When the Covid lockdown began, back in March, it didn't take long for Clocktower Music's owner Roy Gregory to start thinking of ways to bring his business back with a bang once lockdown lifted.
Tucked away in the backstreets of Bridport, a determinedly-quirky little market town on the South Coast, Clocktower had, in the five years since it opened, found its niche not just as a retail outlet, but as a destination – earning itself a Top Three spot in Long Live Vinyl magazine’s Independent Record Shop of the Year competition in 2019.
It had been trading – very successfully – just by phone and with on-site visitors, but lockdown meant its methods had to change. Initially, this only signalled a move to limited online trading, but before long the 'Clocktower Crew' – Roy, his staff and helpers – were instituting a major refit of the shop itself, ready for the physical reopening in July.
As it happens, the 'crew' possess an enormous range of skills between them – there’s the audio engineer-slash-antiques dealer-slash-DIY dynamo, the retired heart surgeon turned electronics whizz, the drummer who moonlights as a printer (or is that the other way round?), the former finance director, plus the designer, editor, artist, signwriter and more... there’s a wealth of creative talent in the mix. Between them they came up with not just a revised and Covid-compliant layout, but seriously juiced-up décor as well.
Outside, in a musical nod to keyworkers, the main notes of Bowie's 'Heroes' are picked out on new signs, while the window sills now boast piano keyboards – all hand painted.
Inside, one-use gloves are provided at the entrance so that stock can be safely browsed, while the rezoned and colour-coded floor comes complete with Pythonesque pointy fingers as a guide around the one-way system. Sadly, the comfy sofas had to go and hot drinks are no longer offered – and neither, devastatingly, are the intimate gigs by up-and-coming artists that were previously a regular in-store feature – but let's hope that's all just temporary.
The sales counters have all been plexi-glassed, of course, and Covid notices are strategically scattered around the store to remind visitors of necessary measures, though hopefully in a not-too straight-laced way... “Think Cow”, for 2m social distancing, is very Dorset.
In addition to its core business of buying and selling pre-owned vinyl, Clocktower Music also offers fresh releases, CDs, tapes and relevant gifts, as well as new and revamped hi-fi equipment, original rock-related artwork and photography, and an exclusive range of locally-created T-shirts… and they’re happy to post orders to anywhere.
To see what's in store in fully-digital safety, you can always catch their YouTube stock videos. But even in these peculiar times, popping in in-person remains the best option, with a Covid-adapted Clocktower still a great place to visit: get there if you can.
10a Tower Alley, St Michael's, Bridport, Dorset DT6 3RR
open Weds-Sat 10-5
tel: 01308 458077