ince it opened nine months ago, Kentish Town Road’s independent record store has blossomed into a little bunker of eclectic music, stimulating conversation and quality coffee.
The slick interiors, killer sound system and heaving collection of new and used records attract a steady flow of regulars, from first-time vinyl procurers to seasoned collectors.
There’s a chilled atmosphere inside as owner Kieran Smyth floats around, as keen to discuss the number of chains popping up on the high street as he is to take and give album recommendations. It is easy to spend hours in store, exchanging musical experiences and knowledge.
That said, Kieran, is aware that “you can’t just sell records anymore, you have to diversify and offer people more when they come into your store.” As such they now host regular Sofar Sounds gigs, locals’ birthday parties (providing the space, tunes and the alcohol licence) and wine tastings – for which Kieran curates the music, no easy task. “If a wine is described as fruity and acidic, I guess you pop on the Pet Shop Boys and John Grant,” he says, impishly.
Significantly, the store has also become an incubator for a couple of pop-up stores. Roulette Collection, bespoke rock’n’roll garms and jewellery makers – think conker-sized skull rings – have a cabinet out front, while in pride of place sits CoffeeTune, the in-house coffee shop run by longterm north Londoner Deniz Korkmaz.
It started life as an Insta account run by Deniz, who seems to be as palpably passionate about life as he is about coffee. Posting coffee memes, jokes and general bantz, his hobby evolved, and he started making playlists, matching music to coffee and then one day he decided to create a tangible outlet for his passion. Which is how Let It Roll became CoffeeTune’s home.
Having been in residence for three months, Deniz and Kieran have a strong bond, connected by a passion for discovering new music and a drive to turn Let It Roll into a real destination record store.
“Come and buy coffee, come and buy vinyl, it doesn’t work like that,” says Deniz, “you must create a nice atmosphere, people are going to come, feeling good, they can buy if they want to, we are creating a network of friends.” Deniz is, according to Kieran, a “bottomless well of positivity.” Since CoffeeTune launched he hasn’t had a day-off (save Christmas Day). “He’s up at the crack of dawn everyday, I’m still having dreams at that time,” says Kieran.
When not in store he is training at home, making playlists, ’gramming his way to notoriety. “I’m building my business, not running it yet. It is baby steps, one new person, new face, every single day, my passion is driving this through,” he says, “I know my hard work will pay off but it doesn’t happen over night, it needs more time and grind.”A
s Deniz froths up a silky latte with Vietnamese beans, Kieran says, “I could never do what he does with that machine.” The coffee is served on a vinyl coaster, with a complimentary biscuit on the side. It’s an accomplished coffee, to which Deniz replies: “We’re going to get there, it is going to get even more brilliant.” Driven and sincere, being in his company is energising in itself.
“I never use tap water for drinks, only spring water,” he says. “I only use organic milk – and have a range on non-dairy milks too. I have a huge selection of herbal, fruity teas and hot chocolate; all of them organic.”
A former chef at Belsize Park (and Hampstead) institution Ginger & White, every morning he bakes a fresh batch of muffins, sweet and savoury; naturally they’re very moreish.
Deniz also has a host of initiatives, including a generous loyalty scheme (3 cups = 1 freebie), and he delivers locally to anyone who WhatsApps him, as well as giving £1 hot drinks to police officers and NHS ambulance drivers, and free tea to anyone who works outside (postmen, traffic warden and road workers). “I’m not here to make money by selling coffee,” he says, “I’m here to sell kindness and a high quality service. Just the way I like to treat myself when it comes to coffee.”
Superb coffee, a heaving record collection, Deniz’s enthusiasm, and Kieran’s knowledgeable openness: this is surely one of the finest hangouts in the neighbourhood.
Main image: CoffeeTune