WHEN Mexican couple Claudia and Erwin Hernandez travelled 5,198 miles from Mexico City to Cork city; they never envisaged buying a record store.
“Seven years later, we opened Thirty-Three rpm on MacCurtain Street,” says Claudia.
“Now I am a businesswoman!”
The couple, parents to Amelia, aged six, and Aurora, aged four, saw the store for sale on Facebook.
“We thought it must be a joke,” says Claudia.
“We met with the store owner who was going back to Italy and struck the deal; we paid €15,000 for the contents and the furniture.
“We opened the record store on August 2 and from the start, I loved meeting enthusiastic record collectors and all the music lovers who come in to browse or to buy or sell vinyl records.”
Claudia and Erwin are married 10 years and when he got a job offer with Bord Gáis in Cork, they looked forward to travelling to Cork, having lived in Barcelona and Malaga.
How did they meet?
“Back in Mexico City, we were friends with each other in a big group,” says Claudia.
“We organised walks and events around photography. I was a student involved in research and Erwin was in IT.
“He moved to Barcelona when a job opening came up and then to Malaga, where I joined him. We went home to Mexico to get married and had a lovely wedding with family and close friends. We chose our own vows for the ceremony. It was very sweet.
“We went back to Spain to live and work. I did volunteer work running a science club for kids, bringing vulnerable children together to help them learn and to help them with their homework.”
Life was good in Spain.
“We liked to go rock-climbing and cycling,” says Claudia. “Erwin was into motor-bike riding.”
But the couple, always looking for new adventures, were willing to try life out in Leeside.
“We felt very welcome from the start,” says Claudia.
“We felt comfortable here. Erwin got the contract with Bord Gáis and we relocated from Spain with our two rescue dogs.
"First we lived near Capwell Street, then we moved to Blackrock where there are lovely green areas for walking. We have lovely neighbours who I meet often when I’m dog walking. They are really friendly.”
Claudia’s first impression was that Cork was small.
“A friend collected us from the airport and it was a very short journey,” she says. “I thought Cork must be too small and I remember it was April and it was raining!”
Did she understand the Cork accent?
“I soon got into it!” she laughs
Amelia and Aurora are Corkonians.
“They were both born here in Cork and I had lovely experiences with both pregnancies,” says Claudia.
“I availed of the Domino scheme where a team of midwives care for you throughout your pregnancy and prepare you for the birth. They made sure we had everything we needed.”
The girls have Cork accents.
“They speak to us in Spanish in the house,” says Claudia.
“And then I am surprised to hear this Cork accent come out when they speak in English. When they were just babies they’d be saying hiya, hiya; it was so funny!”
Claudia taught English to Spanish students before she got a job in Apple.
“I worked as a data analyst there,” she says. “Then I did a Masters in Public Health in UCC. I graduated last year from my sitting room!”
It was in her sitting room that Claudia came across the ad for the record store for sale.
“I had changed my laptop and I hadn’t been on Facebook for about two years. I needed to contact somebody about a project I was working on. I saw a post on the marketplace looking for records, then I saw an ad appearing with the record store for sale. I thought it was a joke! I was so curious. I thought; who does that on Facebook? I didn’t know you could buy things like that online. Erwin said we should check it out.”
The couple were music fans.
“When we came here first, we’d go out on the hunt at weekends for new records to play in the house.”
Now they are playing records at their Thirty-Three rpm store.
“When we met the man that was selling it and walked in to the store to browse, I couldn’t help but imagine what we could turn it into,” says Claudia.
“The new kinds of music we could introduce and the little community we could start here.”
The couple had a discussion and decided to go for it.
“I read a blog from a lady who owned a similar store and she had penned an ‘ode to the record store’. That really made up my mind,” said Claudia, who stocks over 1,500 records at the store.
“It was great to meet all the record collectors.
“I had one guy who came in to the shop who told me he had never bought a CD in his life! I thought that was so cool keeping up the tradition.
“Our regular customers are mostly middle-aged men, some who have man caves and who listen to their music there, but we get all ages coming in. The teenagers are discovering 7 inch records for the first time! It is good to listen to music playing instead of playing it from a phone. Unplugging your phone makes the music experience much more sociable.”
It is rewarding to choose and collect records, flicking though them, hoping to uncover a favourite artist or a favourite song. There is something special and sentimental about flipping through a crate discovering new or forgotten favourites. Thirty-Three rpm has a great selection of records from disco to folk to jazz to Italian to hard rock, punk and heavy metal.
“It is a whole ritual buying pre-loved records and new records,” says Claudia, who plays an eclectic mix of music on her turntable stereo all day.
“People love to be reminded of good times or of their youth when they play a favourite record. It makes them feel good. Sharing record recommendations with others makes them feel good.”
Being a shopkeeper makes Claudia feel good.
“This is my job, my shop and my responsibility,” she says. “I love being behind the counter. Erwin is very supportive but he has his own job.”
Sometimes he double-jobs.
“Erwin is working at home in his office and he helps with the child-minding,” says Claudia.
“The girls both attend the School of Music and sometimes they come here to the store after their classes.”
There is a good vibe at Thirty-Three rpm.
“We may not get rich, but that’s fine,” says Claudia. “But we make a nice living. The life experience is lovely, meeting people and being surrounded by music lovers. So many people still have turntables! The Beatles and Elvis are still very popular. My girls love music too!”
What music do they like?
“They like Bjork, David Bowie and the Cranberries. I like old rock from the 1970s.”
Thirty-Three rpm, which stocks records by Cork bands Dirty Roads and The Future, will be rocking with in-house musicians soon.
“Oscar Mascarenas, a Mexican musician living in Limerick, is coming here on November 20 to play his records,” says Claudia. “He was at the Everyman and he came in to say hello to us. Louis Cormack from Cork is another artist we have asked to come to play live. He plays guitar so we have room here for him!
“Cork is a great city and it is a great place to raise a family,” adds Claudia.