Revolutions per minute

Records Records founder and Dunedin musical mentor Roy Colbert reflects on his curious commercial enterprise.

Records Records began upstairs with no name, no sign, no phone and no advertising. MBA lecturers would not recommend this. But in music, passion, obsessional collecting and word of mouth make things move, and so punters soon climbed the stairs to this shop that was hard to find.

• Sound education

Records were sold on 50c commission, and there was one day when 50c was all that went into the elderly cash register. Of course, opening at noon and closing for afternoon tea narrowed any chances of wealth.

Co-incidentally, my partner at the start, Janet Lum, who has lived in France since 1974, is staying with us as I write this. Her name never comes up in shop articles and interviews, but it was very much a mutual idea and business back in 1971.

"It could even have been her idea, though she was adamant this week as we ran over some stories that I was the one who wanted to deal in records. But it wasn’t just records. We sold posters, hippie essentials like Frisbees, beads and rolling papers, and Welsh fudge, made by a woman called Jill whose fudge-making name was Blodwyn.

"I couldn’t begin to list the mistakes in those early years. We were not shop people.

"I remember a number of regular customers, later to become significant painters, who suggested contra deals, not the least of whom was Jeffrey Harris, who prefaced his extraordinary painting career by buying every blues record we got. I turned his contra deal down flat and lost thousands of dollars in the process. But in those days, we clung dearly to every sale.

"For a textbook sociopath, I am surprised I lasted 35 years. I never bounded around the desk asking if I could help. I just sat there and waited for them to speak. "

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