George Pizer fell in love with the former flower delivery truck as soon as he saw it advertised on Gumtree. The love faded when he got it out onto the M4 after handing over the money and realised the wimpiness of the engine.
That’s when he got the idea.
Pizer, who is 46, was born in Rockaway Beach, New York (“Yes, the one the Ramones sang about,” he says.) He has lived in Australia since he was 17 and worked for eight years at Pigeon Ground, a Camperdown store that sold vintage clothes and vinyl records. Rising rents and the cost of living in Sydney prompted him to move to the Blue Mountains five years ago.
But back to that truck. When he got it home, he’d already decided what to do. He would take off the back, attach it to the tray of his Toyota HiLux ute, and trick it out to become a record store on wheels.
Pizer lined the interior with wood paneling, constructed racks to hold around 800 records, installed solar panels to run three turntables, speakers and a listening station and commissioned an Earlwood signwriter to do the distinctive retro lettering on the sides. Eighteen months and around $10,000 later, Rolling Records was ready to hit the road.
Rolling Records made its debut at the Lady Luck rockabilly festival in Katoomba in January 2015. The response was huge and Pizer took almost $2000 selling records with a price point of between $5 and $35. He’s never hit those heights again, but says a worthwhile day is anything above $300, a good day is $600 and a great day is around $1000.
He rolls up to music and cultural festivals and also has his regular spots around Sydney – Tank Stream Way in the CBD, Young Henrys Brewery in Newtown and outside the Darlo Bar in Darlinghurst.
“Lots of my customers are under 20, but I also get older people who sold their vinyl when CDs came in and now they’re rebuilding their collections,” says Pizer.
As for what they’re buying, Pizer says it depends where he’s parked – he sells a lot of soul, funk and disco in the city, while Oz rock flies off the truck when he does festivals in regional areas. “The rock classics always sell well, like Neil Young’s Harvest, Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side Of The Moon, anything by Bob Marley and The Beatles. And I can sell every single copy of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours I can get my hands on.”
Would he ever trade in the wheels for a bricks-and-mortar store again?
“No chance at all,” he says. “If I was paying rent on a shop as well as a house in Sydney, I can’t imagine being able to do it. Besides, having the truck breaks down the boundaries that might stop people coming into a shop. You just pull up and people who are wandering past get curious and come over to have a flick through the records and have a chat.
“I don’t get out much, so this is my main social activity and I get to learn a lot about music from all these conversations. It’s not just a financial thing for me. It’s social and spiritual too.”