Rolling with the Trends
Calgary’s Beatnik Bus is an unexpected but welcome attraction that draws attention for its unique set up and the treasures inside.
The Bus carries a small sampling of just what owner and operator Kristin Poch has acquired over the last eight years. The entire collection is somewhere around 100,000 records, all of which are housed between Poch’s home, and a few storage units.
At any given time between April and October she travels with approximately 500 records that range in genre. Most of her time is spent parked on Stephen Ave., and a lot of what she carries on the bus has to do with the demographic she encounters there.
“I couldn’t have enough copies of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumours.’ Almost every day I have someone coming in looking for ‘Rumours.’”
Those 500 albums are stacked and sorted in the interior of a 19-foot converted short school bus, and are sold not just on Stephen Ave., but at markets in East Village, pop-up locations in Manchester Industrial, a handful of pubs around town, and various music festivals such as Sled Island, and Canmore Folk Festival. Her favourite event to date, she said, is the South Country Fair in Fort MacLeod. With attendance in around 2,000 people, Poch said it’s fun seeing all the old hippies of Southern Alberta.
Poch is a self-proclaimed hoarder-collector, a trait she inherited from her father. Some of her favourite memories are that of hunting at garage sales and thrift shops with him, looking for rare presses of classic rock, jazz, and blues. It was his intention to open up a shop of his own when he retired.
“He was looking at something in interior B.C., maybe converting an old gas station.”.
When Poch’s father suffered from a massive heart attack eight years ago, it forced him into retirement. It was a sobering experience, and he was worried that if he had passed away his family would be stuck to deal with his record collection.
“Hang on them,” Poch encouraged him. “Don’t sell them.”
It seemed to be that as Poch’s father’s dream was fading, hers was just being realized.
“I was working as a full-time event coordinator, and it wasn’t what I really wanted to do.”
She saw the record collection as an opportunity to get into an industry more her style, and started looking for ways to develop the business.
Inspired by mobile retail in the U.S. and Asia, Poch began looking at various means of transporting and housing the records.
Milk trucks offered enough space, but didn’t meet city regulations, and ambulances, although quirky, didn’t offer any headroom for customers to come aboard and inspect her wares.
It was during one of her reconnaissance missions that the owner of an automobile graveyard northeast of Calgary mentioned somewhere on his lot he had a bus that had been used for an old folks home in Hannah, AB.
The bus had a somewhat shady past, with rumours that it had been stolen. It cost Poch $800. The first few months she owned it she had to start it with a screwdriver.
Like a lot of university students that major in liberal arts, Poch wasn’t sure where her interest in anthropology would take her, but she sees a correlation between her studies and The Beatnik Bus. Poch collects pieces of culture, and the stories associated with them.
“Music is so intimate to people. There’s so much nostalgia when people start going through their stuff. People will say things like, ‘I had my first date to this song,’ or ‘my daughter was born and this is the song we named her after'.”
Poch has been entertaining the idea of opening a brick and mortar store for the last year, but she said it’s still a long way off to coming into fruition. The bus allows for her business to be an attraction. Her biggest platforms are word of mouth, Twitter, and Instagram.
“People actively have to seek me out, or stumble upon me. A store would have to mirror the experience of the bus.
“I don’t want to settle for something typical.”
During her off season in the winter, she is a freelance event coordinator.
“I work really hard in the summer so I’m able to chill and relax a little more in the winter.”
In her down time, Poch likes to hang out with her dog, Sunny, a massive Burmese cross, travel, play the ukulele, and paint. She also looks for other vintage items to buy and sell, like clothing.
And, of course, there is always music.
While she’s never short of something to put on the turntable, Poch said that she loves going to live music events.
“I just saw Jack White last weekend.
“He was excellent.”
"Music is so intimate to people. There’s so much nostalgia when people
start going through their stuff.
People will say things like,
‘I had my first date to this song,’ or ‘my daughter was born and this is the song
we named her after'."
- Kristen Poch