It was BC (before Covid) when Ash Merrett left his job as head chef of Hector’s Deli, one of Melbourne’s absolute best sandwich shops. He had plans to open one of his own, but unprecedented times were to follow. “Seeing how much of a hit hospo took, I decided to pursue my passion project which was something in music,” Merrett tells Broadsheet. So, he pivoted, opening an online record store called Donuts.

Merrett is no stranger to the music scene. Already spinning vinyl around Melbourne as Lucius Fox, the idea of selling records had been at the back of his mind for a while.

The result is a cleverly curated online store dedicated mainly to hip-hop, R’n’B, neo soul, jazz and electronic. “I try and showcase the artists that I love,” Merrett says. “I essentially just hand-pick every single title. So, every title that I have up in the store I’ve listened to and I know and I love – and that’s something that I want to share with everyone.”

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He’s particularly enamoured of Texan three-piece Khruangbin lately, but you’ll also find old cuts from prolific jazz man Herbie Hancock, classics from A Tribe Called Quest and recent drops by neo-soul artist Cleo Sol. The brief is tight, but there’s still plenty of room to move.

It’s online-only for now, which works well with the continuing lockdowns, but a bricks-and-mortar shopfront isn’t off the cards. For those outside of Melbourne, nationwide shipping is available. But if you’re in Melbourne and live within five kilometres of Brunswick, delivery is free. Or you can pick up directly at his mate Raph Rashid’s fried-chicken joint, Juanita Peaches. “Raph’s a friend of mine and he’s always been super supportive of everything I’ve done,” Merrett says. “He’s a big part of the music that I’m into.”

The option to pick up your records at a local restaurant is part of Merrett’s plan to create a bit of a community feel, as well as to stay close to the food and drink part of his background. He’s also started sending out email newsletters; each contains a Donuts Spotify playlist, plus recipes and wines to match – this month it’s a take-your-time bolognaise paired with a light, easy-to-drink nebbiolo from Victoria’s Little Reddie.

“I’m just as passionate [about] food as I am music,” says Merrett. “I’ve always loved curating playlists at the places I’ve worked … I just wanted to keep that connection together for Donuts.”

Delivery is available across Melbourne and the rest of Australia from $10. It’s free for those within five kilometres of Brunswick, or pick-up is available at Juanita Peaches.