From first meeting in 1918, Alfred and Eileen Marbeck were heavily involved in Auckland’s music scene. Both were accomplished pianists. Alfred taught music, played at silent movies, and soon had his own orchestra. Both also worked for a time at a music store in central Queen St, selling musical instruments, wax cylinders (early Edison recording devices) and sheet music.
In the early 30s they broke away to start their own business, leasing a shop in Queen’s Arcade and officially opening Marbecks in 1934. The store quickly established a reputation for great service that remains to this day. Many customers remember choosing their sheet music and having Alfie perform it on the piano for them, making sure it was to their liking before they purchased it.
This passion kept the business alive through the Great Depression, and soon sons Murray and Hayden both joined the firm. Around this time Marbecks, and the rest of the music world, was transformed by the arrival of 78 records. When placing their first order of 78s, Marbecks were told that their quantities were so excessive that payment would be required upfront. The shipment landed and sold out in 3 days, and business went from strength to strength as the format continued to take hold.
As World War II advanced, music provided a much-needed source of escapism, and once again Marbecks survived through tumultuous times. Next came the arrival of LPs and 45s, then an explosion in popular music. Elvis and The Beatles had changed the world and there was no turning back – music sales flourished like never before.
All this time, Marbecks had existed in the same small site in Queens Arcade. Murray’s son Roger joined the business in the mid 70s and expanded the footprint, establishing a separate store in the arcade for pop and jazz, while the original shop continued to focus on Murray's passion for classical. Another large corner site was soon negotiated in the arcade, and in 1979 Marbecks moved in to the same location it currently holds.
Vinyl gave way to cassettes, and then came the compact disc. Within six months, Marbecks went from ordering ten CD titles to hundreds, and Roger quickly realised more space would be needed. In 1997 the opportunity for further expansion arrived, and Marbecks opened an additional site at 164 Queen St.
Here they built what was New Zealand’s biggest music store at the time. Two floors were crammed with CDs, LPs, 12" singles, videos and more. It was a music lover’s dream, and at its peak employed 40 staff.
Then came the 1998 Auckland power crisis, with five weeks of outages in the central city bringing many businesses to their knees. Numerous Queen St retailers were forced to relocate, and Marbecks retreated back to its Queens Arcade base.
As the music industry began to fluctuate, Marbecks scaled operations to suit market demand. At one stage there were four separate Marbecks stores within the arcade – one each for classical, pop, DVD and sale items.
In 2007, seeking a change of direction, Roger sold Marbecks, moving from retail to wholesale to become the New Zealand agent for many established classical music labels. In 2013 an opportunity came to return Marbecks to the family and they purchased it back, originally taking over the classical division before regaining full ownership of the business once again.
An entire new store was needed. Building began; often using original tools owned by Hayden Marbeck, who had a background as a builder and had created many of the early stores - a further nod to the Marbeck heritage.
Marbecks is now fully located in this super store - still in the iconic Queens Arcade at the bottom of Auckland’s Queen St. It now contains the last true classical department in the country, and still maintains a wide catalogue of pop, world music, jazz, nostalgia, country – anything you will find hard to get anywhere else. The wheel has even come full circle, with vinyl now stocked again, along with DVD titles ranging from TV series to international films, documentaries, and much more.
Marbecks staff have unrivaled specialist knowledge, and the experience to source even the hardest to find recordings. They serve customers from across the country, some of whom are now in their nineties having been Marbecks regulars since their teenage years. For those of a more youthful persuasion, marbecks.co.nz offers an extensive selection available for online purchase.
With Roger’s son Logan currently looking after the online store, Marbecks is now a fourth generation family business. So the next time you want a great piece of music, and a piece of music history, give Marbecks a call or jump online. Better still, swing by and experience a real record store – one that has remained New Zealand’s leading music specialist for 80 years.
We are proud to say that Mel is still running the Classical store, Brent is still looking after specialty orders, Logan is looking after web orders and they are assisted by Francesca, Ella and Oscar who were with Marbecks previously
The store is located right next to where it was previously - you cant miss it - Shop 22 Queens Arcade, 34 Queen St, Auckland City.
9am - 5.30pm Monday - Friday
9.30am - 5pm Saturday
10am - 5pm Sunday
Shop 22, Queens Arcade, 34 Queen St