How 50 years '˜flew by' for Sheffield shopkeeper Carrack
'We've always remained something of a landmark in Crookes,' said John Carrack, looking back at more than 50 years selling paint and wallpaper from his shop in Sheffield.
“It’s been a friendly place - somewhere you can always go and get solid advice and good, personal service.”
But after all these years, change is in the air. John - the older brother of singer and musician Paul Carrack - has retired, selling the family shop, Carracks, to his colleague of 15 years, Simon Bradbury.
The business, on Northfield Road, Crookes, is extremely popular with trade clients and regular customers, who have remained loyal to one of the few independent shops left of its kind in the city.
“The name Carracks will still be there - but I won’t be, it’s as simple as that,” he said.
“I’ve been making plans to do this for some time. The idea was to do it when I was around 65, but I’m 69 next month! It will be very nice to have some spare time.”
The shop opened in 1947, the year John was born, run by his and Paul’s father, Ben, and their mother, Joan.
The family all lived together at the shop, until tragedy struck when Ben fell decorating a staircase and broke his neck.
He suffered a severe spinal injury and died aged 50 within three days of the accident in February 1963. At the time, John was 15 and working in the accounts office at Firth Brown steelworks, while Paul was 11.
“I then carried on working with my mum as a shop boy,” he said. “Originally I was just helping my mum out - they gave me a month’s leave from Firth Brown’s, then extended it by two weeks, then six weeks, then I decided to give the shop a go. I’ve been there ever since 1963 - 53 years.”
The nature of the job means that, apart from holidays, days off have been scarce.
“That’s been the problem - it’s a six-days-a-week job, with only really Sundays off and the occasional half day throughout the week.”
But John added: “The days used to fly in there because it was a happy place.”
Taking over the shop was never a prospect for Paul, who forged a career as a solo artist, an in-demand session musician and member of acts such as Mike and The Mechanics, Ace and Squeeze.
“He knew the road he wanted to take. Paul left home at 15 and was playing in Hamburg.”
Carrack Jr has supported his brother’s decision to retire - the pair are in touch regularly.
“He backed me up to the hilt with it. He said ‘It’s about time you did.’ So I told him, ‘It’s about time you did!’ But he said: ‘If Eric Clapton rings me up I can’t turn that down’.
“It’s a different ball game.”
Explaining the shop’s appeal, John said: “We specialise in paint and wallpaper and we’ve never really veered off that track.”
A lot of custom has come from people chasing old wallpaper patterns - the producers of the Sheffield-set, 1997 film The Full Monty, and TV drama Prisoners’ Wives, bought rolls from Carracks. Orders have also been sent abroad to California, Poland and France.
“Every corner of that shop is crammed. We’ve got wallpaper from several years back for people if they’re trying to patch something up.
“Customers have been so loyal to us.”
John lives in Crosspool with his wife, Vivien. The couple have two grown-up children - son Ben and daughter Jenny - and three grandchildren. Plenty of babysitting is on the cards, but they also plan to spend their time indulging their passion for country walks. Like Paul, John plays guitar in a band, the Paint Shop Boys and Girls.
They recently appeared at a fundraising night at Crookes Social Club in aid of the suburb’s Scout group, which raised £1,500, and became something of a retirement party for John, with many trade customers attending.
“It was quite moving,” he said.
John wished Simon ‘all the best in the world’. “I know he will make it a success.”