As I trudge along Friars Walk through the mizzle I see the welcome glow of a shop. A ramshackle building perched on the corner of the street, like the house that jack built crammed with guitars and the promise of music.
With its cobbled streets, twee twittens and warm ale, Lewes is perhaps one of the last places you’d expect to find a cowgirl tapping her boots. Push the door to and you’ll find proprietor Stevie Freeman, lipsticked and prairie blonde, Lily her Jack Russell by her feet dreaming to the music of American country folk. This is Union Music Store, it’s all about the music but there is so much more to this shop than the physical product.
When Stevie sold her lingerie shop she missed creating the associated burlesque events known as The Oyster Lounge. Following several inspirational trips to Nashville and a desire to branch out into music promotion, she opened Union Music Store two years ago specialising in Americana, country and folk. Although she does sell CDs and Vinyl, what Stevie and partner Jamie Freeman have created, is a hub. A virtual hearth for people to gather and share their love of music. For Stevie it was important to create a space that appealed to women as well as men, to be more aesthetically pleasing. You won’t find rows and rows of CDs in black boxes, but a mixture of leather boots, instruments and gifts in a beautiful stripped wood environment. You are opening the door into someone’s passion and it shows.
Despite Union Music Store’s niche market, it is no surprise that they have survived HMV. What Stevie provides is the whole shebang and a banjo to boot. She sells the means to make it, holds in store performances so that people can listen to it and promotes bands that do not get the sort of exposure given to mainstream acts. With the demise of many high street giants, independent shops like Union survive because they add a little magic and vibrancy to the communities they serve. Enticing people onto trains to come and seek them out.
Visiting a web page can never compete with a day out. You can’t smell leather and stripped wood on the internet, or pack tight and shelter from the rain to experience the intimate magic of a sing along. At the Union Music Store, you can and thanks to Stevie & co Lewes is all the richer for it. Ride it Cowgirl!
Submitted by Michelle Porter, a published author, ghost writer and jobbing copywriter based in Lewes, East Sussex. Her personal blog ‘Femme and Grist‘ was described as ‘true grit’ by M Attwood which made her smile. Her writing combines the literary and gritty, focusing on the arts, culture and society. She is also working on a series of surprising short stories about people over the age of seventy.