Mile End’s Phonopolis has become a neighbourhood fixture, a key pit stop on a dérive down Rue Bernard. If you weren’t riding the beloved 80 bus back in 2007, you might not know that the store’s first location was a storefront on Avenue du Parc, between Fairmount and Saint Viateur. The record store opened in October of that year thanks to founder Nathan Gage, who moved to Montreal in early 2007 from to Victoria, B.C. after his band Shapes & Sizes decided to relocate. Following a wave of West Coast musicians, Montreal was an inexpensive and convenient home base for touring musicians, especially compared to Vancouver Island. In his downtime in between tours, he wanted something to do that was fulfilling.
After downtown music resource CD Esoterik shut its doors for good, Nathan saw a void that he could fill when it came to a Montréal resource for experimental, “out-there” music. Back then in Mile End, there weren’t as many creative class hotspots, and the only other record store in the neighbourhood was Backroom Records – only open on weekends, operating out of the back of a house on Saint Urbain. According to current Phonopolis part-owner and head honcho Jordan Robson-Cramer (pictured above), “Him being a musician, the goal to start the place was to have a way to sell music that he personally liked for sure at the smaller store in the beginning, but also just to foster an artistic community of his own making.”
Nathan signed a lease for the Avenue du Parc location in September 2007 and did some basic renovations. The space took up the left half of the storefront that Mile End Kicks currently occupies, north of Fairmount on the east side of the street. The first records for sale at Phonopolis were records from his personal collection, and the first sign for the shop was handpainted by his friend Carl. And the name? “I liked the idea of a Metropolis of Sound. A ‘Phonopolis’,” explains Caila Thompson-Hannant, a.k.a. Mozart’s Sister – one of the store’s first employees, and at the time, also a member of the band Shapes & Sizes.