Rough Trade on its convention-defying move to Manhattan

Director and co-owner Stephen Godfroy discusses Rough Trade’s decision to set up shop in New York’s Rockefeller Center and why, now more than ever, retail needs to invite shoppers into another world

After seven years in a cavernous warehouse space in Williamsburg, Rough Trade is relocating – and it’s to a surprising new spot. Despite being considered a bastion of counterculture, the store’s latest location is in the decidedly non-countercultural heart of Manhattan, at the Rockefeller Center. And Stephen Godfroy, the director and co-owner of the business, is well aware the move is unexpected.

“We take that as an opportunity, and revel in that, and in the spirit of independence and defying convention to show that, at the end of the day, we’re simply a record store relocating to another part of town,” he tells CR. “I think it’s interesting how record shops can be this agent of change, and help areas that have maybe had a deficit of counterculture over recent years. It can reinject that and attract other like-minded businesses and institutions and bring it back, because it’s such a vital part of any inner city.”

Rough Trade has occupied various locations over the years, founded in 1976 in London’s Ladbroke Grove by Geoff Travis, before opening up in Neal’s Yard, then Brick Lane, New York’s Williamsburg and Nottingham. In 1982 Rough Trade Records was spun out as a separate company, headed up by Travis, although the two businesses maintain a good relationship.

Top image: Rough Trade’s now shuttered Williamsburg store; above: inside the new location at New York’s Rockefeller Center

Godfroy says the idea for a New York location first came in 2008, and was intended as a follow-up to Rough Trade East and a chance to “reset the expectation of what a record store could and should be in an age driven by digital media”. As Godfroy explains, Rough Trade East had positioned itself not just as a shop, but a place to spend time among fellow music lovers, and “engage with music in a joyous celebratory environment”.