I am not one to enthuse about shopping (ask my long suffering wife) but the editor's observations in the last Newsletter about the changing face of high street shops reminded me of my own favounite Ipswich shop from my teenage years in the early 1970s - Groove Records. I was first aware of Groove when it was situated on Woodbridge Road near Majors Comer, quite possibly in the shop now occupied by the Sonar Bangla restaurant, although my memory is sketchy because I was only about thirteen years old at the time.
The main shop (the "front room" of what had formerly been a small terraced house) could have been little more than ten or twelve feet square. The walls were fitted with wooden racking crammed with LP sleeves, an Aladdin's cave for any avid music lover. In the doorway to the stockroom (the "back room") was a small hinged counter behind which sat Clive, the shop owner. From here he could keep an eye on the shop (emerging to offer a personal and friendly customer service) and watch the portable television that kept him company in the stockroom itself. The majority of my visits to Groove were on a Saturday and it is impossible for me to recall the shop at all without the image of Clive sitting there eating his lunch - including a bowl of peaches and evaporated milk - whilst watching World of Sport.
As you can tell, I was proud to be on Christian name terms with the owner of such a great local musical institution. I considered my musical tastes to be discerning at least - definitely an "albums man". While the majority of my school chums spent their Saturday momings picking out the latest chart 45s in Woolworth's, I would ruminate over the vast selection of LPs in Groove. Clive knew his customers well and kept us informed of new releases as well as pointing out articles in the musical press and details of forthcoming concert tours by our favourite artistes. I was such a regular that he would save for me the (priceless!) publicity material that had accompanied new releases when he reorganised displays.
I was working some weekends picking and tending tomatoes on a smallholding at Newbourne for 40 pence an hour, so I often had as much as E6 or E7 burning a hole in my pockets. LPs were around f 1.95 to E2.25 (although I remember once digging deep for double album "Focus 3 " at E3.25). Records were my extravagance and my collection expanded weekly.
Soon Groove was to expand, consolidating with another shop Clive owned in St Matthew's Street and moving to palatial premises in the Butter Market, opposite to where BHS is now. This new shop occupied two floors. Clive employed a chap upstairs in a swish poster bar and T-shirts section, whilst Clive himself presided over the records and cassettes downstairs.
It was not long however before the first of the music superstores also moved in to the Butter Market. I can't remember who it was. They occupied the comer premises and although they have also long since gone the damage was done. In the long term, I guess, Groove could not compete with the lower prices offered by the large chains and, despite a loyal customer base, closed down. Initially Clive opened a shop in Felixstowe and mercifully by this time I had graduated to owning a moped so I was able to regularly visit the shop there until ultimately it closed too.
Thirty years on music is still a favourite form of entertainment in our household. I can easily lose myself for a couple of hours flicking through CDs in any of the large music stores in town (although my tastes have changed and - I must be getting old - the "background" music is too loud). But now with a mortgage, wife and daughter I cannot unfortunately blow great chunks of my salary on swelling my CD collection every weekend. When I did treat myself recently the service in the store was fine. Not surprisingly, of course, the assistant and I did not know each other by name. Neither did he offer me an exciting bundle of publicity posters and car stickers he had been saving for me under the counter. I suspect also that his Senior Management would have frowned had he been eating a bowl of fruit and evaporated milk in between serving his customers.