pacific Islander diasporas. The shop is an extension of our work as DJs and radio hosts. We also sell Japanese city pop and jazz fusion that a friend in Tokyo curates for us. Locals here in their 20s and 30s who grew up on downloads and streaming are saying they want what their parents listened to, and we're introducing many of them to a physical music format culture. Running an indie label helps us stay on top of the music that's out there. We recently started a reggae sub-label, and are thinking about an AGS shop record label to release music by indie bands that don't fit into what Aloha Got Soul does; a reflection of what's happening on the ground now in Hawaii." 

​"We consulted friends who are knowledgeable about retail. They gave us confidence in our numbers and concept, and came up with our tagline: “Celebrating homegrown local music.” We also asked friends who have run a shop in the McCully Chop Sui building for years about foot traffic, hiring employees, inventory, holidays. Our contractor buddies advised us to reuse materials for the shop interior. Through a friend, we asked a local woman to perform a Hawaiian blessing: she cleared the space of any energy that might deter us from being successful. On opening day, friends volunteered to work the cash register and help with crowd control. Honolulu's two other vinyl stores have supported us by sending customers to us, and we reciprocate. We want to hire people but not hiring has given us time to think about what that would look like. It's been slow, but maybe that's a good thing."

Towards the latter part of 2022, Courier compiled and published their book, The World's Best Shops, "a new book celebrating modern retail in all its forms, featuring how the most innovative brands and sellers have opened their doors, with inspiring stories all the way from Copenhagen to Lagos." Our photograph can be seen near the center of the book in the section, Courier Recommends.

This photo was taken by local photographer Mark Kushimi, taken back when we had the DJ setup and cash wrap located below our beloved six-row-tall wall of records. We used to display the rarest, most expensive records on the very top rows but after finding it too precarious to fetch them for an interested shopper, we decided to display our label’s releases in chronological order instead, starting with Mike Lundy’s The Rhythm Of Life on the top left spot (just out of frame in this photo) all the way to Kalapana’s first and second albums.

The World’s Best Shops book can be found, as you might suspect, at the world’s best bookshops, or online on Courier's webshop.


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