Guardian of the largest vinyl treasure trove in Cardiff

It’s been twenty-five years at Kellys Records for Allan Parkins since he took over in 1991. Here he talks with Nikhil Sreekandan about his life before and after Kellys…

Long aisles of racked-up vinyls
Long aisles of racked-up vinyls

Seated at the busy Kellys café, between a well-lit wall mounted with pop memorabilia and posters of famous artists and musicians, and a long aisle of racked up vinyls with people queuing along to stick their greedy hands in…

Opposite me sits the proud owner, Allan Parkins, wearing a broad smile, with almost zero trace of any authority that would place him as the man who runs things around here. His eyes glaze over for just a second as he gently tugs to pull loose from the large tangled thread ball of memories.

“Lots of the touring bands, come into the shop, ok! One instance I remember well, being a Manchester United fan, was in 1999. Gruff Rhys, the lead singer of Super Furry Animals (he comes all the time) came in and said to me ‘Allan, the boys will be here in half an hour’ and just rolled off on his bike. I had no idea what he was talking about. About twenty minutes later, a little black guy about five foot tall, four foot wide with a Guinness in his hand waddled into the shop to say ‘Allan, the boys will be here in five minutes, ok!’ Minutes later, Liam Gallagher and Noel Gallagher of the Oasis walk into the shop…”

Quietly laughing, the 65-year old Allan Parkins kindly pauses as I lose myself in the overtures of ‘Champagne Supernova’ for a second, before he continues.  “Me being a United fan and them Manchester City fans, mind you this was before City had any money… it was the same night United played Juventus in Turin, in the 1999 Champions League semi-final, the year we won the treble. So I said to the Gallagher brothers ‘First of all some rules, before you come into my shop. You do not dare sing Blue Moon (which was a Manchester City song) and I don’t want tickets to come to your gig tonight cos I’ll be at home watching United get to the Champions League final, something you guys only can ever dream of…!!’”  Beaming he says “So I did that.”  He smiles to add “They were good as gold, we had a bit of banter before they left for the gig that night…”

Allan Parkins
Allan Parkins at the Kellys Cafe

Footballer turned Businessman

Allan Parkins has always been a hard-core sports fan, football was in his heart from a very young age.  He still remembers the first time he watched United, when he was seven years old, at the FA Cup finals against AstonVilla.  “We lost that day, but I’ve been a fan ever since,” says this former Cardiff City footballer.  Mr. Parkins also played for the Wales schoolboy team, who is proud to say “I played in the same team as John Toshack and Terry Yorath.  I know both very well still.”

A high flyer at the Cardiff Council until the early 1990’s Allan Parkins ended his tenure at Curran Oil as the Assistant Managing Director in 1989, after which he took a summer off to visit Italy for the 1990 FIFA World Cup.  In the year after, it was while working as a Managing Consultant when Mr. Parkins stumbled upon Kellys Records, when his aunt and uncle came to him for financial advice to sell their records business.

Tuned in at Kellys

It’s been now 25 years now since Mr. Parkins took over and he has enjoyed every bit of it. “I come here every day, I don’t have to you know, I have brilliant staff. I’ve always said I have my Mondays off, but last week was the first time I never came in on a Monday.” chirps this grandfather of five, as he smiles past me at a customer who walks by.

The shop which sells online as well with 45,000 records on its catalogue is more than thriving these days.  Mr. Parkins believes that “Lot of people have come back to vinyl, they’ve gone away from all the digital stuff. It’s quite cool now to own a record player (all of my three grandsons have one) – all the major bands now release their stuff on vinyl. It’s a massive industry nowadays.”

Cardiff Central Market Balcony
Cardiff Central Market Balcony

As the Cardiff vinyl treasure trove Kellys Records stretches itself out a bit more on the balcony of the Cardiff Central Market this Christmas, adding three more shops to its name, Mr. Parkins is proud to say  “What we have here in our shop is not even a quarter of our entire collection.  We’ve got more records than every other vinyl shop in Cardiff put together.”

Thirty minutes past we sat down for our little talk, the Cardiff City season ticket-holder picks himself up to drive down to Leckwith for the game against Burnley.  And as we shake hands saying our goodbyes, after having spent a whole afternoon listening to many more of his stories (some which involved the likes of Michael Jackson and Denis Law) I can’t help but suggest “That’s a good life, Mr. Parkins!”  And the man smiling as always responds, slapping his fingers on the table “Yes it is. Touch wood! Hope it continues…”

Kellys ‘End of the Day’ Playlist

.Kellys Records ‘End of the day’ playlist: “When we wrap it up at the end of the day, which takes us about 20 minutes to close the shop, we play in no particular order –  Just My Imagination by The Temptations, Play That Funky Music by Wild Cherry, Mr Big Stuff by Jean Knight, Me And Mrs Jones by Billy Paul and Do you love me by Frank Wilson.” says the Kellys owner, Allan Parkins.

At the moment…

The most expensive record in the store, which changes on a daily basis, is the picture disc by Madonna called Erotica, which was released and then withdrawn.  It’s selling at the moment for £1500.

'Erotica.' Madonna's recalled album.
‘Erotica.’ Madonna’s controversial picture disc now sells at £1500.