Groucho's History - 40 years in the making
1976 - Monday 16th August – the first Groucho’s opens at 89 Perth Road.
After a couple of years learning the trade at Edinburgh’s Cockburn Street Market two 22 year old lads with £500 and a record collection found themselves opening a tiny shop in Dundee virtually by accident.
Formerly a greengrocer’s and now part of the Parrot Café, the shop had no toilet, no back door, always smelt of joss-sticks and fairly soon was crammed with all the young punks in Dundee making their regular pilgrimage up the Perth Road and going home with the latest singles, t-shirts, badges and memories that can never be erased.
It was the birth of a Dundee institution although we certainly didn’t know it at the time as it was simply about survival during changing times.
In 1982 the landlord decided not to renew the lease so reluctantly new premises had to be found.
1983 - Monday 18th July – Perth Road shop closes.
1983 - Friday 22nd July – Groucho’s opens at 107 Marketgait.
Being chucked out of the Perth Road shop was a blessing in disguise as the move took Groucho’s into the town at the west end of the old Overgate Centre under the Angus Hotel. Ideally situated close to the student area but with far less of a trek for city centre shoppers. Formerly a jeweller’s, the shop was still fairly small but at least it had a toilet and a bit of space in the back shop which was soon to be overflowing with an ever increasing range of punk/goth/mod clothing and footwear along with the second hand vinyl and new indie albums.
Not long after the move the two lads that launched Groucho’s parted company and Breeks was left as sole owner.
The amount of space needed for the clothing made the next move a necessity. The former R. S. McColl shop a few doors away was targetted and before too long we were operating two shops.
1984 - Friday 30th November – Breeks Alternative Clothing & Footwear opens at 204 Overgate.
This was a huge shop in comparison to the record store, a corner site with lots of display area and a wide selection of clothes and shoes that were unavailable anywhere else in town. Tonic suits, pork-pie hats, pixie boots, brothel creepers, bondage trousers, bowling shoes and crazy colour, the list goes on.
After two and a half years fashion became more casual and less music-based so it was felt the shop had run it’s course.
1987 - Thursday 25th June – Breeks clothes shop closes.
After selling off all the stock and the shopfittings we finally closed the doors with a live show from The Beaver Sisters and Big Blue 72 (video footage still exists).
Everyone was paid, we had a lot of fun, no debts were incurred and we went back to operating the one shop.
1990 - November/December – temporary move to 119 Marketgait for shopfitting.
The other shop desperately needed a major overhaul so we flitted a few doors along for a month or two while Breeks and Mick McCluskey got out the hammer and nails and tried to make the shop look better. It was at this point a boy from Edinburgh learnt Dundonian from the expert.
After years of uncertainty over the future of the Overgate Centre, landlords came and went as did the plans to upgrade and modernise until all that was left was full scale demolition, starting at the west end where Groucho’s was situated. Once again our hand was forced into moving but this time we were offered a large unit at the other end of The Overgate on a temporary basis while we searched for a permanent home.
1997 - Friday 15th August - Marketgait shop closes.
1997 - Wednesday 20th August – Groucho's opens at 35 Overgate.
The former Top Girl boutique, this shop was about six times larger than the one we came from and for the first time we were in the heart of a covered shopping centre. At last you could bend over and flick through the album racks without the chance of getting a thick ear from a wayward back-pack.
The search was still on for another home for the shop but this was proving to be incredibly difficult as there were all the other displaced traders from the Overgate doing the same thing. After three aborted attempts to move in two years the landlords finally stepped in and helped us find premises to relocate to.
After sixteen years and four shops Groucho’s finally became the last independent trader to leave the Overgate. Now they could get on with completing the demolition which had come to a grinding halt at Groucho’s front door.
1999 - Saturday 18th September – Overgate shop closes.
1999 - Thursday 23rd September – Groucho's opens at 132 Nethergate.
At last Groucho’s found a permanent home on a corner site diagonally opposite the now demolished Marketgait store. Previously the shop had been a restaurant, a dairy, a cycle shop and laterally a hairdressers’ supplier. In fact you can still make out lettering on the stonework from the early 20 th century when barefooted urchins peered in the window at the bicycles on display realising they would probably never own one.
It required a major refit to reinstate original architectural features and satisfy all the demands of current building control. We had a blank canvas to work with and plenty of space to keep a supply of all music and film formats and allow customers to browse in a comfortable environment although we retained the original speakers we bought in 1976 which are still working perfectly 39 years on!
The shop is ideally situated at the gateway to Dundee’s Cultural Quarter and is the only retailer amongst all the pubs and cafes that stretch from the dual carriageway to the DCA. The over –the-counter sales of concert tickets for local events is still a major part of our business as can be seen by the window displays for shows without a CD or record in sight.
The changing nature of how people listen to music has meant that a the majority of independent Record Stores in the country have sadly closed but we sincerely hope the Groucho’s experience will still be available to the Dundee public for some time to come.
2008 - June – Groucho’s won the award for Dundee City Centre Independent Retailer of the Year 2008 – our first ever trophy. Old friend Nick Wright from The Rep Restaurant also also won the award for top eating place.
2009 - June – Groucho’s won the Independent Retailer of the Year award for the second year running which made an elderly mother very proud. Nick Wright also retained his award for a second year.
2010 - June - Groucho's made it three in a row by winning the award for Dundee City Centre Independent Retailer of the Year 2010. Nick Wright also made it a treble for The Rep Restaurant.
2012 - After taking a year out from the awards it was won again for the fourth time.
16th August 2016 - 40th anniversary - we're still here!